Building community is really at the center of how we, as an active-duty military family, maintain the status quo as we move as often as we do. We need a place to land, people to do life with, and plenty of opportunities to connect with others in meaningful ways.
As a southerner, I know from experience that there is a sure-fire way to gather folks together- a good, down-home barbeque. As my Mama always says, “Bring the food and they will come.”
I wanted to share a handful of my favorite hacks for a sweet and successful barbeque.
Our family runs our household budget around the idea that community matters and should be invested in. In addition to our monthly grocery budget, we keep a separate line item for weekend gatherings. About once or twice a month, we host a casual fellowship meal after our Sunday worship service. Depending on what we are serving, you can stretch your dollars to include a ton of food.
Keep it easy and plan ahead. While I do love a good potluck, it can make for a real awkward plate if everyone brings potato salad. I make a quick list of everything we hope to offer- a main dish, two sides, bread, a sweet and a savory snack, and at least two beverage options. After the menu is decided, we ask people to bring specific items when they offer instead of letting them guess.
Divide and conquer.
The third hack on my list helps keep the cost down while keeping the BBQ experience up. Don’t take on all the planning on your own. Ask a friend to bring the paper products, or figure out seating. If you are providing the host house and the food, ask a few friends to come alongside of you and put together a combined event.
Location. Location. Location.
While the party location does matter, what I‘m talking about in this hack is the location of the food. Every time we host a get together, we have two locations for food- a kid’s table and the adult section. If you have younger kids, having a hot dog station with bagged chips and juice boxes takes the edge off for parents who are trying to get their own food. They don’t have to worry about getting kid’s plates or wondering if their child is snagging all the ribs (usually, the rib snatchers are my children).
If the gathering will host a ton of families, purchasing some outdoor games and sidewalk chalk is always a must. Cornhole is a fam favorite (My beloved husband is totally a Mid-Westerner. If you know, you know). In the summer months, we might throw a sprinkler on or two.
Easy Peasy Clean Up.
Forget the pretense of “real people” dishes and go for the ease of paper and plastic. Cleaning up after a hoard of people is never a fun task, so we make it simple. Put a few extra trash cans out and clean up is a breeze. We use foil pans, plastic serving ware, and a ton of paper napkins.
If you’re looking to get to know your neighbors, welcome some people into friendship, or simply to have a little fun, these tips and tricks will help you pull off one heck of a cookout. So, bust out the barbeque sauce and have a ball!