budget crawfish boils

Crawfish Boils on a Budget

When the temperature finally starts getting back into the 70s, leaves are turning green, and king cakes are filling grocery store shelves, you can bet that many Louisianians are getting excited. These indications can only mean one thing.

But wait, what is that one thing? Baseball season? Mardi Gras? Comfortable weather?

While “all of the above” is a perfectly acceptable answer—let’s be honest, these indications mean it’s crawfish season!

Crawfish is a delicacy in the Pelican State and holds a special place in the hearts of so many of us. Crayfish, crawdads, mudbugs—these little crustaceans carry many names, but one thing that remains constant about crawfish is that they are beloved and are the epitome of Cajun cuisine.

It isn’t just the taste either; crawfish are a great excuse for social gatherings. They are traditions for many families and friends and are great ways to just catch up and enjoy the company of others.

A downside? There can’t be a downside to crawfish boils, right? Well, your wallet may disagree. Even for an event that may happen a few times a year, a crawfish boil tends to be extremely pricey.

Don’t worry! We’ve compiled some tips on how to laissez les bons temps rouler and enjoy your crawfish boils on a budget.

Buy Your Crawfish Middle-to-Late Season

It’s no secret that crawfish are expensive. Buying crawfish while they’re in season is a perfect example of the concept we all learned in economics class—supply and demand. Starting around late February in Louisiana, the demand for crawfish skyrockets. The Lenten season also has a lot to do with this.

Seafood shops may fluctuate their prices and offer crawfish maybe ten cents less per pound than the one down the street, but early-season is an expensive time to buy regardless.

If you’re looking to save some money for your next boil, consider buying crawfish around the middle to the end of crawfish season. This is any time between the months of April and June. As crawfish season winds down, less people will be buying it, and you’ll see the prices start to drop.

Shop at the Grocery Store for Produce

Crawfish boils are diverse in food options. Contrary to what it sounds like, much more food is cooked than just crawfish at a crawfish boil. A number of different food items like sausage, corn, mushrooms, and potatoes are common in a crawfish boil.

If you’re the one hosting the boil, there’s a good chance you’ll be getting produce in large quantities (depending on how many people are attending). This is why it’s important to strategize where you’ll be buying your produce from. Where do you really save more money—farmer’s markets or grocery stores?

While the farmer’s market is always a great option, grocery store produce prices generally tend to be cheaper. The term “generally” is important here because there are many variables, but again, since you’ll likely be buying in large quantities, the grocery store will save you money.

It’s also worth considering cheaper meat substitutes to put in the boil. For example, a 16-count (30 oz.) pack of hotdogs is going to generally cost around $5.50 to $6.00. About the equivalent amount of andouille sausage (2 packs, 16 oz. per pack) would generally cost around $11.50 to $12.00.

Use the Crawfish App

Purchasing the crawfish is the most important part about the crawfish boil. Not just because it’s the centerpiece of the menu, but also because it’s the most expensive.

The Crawfish App is a really cool tool to use when you’re searching for where to buy your crawfish. When you open the app, a list of locations will appear with their price per pound, location, and phone number.

The crawfish app has virtually eliminated the need to drive around town or even call local seafood shops to compare prices. Again, crawfish prices fluctuate all the time, but the app updates the prices every Friday so you can have a good idea on how much to expect to pay. You can even filter results between reviews and proximity to where you are.

Make Every Bit Count

Pelican team member Brooke Romig grew up learning about everything there is to know about crawfish. Her family owns a seafood shop in Walker, Louisiana, and she was more than happy to share some advice on cost-effectiveness when it comes to crawfish boils:

“In our family business, which has been operating for generations, we tend to have a knack for boiling good crawfish and making sure we do it without going overboard. I think the key to making a successful boil without a lot of waste is truly making everything count.

When my dad boils, he has his measurements of seasoning down to a “T,” especially being that he boils a few sacks per day Thursday to Sunday. He has also made it to where he knows how many potatoes, corn, and any other additives will be eaten.

I think people have a tendency to buy an overflow of veggies, sausage, and other things to put in their boil without portioning out how much will actually be eaten. If you’ve been to crawfish boils before, you see that at the end of the day a lot of food goes in the trash. Why not take that into consideration for the next time by calculating how many people you think would be coming?

For instance, think ahead about the number of corn and potatoes that are usually eaten at your traditional boils. This would be something to observe and plan out. I know when we boil at our shop, all of that comes into play.

We don’t want to be stuck with a ton of leftovers because not only is the food being wasted, but money is being wasted as well. Just keep it simple and know going in how many people are coming.

We try to average five pounds of crawfish per person when deciding how many sacks to boil. We also pay close attention to the current prices of the crawfish. Also keep in mind that during the season the prices go up and down all the time.

That is all affected by the water levels—is the water high? Is it low? Is it hot outside? All the variables that affect crawfish prices also affect your checkbook. Planning, timing, seasoning, and the amount of people all factor into the cost-efficiency of boiling crawfish.”

Crawfish boils and the sense of community that they bring will always be beloved by us down here. The delicious food and the rich traditions offered by crawfish boils most of the time outweigh the small fortune that they sometimes cost. With these budgeting tips, though, you can still enjoy everything that makes boiling crawfish great without having to spend all of your hard-earned money!

What’s your favorite thing about crawfish boils? Let us know in the comments below!