Host the Perfect Labor Day Barbecue

By Amy Clark
August 29, 2014
Summer Living - Amy Clark

If there’s one thing I love to do in the summer, it’s grilling and sharing a delicious meal with friends. Now that we’re nearing the end of the season, here are some fun ideas to help make the most of your backyard gatherings.

Prep Ahead

First, save time by prepping ahead. Pastas for salads can be cooked, rinsed, and thrown into containers, produce can be chopped, and marinades can be mixed and prepared with the meat and tucked in the fridge

When buying in bulk, I use a food scale to weigh and divide meat into smaller portions.

Minimize Cleanup
To make cleanup easier, I love inexpensive trays for gathering dishes, or you can also set out a dish tub. Always make sure the dishwasher is empty to accommodate your mess, and wash as the dish tub fills up. I also love to pull out a container for any cans or bottles so that guests can immediately recycle, eliminating cleanup in the morning.

One investment I’ve found valuable is buying a set of reusable plastic dishes that are ideal for stacking and loading quickly. Watch for sales on these sets during end-of-summer clearance and stock up.

Keep It Sweet and Simple
Some of our best barbecues were simply gatherings of friends, great food, good music, and loads of s’mores. Try not to overthink your entertaining. String up pretty patio lights, put a couple of inexpensive bouquets of flowers in jars, cue up a great playlist, and let food and friendship be the focus.

Try to do as much as you can right on your grill, avoiding the need to run in and out of your kitchen. Veggies can be grilled in a cast-iron skillet, corn can be grilled in the husks and, of course, meat can be grilled all at the same time. Some of my favorite side dishes are these easy three cheese grilled potatoes, this effortless tomato bread appetizer, and my grilled corn in the husk. All of these are simple and done right on the grill.

Have a Backup Plan
The weather doesn’t always cooperate with our outdoor entertaining, so it’s always good to have a backup plan. Pull the party into your garage and purchase a few simple decorations to beautify the space. Create a fast and easy kids’ table by using a paper covering and topping that with paint cans filled with crayons so little ones can keep busy until the rain subsides.

Our new backup location is our shed that we finished just for this purpose. It’s not only ideal for retreating from the rain, but we also installed a bar where we can set up food and drinks to keep the bugs away.

Try a New Location
Is your yard looking a little sad this year? Do you find backyard entertaining overwhelming? Some of my favorite get-togethers have happened at our community parks. Check your local parks & recreation page to scout out a new place. Keep in mind there may be a small rental fee if you want to secure a specific location. 

Repurpose Those Leftovers
Don’t let leftovers go to waste afterward. Meat can be diced for salads or served in a tortilla wrap with cheese, lettuce, and dressing for a fast and easy lunch. Veggies can be roasted as a side dish for the next night or can be served again with the dips. If you’re at the bottom of a chip bag, crush the chips for a casserole topping or use them for a nacho dinner night. Leftover buns and no meat? No problem! Buns can be made into croutons or breadcrumbs. 

I hope your summer is filled with happy memories of stress-free outdoor gatherings and fun times with friends!

A Walmart Mom Blogger, Amy Clark has been the driving force behind MomAdvice.com since 2004. MomAdvice is a community for women that are looking for ways to stay organized, stay sane, and stay within their budget.