Outdoor Entertaining

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I guess you can say I’m a California girl through-and-through.  I don’t think anything quite tops a gathering of friends or family outside.  Something about sitting there in the sunshine or the shade or around a bonfire that makes me never want to go inside.  And let’s face it, in a lot of ways, showing hospitality outdoors solves a lot of logistical problems.

Common excuses reasons people give for not showing hospitality is that their house is too small, they don’t have enough chairs, their house is too unorganized/messy/under construction, their house doesn’t have air-conditioning, and [fill in the blank].  Well, the answer to all of those is to take the party outside!  If you have a yard, that’s great!  If not, you can show hospitality at the park, the beach, or even a tailgate party in a parking lot!  You are only limited by your imagination!

Here are some tips for making outdoor entertaining easier and stress-free!

1. Prepare a backyard picnic basket ahead of time.  We have detailed instructions here: Prepared For A Picnic.  Simply put, the basket or tote should be fully stocked with everything you need from plates to salt-n-pepper to citronella candles to keep the bugs away. Then when it is time to grill outside, you don’t have to take a dozen trips inside for things like forgotten napkins, forks, or matches.  Everything you need is ready!

Backyard Picnic Basket

2. Also prepare a car picnic basket!  This way, if you are out and about and feel like an impromptu picnic, you don’t need to resort to fast food.  A quick stop at the market and you are ready to go!  And whether you believe it or not, going to the store and buying REAL FOOD is actually cheaper and quicker than the drive-thru!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-D-S437AHfs?rel=0]

3. You needn’t have chairs or benches for everyone.  Nothing is cozier than quilts and blankets on the lawn!  Keep your eye out at thrift stores and stock up on two or three big blankets that are reserved just for outdoor entertaining!

Outdoor Entertaining

4.  Mosquitoes?  If you live in a place where the only thing that can ruin a picnic is becoming the picnic, plan ahead!  I always have a little basket of natural bug repellent for people to use.  We also light lots of citronella candles and Tiki torches so that everyone can stay comfortable.

Outdoor entertaining

5. Let’s be honest.  Sometimes it can get expensive to have guests.  If your food budget is already tight the idea of inviting others over for a BBQ can be financially challenging!  Here are some ideas:

No one minds a potluck!  If you say, “Hey we have hot dogs to put on the grill.  Can you bring a salad?” you can stay within budget and everyone has a great time.

When someone asks, “What can I bring?” do not hesitate to ask them to bring the dessert, the wine, the bread, etc.  Of course there are times when you want to just bless someone and do all the preparations and carry the expense.  That is great.  But, don’t worry if that doesn’t happen every time!

Keep it simple!  People are not coming over for a gourmet meal.  They are coming for the fellowship!

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6. Perhaps you don’t feel up to cooking for company.  You’re fine throwing together something for your family, but you get nervous cooking for others.  You’re not alone!  I think a lot of people feel that way.  Cooking can feel really personal sometimes. Keep in mind that, especially when you eat outdoors, the simplest foods are the often the tastiest!  Here are some simple meal ideas:

Sandwich

A peasant lunch or supper:

  • Several kinds of cheeses
  • Some sliced fruit
  • Some nuts and olives
  • Artisan bread
  • A bottle of wine

A salad bar: (This can be a great idea if you have invited people with food allergies such as gluten or dairy intolerance.)

  • A big bowl of mixed greens
  • A few different dressing options
  • Sliced veggies and fruits
  • A few protein choices such as cubed cheese, crumbled bacon or sliced boiled eggs
  • Fresh baguettes
  • Fresh lemonade

A panini or grilled cheese bar: Let people build their own sandwiches and do them up on the grill!

  • A few options for bread, pre-sliced
  • A few options for cheese (jack, mozzarella, brie)
  • A few options for meat (bacon, turkey, tuna)
  • A few options fruits and vegetables (apples, pears, cranberries, tomatoes, lettuce, onions)
  • A few bottles of local beer

7. Think outside of dinner!  How about a brunch on the patio?  How about lunch at the park?  How about an ice cream social after dinner?  Think of a little bonfire and s’mores!  Showing hospitality at one of these “lesser” meal or snack times can really take the pressure off!

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Most of all, keep in mind, that hospitality is not about the food, the location, or the weather.  Hospitality is about opening up your heart to others.  It’s about taking a moment to extend grace in a world that is often graceless, to show generosity in a world that is chronically stingy, to pour out love in a world that is often unkind.  In the end, some herbs with rejoicing is better than great feasting with strife.  So, set aside any perfectionism and invite the neighbors over for coffee.  Don’t worry about what you don’t have and throw a picnic and a water-balloon fight this Memorial Day!  Find what you do have and believe that it is more than enough.  It always is, you know. Some of the greatest times of sharing, intimacy and friendship we have ever had have been over a plate of leftovers.  Like the boy with his loaves and fishes in the Scriptures, what is shared is always multiplied.  What is shared feeds not only the body, but the soul.

(Linked to Fabulously Frugal ThursdayCreative Saturdays, Hope In Every SeasonFoodie Friends Friday, Show Off Friday,  Show and Tell FridayAnything Goes, Get Schooled, Backyard Farming Connection, From The FarmBloom Designs and Making Your Home Sing)


  1. I love all these tips, and I remember your drive-thru video. I should play it every time I think about heading to Chik-Fil-A and just go across the street to the grocery store instead.

    One tip from me – I keep one of those flannel backed tablecloths rolled up inside our picnic blanket. When I lay out the blanket, I put the tablecloth down first, flannel side up, to keep the blanket clean and prevent it from getting damp.

    Thanks for linking up at Fabulously Frugal Thursday!

    • That’s a great idea….especially when you have little people (like I do!) who spill something at nearly every meal! :-)

  2. Thanks for sharing on Foodie friends Friday.

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