Hosting a cookout at your house doesn’t have to be super stressful. Keeping a few things on hand will help make it easier. Check out these ideas for food, drinks, games, and more to get you outside this summer with friends making memories. And remember – cookouts don’t have to be at night! They could start off your morning before a soccer game, road trip, or on the first or last day of school.
Think quick and easy here. Anything you can throw on the grill or let guests make themselves is fantastic for you because it’s way less work – both to cook and clean up from. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, and barbecue (want to give your own rub or sauce a try?) are all great places to start. Putting out different types of buns, meats, and toppings let your guests customize their food. Guests with allergies or those restricted diets for whatever reason will especially appreciate this. They’ll be able to enjoy all the yummy goodness that they might normally have to miss out on for safety reasons. To save you from answering questions about what’s on the buffet or what’s in the different dishes, some quick labels will save you from repeating yourself.
To save money, consider making a large batch of punch or another drink. You can always stretch the recipe a little bit by adding a bit more of the cheaper ingredients. Just remember to taste and only add a little at a time so you don’t mess with the flavor too much. Individual juice boxes, water bottles, or soft drinks are always good too. Throw them in coolers and let everyone pick their favorites to enjoy. Putting out a few permanent markers so people can write their names on the cups or containers so you don’t wind up with a bunch of half drank cups. Make sure to label anything that’s intended for adults only so the kids don’t help themselves to something that might have alcohol in it.
Nothing fancy! People are at your house to enjoy spending time together, not to critique the flowers in mason jars on the tables and twinkle lights in the trees. By all means I’m not saying you can’t go all out (if you know me you’ll know I tend to overdo everything and go all out all the time…), I’m just saying keep it simple. Think about having to clean everything up after the party. When you’re ready to fall into bed, do you really want to be cleaning up all the cute confetti pieces and blowing out a bunch of candles?
Get Everyone Involved
Have your family and friends help prep things in advance. Lots of salads and desserts taste better the longer they’re put together so not only are you saving time, you’re making things taste better too!! Ask your guests to bring a dish to share to the gathering (here’s a great list if you need some ideas). If you’re worried about having too many of one thing, consider asking guests to bring something they’re known for making or just ask them to bring a side dish, dessert, or whatever you need more of. Don’t forget some snacky foods too that people can munch on during the get together (my kids are fans of this!).
Go disposable as much as you can. I’m usually the opposite and encourage reusing things as much as you can, but for this, it’s too much to try and keep track of what should be saved and what should go in the trash. Instead of spending the night digging through the garage to find your silverware that got thrown out by accident, tie up the trash bag at the end of the night and crawl into bed. You can find paper plates, plastic silverware, cups, and utensils to go with whatever theme you want or just pick a plain solid color to use them for any occasion. Table covers will help keep surfaces clean and make clean up go so much faster when the party’s over.
Games and Entertainment
There’s nothing wrong with turning on Pandora and having a dance party or just having some background music. Simple summer entertainment like sidewalk chalk and bubbles also make for easy entertainment that doesn’t require a lot of supervision from the adults. Get everyone up and moving with a friendly game of kickball or cool off with water balloons.
Details are what make your events stand out from the rest. If you’ve got a bug problem, make sure you’ve got plenty of bug spray and citronella candles on hand for your guests. Sunny in your yard? Think about putting up a canopy or big umbrella to provide a bit of shade. Having some sunscreen on hand will help your guests make sure they don’t get burned.
With a Purpose
Getting together is always fun but hosting a cookout to help raise awareness or funds is a good idea too. Get a group of friends together to help clean up a neighbor’s yard. Cut the grass, trim the trees, and plant some new flowers. Ask everyone coming to bring clean up supplies (rakes, trimmers, yard waste bags) or a new plant. Maybe pets are your thing. Host a cookout so people can come meet dogs to adopt and ask those coming to bring donations for local rescue organizations (leashes, food, treats).