Having friends and family over for some outdoor fun is one of summer's greatest pleasures. But between playing bartender, grill master and happy host, you can run yourself ragged trying to attend to everything at once. And what fun is hosting if you're so busy you can't enjoy yourself?
We rounded up the best tricks to help you keep everyone hydrated and fed, no hassle required. They're easy, inexpensive and guaranteed to keep you cool under pressure.
Make cocktails ahead of time.
Seasoned party hosts know the merit of prepping in advance. It basically makes the difference between a smooth shindig and a stress-a-palooza. Give future you a break by making a big batch of cocktails before the party, and offer them in pre-poured single servings, such as sealed mason jars. Stash them at the bar as well as in a few PackIt coolers strategically positioned around your yard.
Use frozen fruit cut-outs as ice cubes.
When it comes to ice, always have more than you think you need. (Same goes for toilet paper, btw!) For a sweet alternative to regular cold stuff, consider this cute trick from A Subtle Revelry. Take sliced fruit and cut out fun shapes like stars and hearts. Freeze ahead of time them pop them in cocktails and vino for a cool burst of flavor.
Repurpose extra rubber bands as ID tags.
Leave it to Martha Stewart to come up with this smart way to distinguish guests' drinks from each other. Put wide rubber bands or strands of ribbon around glasses and let partygoers write their names on them with a Sharpie.
Protect your beverages from uninvited guests.
Flying critters are especially attracted to sweet drinks, so try this tip from Mom 4 Real to save those bug magnets. Punch holes in the bottom of cupcake liners, stick a straw through them, and place them over glasses to shut out pesky party crashers.
Use a freezable cooler to keep food supplies chilled.
You may be used to using bulky coolers to keep drinks and food supplies cold. But you run the risk of cross-contamination if your brews sit side by side with raw meat. Use compact PackIt can coolers to keep food chilled for hours by the grill. Your supplies will stay safe right until the moment you need them, and you can collapse the cooler when you're done using it.
Keep your grill organized.
Serving up shish kabobs? It's a good idea to double-skewer your food so that you can easily flip without pieces falling off. Another clever trick from Ideas In Food: Skewer the ends of unwieldy veggies like asparagus together in one batch so they won't fall through the grates.
Tell guests the doneness of burgers by writing on buns.
Another pointer from A Subtle Revelry that's straight from the Why-Didn't-We-Think-Of-This-Department: Use a squirt of ketchup (or any other condiment) on a hamburger bun to denote how rare the meat is.
Offer a topping bar.
We love it when hosts go the extra mile and let guests customize their drinks or meal with special fixings. Whether you're serving bloody Marys or plain old hot dogs, set out fresh veggies and condiments so people can DIY the perfect dish.
Pre-freeze scoops of ice cream.
Come dessert time, you could set out giant tub of cold, creamy stuff and pray it doesn't turn to soup. We've got a better way. Pre-scoop ice cream into cupcake liners or muffin tins, then re-freeze them on a cookie sheet until you're ready to serve. No more goopy sundae bar!
Get in the game.
No matter how well you plan, sometimes a unforeseen grill emergency or beverage run will take you away from the revelry. Always have some games on hand to occupy guests, whether it's cornhole, a homemade giant Jenga, or a board game like Apples To Apples or Cards Against Humanity. Your pals will be so busy playing, they'll never notice you nearly burned the house down over there when you were heavy-handed with the lighter fluid.
What are your tips for having the best summer BBQ ever? Share in a comment!