Spring has sprung, and we’ve officially entered into outdoor entertaining season. If just the word “entertaining” sends you into stress mode, you’re not alone. I love to have friends and family over. What I don’t love is the running around in circles and picking up Legos for the 10th time. Not to mention dealing with the pressure to decorate like Joanna Gaines, or whipping up the kind of meal that would make Martha Stewart proud. After a few years of this, I’ve learned that the high standards I set on myself suck the fun right out of the party, as my husband can attest. The focus should be on the time you’re sharing together. So with that in mind, here are a few tips for stress-free, outdoor entertaining.
One thing that I have learned from watching ridiculous amounts of Fixer Upper is that natural elements can make decorating easy and cheap! Need a centerpiece? Grab some branches from a tree in your backyard, put them in a vase, and boom, free centerpiece. Are you celebrating Mother’s Day or a birthday? Plants in a cute pail, like this one I grabbed from the dollar bin at Target (available online), make great gifts and can serve as place settings and décor for your table. Fresh fruits and veggies can also add great color to the table while simultaneously showing your mother-in-law how healthy you’re eating.
One big bonus about entertaining outside is that you don’t have to worry about things getting messy. I like to have a few fun activities ready to go, especially for the little ones. Sidewalk chalk in a little bucket makes a cute centerpiece for the kid’s table, as well as a fun activity. Kids aren’t the only ones who like to have fun. Outdoor games like cornhole and ladder ball are great for the adults too. Throw in some Michael Jackson on Pandora and you have yourself a party atmosphere.
Another element that can make entertaining stressful is the cost. This is an area I’m finally getting better at- ask for help! You are having an outdoor party, not a fancy, 5-course dinner. Asking guests to bring drinks, an appetizer, or their favorite side dish cuts the cost and the stress on you–it also helps guests feel more involved. When it comes to your main dish, don’t think that you have to feed everyone steak. There are lots of light, flavorful dishes that can fill friends up without draining your budget. I love this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens for Toasties with Egg Salad. It’s fast, fresh, and light on the budget.
No one wants to be stuck in a kitchen for hours on a beautiful spring day. Make use of your local grocery store’s pre-made food and drinks. Grab a gallon of Publix lemonade, pour it into a few mason jars, add a few raspberries and you have a fancy drink that took seconds to make (hiding the gallon jug is completely up to you). If you don’t feel like making a dessert, most grocery store bakeries have an excellent selection of sweets. A key lime pie (taken out of the plastic container of course) is a perfect addition to your outdoor table. Just be ready to answer the “what recipe did you use?” question. Clean up can also be a hassle, not to mention a total downer after everyone has gone home. Paper plates are completely acceptable for an outdoor party, and with all the options available now (heavy-duty, eco-friendly) why wouldn’t you use them?
So there you have it, a few tips for saving time and money while enjoying the company of your family and friends in the beautiful Florida sunshine.