The next time you have a family dinner on the patio, or a backyard cookout, or host a BBQ, don’t stress about the dining essentials. By establishing an outdoor dining basket, you can gather all of the appropriate items into one place. This means less planning for a busy Mama, and easy access for your husband and kids to help prep for dinner outside.
Keep organized in a basket
Keep a basket or box filled with everything needed for outdoor dining. When it’s time to set the table, your kids know exactly where the dishes are. If friends spontaneously show up, your husband knows which glasses to grab for cold drinks on the patio.
Plus, when cold weather rolls around, you can easily stash this box in the back of the closet for the winter, and it will be ready again when sunny Spring weather reappears.
It’s always smart to have outdoor tableware so your everyday dishes don’t get broken outside. Accidents happen: a plate gets dropped, silverware gets lost in the garbage, or cups get knocked over. With outdoor-specific tableware, you don’t have to fuss or worry about losing your everyday dishes or silverware.
Option #1: Disposables.
If you frequently entertain outside during the warm months, disposable tableware could be a good option. Purchase bulk packs of plates, bowls, cups, napkins, and silverware. Don’t forget extra trash bags!
Although there is an element of convenience, those paper and plastic products quickly fill up garbage cans and landfills. Opt for recyclable products or reusable items instead.
Option #2: Plastic or melamine dishes.
Head to your local Dollar Store or discount center for plastic or melamine tableware. You can often find bright patterns and complete sets (plates, bowls, and cups) at a cheap price. Buy enough sets to cover how many people you entertain. For the once or twice per year that you host a bigger crowd, you can purchase disposables.
Consignment shops are the best place to buy silverware because a mismatched set is just fine when you’re dining alfresco.
Always have a stocked bar? Don’t forget to find plastic glasses for your alcoholic beverages. Red and white wine glasses, beer mugs, and margarita glasses are easy to find in plastic.
Don’t forget about the napkins! Like tableware, you can opt for either disposable or reusable. Bulk disposable napkins are cheap and easy.
Reusable napkins can also be inexpensive; buy the rainbow of bandanas and use those as outdoor napkins. They match all decorations, are soft napkins, and can easily be thrown in the wash. Even as they stain and age, they still look like a perfectly good bandana! Caution: your kids may use them to play Wild West during dinner.
Serving platters, bowls, trays, and nets
Did your set of outdoor dishes come with serving platter or bowls? If not, head back to those dollar stores or consignment sales and look for big plastic platters or wide plastic bowls. Even wicker baskets are a great option for chips or snacks (when lined with a napkin).
Buy a few large lunch trays, too. These are the perfect solution to reduce the number of times your carry items in and out of the house. Instead of 12 trips to carry the food outside, you can now accomplish the same task in only 2 trips.
One problem with large trays of food is flies. They swarm the area as soon as food appears. Basic mesh tents keep the flies off of your food, plus they’re transparent so you can see what’s underneath, and lightweight so that even your kids can pick them up.
Drink dispensers and coolers
No backyard party is complete without drinks! Add a drink dispenser to your outdoor dining basket. This could be a large plastic jug with a spout on the bottom to refill individual cups, or it could be a giant bucket to hold water bottles. An ice bucket or cooler would be a welcome addition as well!
A simple tablecloth or runner can spruce up any outdoor space. Stash a few tablecloths in your outdoor dining basket – just remind your family to wipe the tables before laying on the tablecloth!
Make sure you have enough plastic (disposable or reusable) tablecloths for each of your dining tables, including the card tables that you pull out for an extra-large crowd. A small runner or placemat is perfect for coffee tables, side tables, or a drink bar. Rotate through seasonal tablecloths for a festive Summer (beachy themes for June, Americana for July, and lemonade/watermelon for August).
Does your dining table have a hole in the middle for an umbrella pole? Not a problem! Cut a hole in your tablecloth exactly where the umbrella stand goes. Don’t forget to buy a few tablecloth clips for the windy days, too.
Fill your outdoor dining basket
Fill your outdoor dining basket with all of the outdoor dining essentials: from tableware and napkins to serving platters and mesh food covers, to drink dispensers and tablecloths.
When your family comes over for a summer BBQ or your neighbors stop by for a cookout, you have all of the items ready to go. By organizing them in a designated basket, your entire family knows which plates to use, where the tablecloths is, and what to put the food on.
Cheers to dinner on the patio!
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