In the days of Pinterest-worthy tablescapes, magazine cover ready food and the constant question of “should I Instagram my meal before I take a bite?”, it’s no wonder the idea of throwing a backyard barbecue can leave some of us overwhelmed before even choosing an evite design.
But when exactly did summer barbecues become so stressful or in need of so much pre-planning? The beauty of the summer barbecue is that it’s supposed to be easy, fun, family friendly and relaxing – yes even for the host! If this sounds like the kind of barbecue you’d like to host, pull-up a lawn chair, because I’d love to share how I went from being worried my backyard barbecue wouldn’t be fancy enough to regularly inviting friends over all summer long.
Relax and Make a List
Find a quiet 10 to 15 minutes (If you’re a busy mom, this might be the most difficult part of the whole process) and make a quick list. First, write out how many adults and how many kids are coming over so you can picture the amount of food you’ll need. Then you can start to make your list. I write out my menu on one side of my list, then divide the other side into sections of things to buy, things to make the day before, things to make the day-of and things to ask guests to bring. Having a list makes getting organized easy and takes away the stress of worrying you forgot something.
Keep The Menu Simple And Delicious
It’s true, magazine covers and social media can sometimes make party menus seem overly complicated and a bit intimidating. For summer barbecues, guests appreciate simple menus that are delicious with a little bit of variety. Just remember, simple does not need to mean boring. Keep it easy and choose items that are always delicious and won’t stress you out. My go-to barbecue favourites are sausages, hot dogs, burgers and chicken skewers. You’ll often find my menu a combination of something a little spicy like the Spicy Ultimate Chicken Frankfurters, something a little smoky like the Smokies Chicken Sausage, something for the kids like the Original Chicken Wieners and always something sweet for dessert.
As for sides, in the summer, fresh local produce turned into delicious side dishes can be the hit of your barbecue! Baked potatoes, corn on the cob, pasta salad with fresh peas and herbs and vegetable skewers are all easy to assemble and delicious side dishes to whatever you choose to grill.
Pick up a selection of fresh bakery buns and all your favourite condiments and voila! Dinner is served.
For dessert, keep that simple too and serve an easy summer favourite like ice cream in cones (tip: stock up on sprinkles and let the kids shake their own sprinkles on top of their ice cream, outside of course!), jumbo freezes or store-bought angel food cake covered in sliced fresh strawberries and whip cream (yes, even out of a can). If you have an outdoor fire pit, I highly recommend s’mores for dessert. Especially because it involves zero prep work. Just start the fire and bring out the roasting sticks, marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers, then let your guests do all the work.
Cook The Night Before
I am a big fan of choosing recipes that can be assembled or cooked the night before. Potato salad, pasta salad and homemade corn salsa all taste better when you prepare the day before and serve the next. Vegetable skewers with cherry tomatoes, over-sized mushrooms, colourful peppers, zucchini and onions look fancy when grilled on bamboo skewers, but are so easy to assemble and can sit in the fridge overnight. Simply grill before your main course, cover with foil and keep warm in the oven until you’re ready to eat.
Keep It Old School For The Kids
Our summer barbecues are always kid friendly, but that doesn’t mean we spend a lot of time worrying about how to entertain them or stocking up on expensive crafts and activities. It’s amazing how quickly kids will get into a board game, throw on their bathing suits to run through a sprinkler or develop their own rules or tournament if the backyard badminton net is set-up.
When it comes to feeding the kids dinner, feed them first and if you’re short on seating, let them eat on a picnic blanket on the lawn. Once the kids are fed and back to playing games, it’s time to get the adults’ dinner underway.
Have Your Basket Ready
Inevitably, someone is going to ask you for something they forgot while enjoying your amazing backyard barbecue. Keep a basket handy full of the essentials like sunscreen, bug spray, tissues, hand sanitizer and baby wipes which are great for cleaning up sticky kids! My kids always volunteer to be in charge of organizing the basket and colouring a cute sign that says, “help yourself”. It gives them a job so they feel like they’re helping but also keeps them occupied while I’m busy getting things ready.
However you decide to entertain this summer, I hope you take the opportunity to fire-up the grill and enjoy a barbecue with friends and family. You may find when September rolls around, your easy backyard barbecues make the kids’ “What I Did This Summer” journal entries at school. Because sometimes the easiest get-togethers are the most memorable.
Happy Grilling Everyone!
Written By: Maija Craig