Summer is finally here and beckoning us out of our layers and layers of clothing, out into the glorious sunshine. You know what that means: backyard parties!
Everyone loves a good backyard party. There usually isn’t the same space restrictions as there may be inside, party cleanup is easier, and being outside seems to elevate everyone’s mood. One of the best parts of backyard parties is the limited cost. Menus can be simple and many of the most delicious fruits and veggies are in season, so not only do they taste better, but they’re cheaper as well.
Decorating for backyard parties doesn’t need to break the bank. Holiday lights strung around the yard and an abundance of mason jars with tea lights in them can turn your backyard into a magical space for little to no cost. Look for the cheapest colorful cloth at your local fabric store to use as table coverings and add wildflowers in vases for lovely place settings.
Your menu can be as simple as burgers on the grill, or you can make it a potluck and ask your guests to bring their favorite summer dishes. If you’re making a full menu, look for local, in-season fruits and veggies and plan your menu around what’s currently fresh.
Here are a few ideas for simple dishes that don’t cost a lot of money that your guests will love.
Kabobs are versatile and can be made ahead of time to throw on the grill at the party. Cut chicken, steak, pork, or firm tofu into chunks and bathe in your favorite marinade for an hour or so before the party. Cut veggies into chunks and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the kabobs. Choose veggies that’ll hold up on the grill such as whole button mushrooms, onions, peppers, asparagus, zucchini, and summer squash. Small, red potatoes are delicious when cooked on the grill but they should be parboiled first so they’re done cooking at the same time as everything else on the kabob.
These are mini Caprese salads in the colors of the Italian flag. Simply put a grape tomato and a mini mozzarella ball on a toothpick and add a single basil leaf. Make a balsamic vinegar reduction by boiling a cup of balsamic vinegar until it reduces to half. Assemble these and make the reduction ahead of time, and when you plate them for the party, drizzle the balsamic glaze over the top and add a couple of basil leaves for garnish.
This is especially refreshing during the hot days of summer. Slice lemons, strawberries, cucumber, oranges, or grapefruit and put them in a clear pitcher of water with ice. One or two different kinds of fruit work best, and don’t make it too far ahead because after a while, the fruit can break down and lose its vibrant color.
Punch is always a cheap way to keep your guests’ thirsts quenched. Use your favorite lemon-lime soda, cranberry juice, and orange juice in a 2-1-1 ratio, and add ice (and vodka, if you’d like). For kids, make punch made from lemon-lime soda, red tropical punch, and pineapple juice in a 2-2-1 ratio, with scoops of rainbow sherbet floating in it.
Summer parties are the best time for fruit salad. Watermelons are plentiful and you can slice one in half, clean it out, and use it as a bowl to serve your fruit salad. It’s simple to do and always impresses! Be sure to include summer fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, and nectarines.
If you don’t want to spend all that time cutting up fruit, opt for just watermelon. After all, nothing says summer like a big wedge of watermelon dripping juices down your chin. Cut slices that are only a couple of inches wide at the rind so your guests can avoid the drip. For added fun, place Popsicle sticks in the rinds and serve them like pops.
Add all your favorite Mexican ingredients into a large bowl:
- Chopped tomatoes
- Canned black or pinto beans, drained
- Chopped avocado (tossed in a little limejuice to keep it from browning)
- Corn (canned or frozen)
- Chopped red and green peppers
- Chopped red onion
- Chopped jalapenos
- Salt and pepper to taste
Keep in fridge until ready to serve. Serve with tortilla chips. To make a creamier version of the salad, mix equal parts sour cream and mayo and add to salad until desired creaminess is reached.
For a few dollars, you can get a plastic stuffed burger maker that creates a pocket in the hamburger meat to stuff with your favorite ingredients. Put out several options for your guests to choose from such as bacon, mac and cheese, spinach, caramelized onions, jalapenos, avocado, and several types of cheeses.
Mash half of your strawberries with a potato masher and a little sugar to help bring out the juices. Slice the other half and add to the mashed strawberries. Cut slices of store-bought pound cake and assemble by putting a slice of pound cake in a bowl or small dish, add strawberry mixture, whipped cream (fresh or canned), and top with a mint leaf or slice of strawberry for garnish.
Before planning any party, you should set a budget and stick to it. It can be easy to become caught up in the fun of planning a backyard party and spend beyond your means. Never use a credit card to pay for entertainment such as a party. Instead, plan your party ahead of time so you can set aside a little money each week. If you plan, with money in one hand and a budget in the other, you can enjoy your backyard party without worrying about how to pay for it later.