Tailgating is one of those events where all the work is definitely worth all of the fun. But how do we make our lives simpler on gameday? Food and drink are not always the obstacle. It's the Plays--- the method of transport, setting up and taking down for which many tailgaters feel inept. You know what I mean...how everything is packed in and just might explode out the back of the car if you hit a bump just right en route to the stadium. Then you can't find a serving spoon. And you should have thrown in some bags for the dirty dishes. And somehow nothing fits back in like it did on the way to the parking lot. I have a few items you might want to round up before your next party out of the back of your car....
Formerly, I had 2 soft sided pull-along coolers, which worked great. One for Drink items and one for Food supplies. I even used a marker to list what belonged in each so tailgating guests could pitch in during cleanup (Cleanup has got to be quick and easy in my world...I'm in a hurry to get into my seat during warmups).
This year, I needed a change. I now have a set of drawers--you know--- the plastic kind they sell in the bins and plastic containers aisle at the store. Look how beautifully this works...it's like having kitchen drawers installed in the back of your SUV.
These are not yet labeled, but will have team-themed labels soon. Labels clue in party-goers so they can assist with setup, cleanup and finding what they need without your help.
Here's a list of what to have in supply drawers/bins. Stock at the beginning of the season and re-stock as needed:
trash bags; plastic grocery bags (for dirty dishes and spoons); roll of paper towels; extra napkins; baby wipes (useful like a Clorox wipe but safe for cleaning up faces too); antibacterial hand gel; salt and pepper shakers; aluminum foil; ziploc bags (variety of sizes pulled from your drawer at home); toilet paper if you're stuck with portable toilets
And in the Drinks drawer:
coozies; cups, stemmed glasses, if that's your taste
Here are a few other items to help you in your quest for tailgate simplicity:
The utensil and plate holder on the left is quite handy. I found this in the seasonal picnic items one spring at Target. Remember to stalk the seasonal picnic aisles at Target and Wal-mart in the beginning of the warm weather season. They stock so many great items...and one of these years they'll have them in your school colors and you can buy them up.
The second item from the left is something I found in a craft store that I like for small supplies that can easily get lost. I love storage items that are self-stacking.
In this small stacking container, I keep:
drink stirrers; fun cocktail toothpicks; bottle opener; corkscrew; regular toothpicks; birthday candles and matches (you never know!); sweetener packets; serving utensils and sharp knives.
The 2 pieces on the right of the photo are the dreamiest tailgating items ever. You can actually put food items in each layer and easily put out your food and cleanup. People seem to really like these and ask lots of questions. The most common inquiries from people passing by..."Is that for communion?" and "Is that a mini-keg?" Makes me laugh! I call them my "Stackers" because you just stack up the containers and off you go. I use the small Stacker for dips and condiments. The large Stacker can hold any sort of food you want.
So the "stackers" all get put nicely inside one of the two bins that stack in the back of my car. With my stackers, I put other food items and a selection from my (very large/too large) collection of football-themed platters and bowls. These bins are completely wipeable and waterproof and they collapse for storage. Plastic bins work great too. But they didn't have simple plastic bins in my school colors, so I bought these:
|Bungalow Scout bins|
I highly recommend to purchase with lids, so that they stack.
I carry my tablecloths in a big drawstring laundry bag that can go to and fro between the laundry room and car. I have 3 catering tablecloths that fully cover eight foot banquet tables to the ground. I have gone through many themed table toppers, but our tailgating table area is so large that it has outgrown any of my small toppers.
Finally, I must share with you the cake topper to our tailgate. The candelabra. I have two...one in each school color. Each is about 2 feet tall. These are super glittery, very cheesy, noticeable and elegant! Not even to mention extremely fun.
Now, the biggest challenge of all is remembering everything and not stressing. Please keep in mind that my husband is not available to tailgate with me. My predicament is common with lots of football wives around the nation. We are the ones coordinating all of the people and the stuff. Here's my solution to simplifying packing up, taped to the wall of my garage:
You could also type up and laminate the list, but there's really no reason to complicate things. Notice the final very important items to remember that I have not yet mentioned...potential weather gear for you and your party, dependent on the forecast...and the MOST important items to remember for an easy, happy gameday: tickets and the parking pass!
This is just a start to the tailgating tips....there are so many different ways to do it smartly.
Stay tuned, tailgaters!