There are so many things I love about summer. Swimming, gardening, going for a hike – summer is the perfect time to partake in so many fun activities, but my all-time favorite is a good old-fashioned backyard barbecue.
Unlike a lot of people, I prefer to host rather than just attend. Sure, it takes some work to throw a party, even one as casual as a cookout, but I get a real kick out of having my friends and family over. From planning the menu and shopping to cleaning the house and decorating, the whole process is one that I thoroughly enjoy. After all, there's a huge reward at the end!
However, along with all the joy that comes from hosting a party, I also know firsthand how quickly it can get out of hand. In an effort to make things “perfect,” I've sometimes gone way overboard with spending money and exerting stress. Over time, I've learned that the first step of being a hostess is to set a reasonable budget and stick to it. The second step? Work smarter, not harder! These eight tricks, while simple and cheap, are just the kinds of touches that make for a memorable, comfortable gathering. Now, all you have to do is a pick a date and invite your friends and family!
1. Don't have a cooler? Use a wagon!
Kids and adults alike will love this fun drink station. Just make sure your wagon is clean, then fill it with ice and add drinks. While it won't stay cold as long as a traditional cooler, it's a nice alternative to having to lift the lid and rummage through inches of cold ice to find a drink, especially for children.
2. Prep the grill with an onion.
To keep food from sticking to the grill, simply slice an onion in half and rub it across the grates before cooking. The natural juices from the onion will lubricate the grill and keep your food intact. If it adds a little onion flavor, even better!
3. Keep messes to a minimum.
A “sticky finger station” is the perfect alternative to having guests going in and out of the house constantly to wash their hands. Some paper towels, wet wipes, and if we could add one thing, a trash receptacle, will do wonders to cut down on bathroom traffic.
4. Use a muffin tin to make a condiment caddy.
We've seen a lot of fun and interesting ways to use muffin tins, but this is one of our favorites. It's the perfect way to serve ketchup, mustard, pickles, sriracha, onions, and any other condiment or topping you can think of!
5. Warm up BBQ sauce without turning on the stove.
A bowl fashioned from tin foil is a great way to heat up BBQ sauce right on the grill. Have a pot holder nearby, as the handle may get hot.
6. Make corn on the cob in a cooler.
This is by far the fastest and easiest way to prepare corn on the cob for a crowd. Start by shucking your corn, then place it inside a clean cooler. Next, use a kettle to pour boiling water over the corn - you'll want to add enough to cover all the ears. Put the lid on and in 30 minutes you'll have a cooler full of delicious, tender corn on the cob. To see more, check out this video.
7. Serve salads in jars.
Not only is this presentation adorable, it also keeps bugs off your salads. It would have saved me a lot of trouble in the past, but now that I know about it, I'll never serve them any other way.
8. Keep up with dirty dishes.
A “dirty dish bin” allows guests to dispose of plates on their own time, and makes for easy transportation to the kitchen when it's time to clean up. Don't want your good dishes getting chipped or broken? Take a trip to your local secondhand store and pick up some cheap dishes to use at parties. There's usually a lot to choose from, and it will save you from having to spend money on plastic or paper utensils and plates ever again.
Don't forget to SHARE these handy tips with your friends and family!