The “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” are a popular time for barbeque gatherings both big and small. This causal method of entertaining by definition is low-maintenance and a great way to gather family and friends without a lot of prep work or fuss.
However, a little basic pre-planning on your part can make the experience even simpler, allowing you to focus on the company instead of the work. Have these four entertainment ideas, decorating tips and recipes in your back pocket and your next summer barbeque will be a snap.
- Keep the menu simple
The key to an easy outdoor gathering is minimizing prep work on the day of the party. Therefore, make sure that no more than two or three dishes are labor intensive. For a small crowd, just pick a simple dip, a salad and a dessert to go with your grilled meats.If your party is on the large side (10 or more guests) ask that each person bring an appetizer or dessert and then concentrate on two or three salads to accompany the main BBQ fare.One of my favorite quick sides to make is coleslaw. This is far cheaper than buying the coleslaw from the deli and really simple to prepare. Buy two bags of pre-shredded coleslaw mix for each jar of dressing (splurge on the fancy dressing in the refrigerator case) and mix them together in the morning, allowing the salad to marinate and soften before dinner. Your guests will love the “homemade” feel to the salad.
- Set up a small bar with simple drinks
It’s a good idea, especially if your gathering will include children, to separate the alcoholic beverages from the non-alcoholic ones. Put soda, water and juice in a cooler by the food and then put your adult beverages in a separate “bar” area.Especially if you are having a larger gathering, this will help to ensure that the only people drinking the alcohol are of age to do so, since children should have no reason to be near the bar area.In addition, this separation between food and drink makes the cleanup process easier, since the drinks will stay out throughout the meal. If you are keeping your menu simple, a variety of beers and white and/or blush wines are a great summer beverage choice. For the more ambitious, consider sangria or pitcher of mojitos.
- Make clean up easy and intuitive
Encourage guests to aid in the cleanup process by having trash cans in several spots throughout your yard or deck and provide just as many recycling cans as general trash. This will save you time after the party and make it easier to get bottles out for return (if this applies in your area) the next day.Many people are apt to consider recycling if the option is given to them, so make sure that you consider the earth in your setup of trash receptacles.
- Don’t forget the bugs
Summer in many parts of the country means one thing: mosquitoes. If you plan on extending your revelry into the evening hours, then it is important that you plan for bugs.Citronella candles and torches can be a very attractive decoration as well as a practical way to keep evening bugs away. You should also provide bug spray for your guests so that they can opt to increase their protection from bites.Finally, you might want to consider investing in a patio fireplace as a neat way to keep warm (even August nights can require a sweater) as well as keep bugs away naturally. A fire pit is also a great dessert option as the kids can toast marshmallows and make s’mores.
As you gear up for the summer season, always keep one thing in mind: the real reason for entertaining is the people. Keep your menu simple and plan ahead a bit so that you can focus on the family and friends that you want to see. These four tips will keep you ahead of the game so that you can make the most out of your summer parties.