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Fire up the grill: Seven affordable meats to shop for cookouts

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Robert Galbraith/Reuters/File

(Read caption) Individual packages of ground beef are shown with labels at a food market in San Francisco, California June 5, 2015. Ground beef can be a more affordable grilling option for cookouts.

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Everyone loves a good cook-out in the summertime, but hosting a gathering that's centered around the consumption of lots of grilled meat can get expensive, and fast. Before you buy packs of steaks and resign yourself to peanut butter and jellies the rest of the week, consider the following affordable meats that taste so great grilled, you won't miss those pricey steaks one bit.

1. Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks

It just so happens that one of the cheapest meats to grill is also one of the best. Chicken breasts tend to dry out before they're cooked through, and can be tough and flavorless. Considerably cheaper bone-in, skin-on thighs and drumsticks are better at retaining their moisture and cooking evenly on the grill. On sale, they can run for less than a dollar a pound at the supermarket, making them a real cost-saver. Chicken thighs can be flavored just about any way you can think of, and taste great with a simple spice rub. Drumsticks are equally diverse, and a simple coating of fresh lemon and herbs is all you need for a delicious main dish.

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2. Ground Beef

If you're buying beef for your cook-out, then things don't get much cheaper than ground chuck. Luckily, that's the prime ingredient for burgers, and who (minus vegetarians) doesn't love burgers? Make your perfect patties by adding egg for moisture and cohesion, and season them well for great flavor. Get creative with your toppings, and take your burgers from plain to gourmet with very little extra cost.

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3. Pork Shoulder/Boston Butt Pork Roast

This cut of meat might not sound like much, but it's what is commonly turned into pulled pork. The cut can cost under $2 a pound, and will feed a very happy crowd. You can make succulent pulled pork at home if you don't mind a little prep and some lazy, all-day cooking. Start your shoulder the night before with a rub, and cook it low and slow with some hickory chips. Serve it with buns and coleslaw, and you'll have your friends and family swooning.

4. Chicken Wings

The price of chicken wings often hovers at around $2 a pound, easily beating out any beef prices. Wings are also amazingly delicious grilled, and can be flavored in countless ways. Try them Vietnamese-style with ginger and fish sauce, or classic buffalo wings. No matter what flavor you choose, wings make a great summer appetizer or even main dish.

5. Whole Turkey

Turkey doesn't have to be relegated to Thanksgiving. Enjoy a juicy, smoky, and flavorful grilled turkey at your next cookout, and easily feed big a group. Turkey is often under $1.50 a pound, and tends to be cheaper outside of the holiday season. It's surprisingly easy to cook, just needing a turn every hour and a rest under aluminum foil after cooking. Make sure you monitor the internal temperature with a thermometer — that way you won't end up with a health risk or a dry, sad bird.

6. Beef Back Ribs

Pork ribs aren't the cheapest cut of meat out there, but beef back ribsare typically one of the cheapest pieces of beef you can buy. You may not get quite as much meat per pound as some other items on this list, seeing as each rack has a number of bones in it, but it's still a great deal for beef. Plus, everyone loves sharing ribs and getting sticky barbecue sauce all over the place. For tender meat, cook your ribs on the stove with aromatics before grilling them. Give them a generous slather of homemade sauce, and enjoy.

7. Hot Dogs

You can't deny that sometimes a smoky, charred hot dog on a soft bun tastes great. They're especially good summertime grilling food, since they're easy to serve and a real crowd-pleaser. They're also one of the cheaper meat options out there, starting at little more than $1 a pound. Even if you're grilling some gourmet dogs, they're still a great deal per pound, and are all meat — no paying for bone you won't eat. Hot dogs are one of the easiest and quickest items to grill, and since they're so affordable, you can get creative with your toppings. Classic sauerkraut is always a hit, or try creamy coleslaw and mustard.