7 Tips For Easy Summer Entertaining

7 Tips For Easy Summer Entertaining

8 minute read

Woohoo! Summer has arrived! And with it, restrictions are easing and life is (almost) resuming its swing. If you're planning to host a small event this summer, whether it's a backyard barbecue, a baby shower, or some other social event, you're probably a bit out of practice. Indeed, it's been a while since we gathered together to toast in a congenial spirit. 

Maybe you're just having the girls over for an evening of dinner and drinks in the garden, or perhaps you're finally reuniting with the extended family. Whatever the occasion, you want to be prepared and enjoy yourself. It's not easy running the show, visiting with everyone, and having a relaxing, carefree time. But it can be done.

Use the following seven tips for outdoor summer entertaining to make your get together easy and fun. We've got scissors, Spotify, and shandies in the house!

Get the big stuff done the day before.

The last thing you want to do is exhaust yourself on the day of the big (or small) event. Leave this day wide open for getting a good sleep-in so you're refreshed and energized, and for tackling all those extra, last-minute tasks that arise. 

Getting the big stuff done the night before gives you peace of mind and prevents you from rushing through tasks, skipping steps, or forgetting things. Create an action plan (what other less-enthusiastic people might call a schedule). Itemize your tasks according to priority, and check them off the day before. 

You can prepare things like salads, veggie trays, fruit platters, desserts, dressings, and marinades the day before the summer event. You may also prearrange your garden or living room to welcome a group by creating more space, opening up all those extra lawn chairs, and setting up tables, lights, umbrellas, and any other garden decor you wish to include. The point is to check the big stuff off the list in the days leading up to your event, and enlist the help of your family too to shoulder some of that fun burden.

Clean up as you go.

Perhaps one of the most mom-inspired maxims in the world is clean up as you go. The whole tone of it is enough to make your shoulders sag with fatigue. But what's more tiring is having a gargantuan mess to tackle at the end of a long and tiring day. Fun is exhausting, after all!

If you get most of the big stuff done the day before, then a big part of the prep cleaning is out of the way already. On the big day, occasionally mill around and pick up those empty glasses, used napkins, and empty plates. Toss the single-use stuff and give the rest to the dishwasher, so it's out of sight and ready to roll at the end of the day.

Use old tools in creative ways.

tools for summer entertainment

Scissors are one of the handiest tools in your kitchen. It's no wonder you need several pairs in different sizes, and that keeping your best scissors sharp is one of those critical housekeeping tasks you can't overlook.

One day I was attempting, unsuccessfully, to slice a home-baked pizza with one of those piddly wheel-style pizza cutters. I noticed my 7-year-old son watching me with a smirk on his face that said it all: I was a mere human, clumsy in my efforts to section a pizza and he, the genius and holder of the secrets to the universe, held the answer, which he'd grant me with once he'd thoroughly enjoyed the limits of my nincompoopery (42, perhaps?).

"Dad, why not just use scissors? They cut the bottom and the top of the crust, see, so you won't have to go back and forth and back and forth like that. I mean geez, you're breaking a sweat, Dad.” Well, for anyone who has kids, it's moments like these that remind us how intelligence has very little to do with age and experience. The clearest, brightest, youngest minds often have the greatest wisdom. 

That was the day I learned to use scissors for tasks besides cutting paper. And as it turns out, scissors are excellent salad snippers, pie trimmers, meat strippers, and they nicely dice dried fruits into even, bite-sized pieces. 

So, put your sharpest pair of scissors to work in the kitchen when preparing for your big event. They'll save you oodles of time and help prettify those food arrangements.

Make a playlist.

Spotify rocks for this, literally. When you're entertaining during the summer, you don't want to be jumping up every half hour to change up the music. Plan it ahead of time. Choose your favorite tunes, including classic oldies that everyone loves and trending hits, and alternate fast and mellow songs. Click play and join your guests. Alternatively, you can leave Spotify to do the work for you. Just type in the genre of music you want and it will spit out several different playlists to choose from. 

Use store-bought stuff.

It saves time and effort, and it looks attractive. Why not buy prepared foods from the supermarket all the time? Well for one, fruit and veggie platters are notorious for creating unnecessary waste. They're usually served up on a plastic tray, covered by a plastic dome, and come with one or more dips or dressings stored in a plastic cup with a foil lid. While much of the plastic we see today is recyclable, plastic only has so many life cycles before it becomes unusable. It's also wise to consider how many hands those fruits and veggies have gone through before they get to your mouth. While hygiene protocol is fairly strict in most places in the food industry, we can't know how well people wash their hands in private, just sayin'.

So why are we encouraging you to buy store-bought stuff? We want you to save it for the rare occasion when you are hosting a big group during the summer and just don't have the time to do all the washing, chopping, and arranging. That task can take a good hour, depending on the variety and quantity of produce you're tackling. When you can, choose prepared foods that have minimal packaging, or if you order in advance, supply your own serving tray to eliminate the need for plastic. Prepared smoked meat, cheeses, and salads are also convenient, and you can buy them in small or large quantities, depending on your needs. 

Make a party pitcher of everyone's favorite basic cocktail.

One of the best party pleasers we've picked up in our years of entertaining family and friends is a cocktail that everyone likes. If that sounds impossible, it's not. All you have to do is whip up a few different base cocktails, each in its own pitcher, and then offer the liquor on the side, along with a variety of garnish, like frozen berries, mint leaves, lavender, citrus fruit slices, and brown sugar.

(This may mean having to add to your pitcher collection, but you can find fairly inexpensive plain versions and then dress them up with attractive labels).

Some popular bases are: Tonic and fresh lime, soda water with fresh lemon, Coke and fresh lemon and lime, cranberry and orange juice, ginger beer & fresh lime, and more. Strategically position the rum, tequila, whiskey, gin, and more next to the pitchers so each person can choose their poison from your unique cocktail bar. Oh, and don't forget beer and lemonade--Great Aunt Ruth loves her shandy!

Keep it simple & elegant.

Less is more, folks. Always has been, always will be. That applies to tips for outdoor summer entertaining too! But we forget that from time to time when our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, when we're caught in the grips of indecision, and when the options are too many to narrow down to one or two. The suggestion here is to work with what you already have. 

Dig into your pantry and pull out those empty glass jars to store salad dressing or sauces, or display tealight candles. Keep the salads and veggie trays to a minimum. We tend to overdo it with food, which leads to waste. No one is going to starve, so don't worry. No one ever eats as much as we anticipate they will. Serve that buffet dinner in non-buffet style, which is to say, ditch those aluminum troughs and use your own attractive serving plates and bowls. A little touch of elegance goes a long way.

Keeping with that suggestion, use your existing cutlery and dishware too. While that requires more clean up, it prevents the unnecessary expense and waste of plastic or paper dinnerware. It also prevents flimsy plates from back-flipping off laps or absorbing dressings and sauces. 

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From our kitchen to yours, enjoy summer soirees, sweet cocktails, and long sunsets this season!

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