We’re well into summer and by now, you’ve probably thrown (or attended) a barbecue or two. While eating outside is supposed to be a fun pass time (no napkins, no problem!), hosting friends and family can come with just as much stress outdoors as in.
The bugs, spilled drinks and unimpressed kids are all things we’d like to avoid. Thankfully, there are several tips, tricks, and products you can use for the rest of summer to have at least one more stress-free barbecue.
USE A MUFFIN TIN
Muffin tins are great for entertaining outdoors. You can use them to hold condiments as shown by EatPlants4Life. They make for an easy clean up after your event and help to avoid the messy leftovers of ketchup and mustard bottles that have been oversqueezed on your new picnic table or half-filled jars of pickles that are now ruined thanks to an infestation of bugs. They can also become serving trays, helping you carry numerous drinks out to your guests.
WOODEN BBQ CLEANER
By now we’ve all seen the terrifying news stories about what happens with the bristle from a metal brush used to clean a barbecue gets loose. The bristles can easily become entrapped in someone’s throat and cause serious damage. Now there’s a bristle-free way to clean your barbecue thanks to this all-natural wooden barbecue cleaner ($20, The Home Depot). There’s no metal or plastic, it has a long arm so that you can keep your distance from the hot surface, and it’s much nicer looking than a metal brush.
MAKE A STICKY FINGER STATION
Outdoor parties, especially ones with little kids, can have a lot of foot traffic going from your backyard to the inside of your house. Cut down on trips to the bathroom by making a sticky finger station at the beginning of the summer and refilling it when necessary. We recommend putting together a kit like this one from Sunshine and Hurricanes, which includes paper towels, hand sanitizer and baby wipes that guests can use before and after meals.
BUY GLOW STICKS
If your outdoor party is going to continue into the nighttime hours, giving kids glowsticks to wear and play with is a great way to keep an eye on little ones in the dark. They’re also not a bad idea for grownups as well. The more the merrier, right?
USE FOOD LABELS
Because barbecues aren’t limited to the number of seats around your dining room table, outdoor parties tend to be bigger than the ones we throw indoors. Guests may be serving themselves outside while you’re inside and unable to answer questions about the food, so we recommend using labels to let everyone know the ingredients for each dish. This will help your guests know if they need to avoid certain dishes due to allergies.
PITCH A TENT
Have a tent laying around? Why not set it up in your backyard to be used as a fort by young guests. Even better, have little ones set up the tent to learn problem solving skills…and keep them busy for a while. The tent can also be used as a place to store extra seats, blankets, coolers, and more to cut down on the number of trips back inside your house where, as we all know, air conditioning is not free.
MAKE YOUR OWN BUG SPRAY
Martha Stewart is the queen of DIY, so of course she has a recipe for making at-home bug spray that will keep pests away without make you smell like, well, bug spray. Use a 4-ounce spritz bottle filled 2/3 of the way to the top and add four to six drops of a combination essential oils like eucalyptus, lavender, citronella, and cedarwood. Spray on clothes every 15 minutes but avoid your face. If you want something that requires less reapplication, you can always set up a bug spray station with store bought options as well.
INVEST IN OUTDOOR FRIENDLY DISHES
Sure, paper plates and plastic cups make for a quick clean up job, but they’re also a drain on the environment. Instead, invest in durable acrylic dishes and barware that is light and shatterproof, like this pineapple plate ($8) from Indigo. They’re dishwasher safe and will bring your BBQ up a notch thanks to the fun design.
HAVE OUTDOOR GAMES READY TO PLAY
When the temperatures begin to spike, we tend to grab whatever is closest to stay hydrated and that can mean over-indulging in alcoholic beverages. Like having a good DJ at a wedding, busy bodies tend to drink less alcohol. Keep drinking down by keeping guests busy with lawn games like darts and oversized Jenga ($140, Amazon). Just make sure guests are still staying hydrated with water.
USE A SMOKER
If you’re feeding a big group of people and don’t want to have to monitor a barbecue all day, try using a smoker ($500, Canadian Tire). By using a smoker that takes wood bisquettes, you can simply load the smoker with meat, eggs, vegetables or whatever you choose to smoke and let it cook for eight hours without having to refill the burner or check on the food, leaving you free to hang out with guests and enjoy the summer weather.
HAVE CUPCAKE LINERS ON HAND
We usually only think of cupcake liners as the things that we peel off the bottom of a delicious bakery treat, but what we should be doing is asking ourselves, what can’t cupcake liners do? Buy multi-coloured cupcake liners, cut a hole in the middle and slide them over bottles to use as markers. Place them over a cup or mason jar and spear a straw through the middle, with the liners acting as bug barriers. Or, use a cupcake liner to keep hands from getting sticky by piercing them through the bottom of a popsicle stick before your frozen treat starts to melt.