Note: The long running weekly feature post, Frugal Kitchens 101, appearing each Monday will now appear on the first Monday of each month. This will be the last of the weekly Frugal Kitchens 101. The next post of this type will be on August 5, 2013.
We are well into summertime entertaining which means outdoor entertaining. There is just something delightfully enjoyable about eating outdoors! Hosting outdoor gatherings can be fun and smooth going with a bit of prep without breaking the bank. It doesn't take a lot of effort to host a successful outdoor gathering. Here are a few tips:
- planning - It goes without saying that you really need to have an idea of how many people will be attending. Whether a small or large gathering, it is easier to plan with an estimate of how many will be attending. With that in hand, it is easy to menu plan. Always include in your plan the possibility of having to move the gathering indoors in the event of a sudden rainfall as well as shelter from the hot summer sun.
- timing - Unless it is a pool party, I like planning for guests to arrive around 4 o'clock. This is out of the main heat of the day and early enough for a bit of socializing prior to dinner.
- KISS - Keep it simple, silly. A simple menu plan combined with simple outdoor decorating is quite easy and inexpensive to set up. Outdoor tables can be set up with small bouquets of wildflowers or floating candles. Vases need be no more complicated than mason jars or even a few mismatched tea cups. Table cloths are optional but if using them, I prefer vinyl which are inexpensive (under $5) and easy to clean. If using table cloths, you may want to use table cloth clips to hold them in place (dollar store find). Citronella candles can add ambiance while keeping mosquitoes at bay.
- disposable vs reusable - I am not a huge fan of disposable dinnerware, drinkware or cutlery although I will use them for larger gatherings. Disposable anything adds to the cost of the gathering as well as to the waste produced. If at all possible, I use plastic or metal reusable dinnerware for larger gatherings which is eco-friendly without the worry over breakage. For smaller gatherings, I use regular dinnerware if there is no chance it will get near the pool otherwise I use plastic dinnerware. There's quite a wide range of plastic and metal dinnerware available at reasonable prices, often on sale at greatly reduced prices in the fall. I use regular cutlery whenever possible.
- food safety - The rule of thumb is to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Keep foods out of the danger zone and discard any food that has been out for two hours. Food coolers and chaffing dishes help a lot in maintaining proper food temperature when outdoors.
- the extras - I keep sunblock and bug repellant on hand for guests who forgot to bring some. While it is tempting to buy less expensive off brands, I only buy what I would use myself which is high SPF broad spectrum UVA/UVA sunblock and bug repellant with high DEET content.