We've made it New Zealand! The clocks have gone forward an hour, daylight savings is upon us, and those warm summer nights that we all look forward to each year are just around the corner.
Of course, with this time of year here already, you're probably getting ready to invite a few friends over for a barbecue and a few drinks and planning to host - dare we say it - a Christmas celebration.
The good news is, with a little preparation, taking your entertaining outdoors can be very low maintenance, and take the pressure off needing to have indoors super clean and tidy for your guests.
Whether it's planning for the big day, or simply having a few mates over to celebrate the warmer nights out on your deck, we've got you covered with some really clever tips and tricks to take your outdoor entertainment to the next level and hopefully save you a little time and money.
Craft your Own Outdoor Kitchen
Ask any Kiwi, and they'll tell you that, besides the delicious smell of sausages sizzling, one of the best things about having a BBQ is the minimal time it takes to clean up afterwards. That's why the very first thing we recommend doing for your outdoor entertaining is setting up a whole outdoor kitchen ready to use.
We don't just mean pulling the dusty BBQ cover off and slinging around some spatulas either, we mean creating a really useful set up that will guarantee some culinary kudos.
- Every good kitchen needs a pantry
If you have any wooden crates laying around in the garage, or perhaps a large plastic storage box, give it a good wipe down and bring it outside near your BBQ area. Remember, this is going to last you for all of summer and you don't want any furniture damaged by the weather, so make sure it's water resistant or on casters so you can wheel it back inside.
Next, stock up on plates (perhaps either the older ones in your cupboard) and any other cooking accessories, BBQ tools, trays, and even a few herbs and spices you'd like to keep handy.
Place them in your storage compartment and slide it next to the BBQ and you've got yourself a makeshift pantry that doubles as a table.
- Keep the food cool
When you're in the middle of outdoor entertaining, the last thing you want to be doing is constantly nipping back inside to grab all of the chilled food and drinks you need. You want to be with your guests while you cook, so it's important to pre-plan for this.
This one's pretty simple. Call in the chilly bin! Usually the bigger the better, but if it's possible, one for food and one for drinks is a good way to go about it. Of course, a chilly bin isn't cold without ice, so we'd recommend preemptively filling up a few ice-packs or stocking up on frozen peas so you can keep your outdoor fridge cool.
Top tip: always clean your chilly bin out straight after your guests leave. There's nothing worse than opening it up a few weekends down the track to find you've left a packet of old sausages behind!
Sort Out Seating For Your Guests
If you're not lucky enough to have a large deck with inbuilt seating or an extravagant outdoor table (if you are, you can probably skip this next bit), don't worry! There are lots of inexpensive, makeshift options to ensure that your guests have somewhere to sit down and eat their meal upon arrival.
- Rally up the chairs
First of all, do a little stock take of what you've got indoors. Pull out the dining chairs if you have to and make use of that bathroom stool - you'll be surprise just how much seating you have laying around your home.
If you're not too keen to bring the indoors, outdoors - that's no problem either. We'd recommend bringing out some picnic blankets! There's nothing cuter than sitting on the lawn, curled up, enjoying a meal with your friends and family - plus the kids will love it too.
- Keep your guests warm
Even though the weather tends to heat up a little at this time of year, once the sun drops, it can get pretty chilly. Make sure when you're considering a seating plan that you're thinking about keeping your guests warm too.
First off, we'd suggest a few throws, cushions, and blankets across your seating (whether it's your picnic blankets or your chairs), to make sure your guests are cosy throughout the evening.
Next, think about where you're setting up the seating - is the area sheltered from the wind, or likely to make the most of the setting sun? If it isn't and it's not movable, it might be worth putting up a gazebo, tarp or even just a sheet to block out some of the evening breeze - your guests will thank you for it!
Keep the Pests Away From Guests
It really is the finer details that'll make the difference between your outdoor gathering being an outstanding event, or a little bit of a flop. Picture this; your guests have had a wonderful night, they've loved the food and the company, they hop into bed happy and... the itching sets in.
Yep. Prepare for those mosquitoes.
There are a few ways that you can fend off the mossies:
- Buy a few citronella candles and place them around the seating area. Mosquitoes hate the scent of the candles, and will steer clear while they're lit.
- Make sure you get rid of any stagnating water - mossies love lurking around still water.
- Stock up on insect repellent. If you have a can of mossie spray handy, your guests will feel more comfortable to recline and relax without worrying about being bitten.
Prepare for the tidy up
If you've ever hosted a party, you'll know that one of the biggest challenges is the cleanup after all of your guests have left. The good news is, if you're outdoor entertaining, you're already one step ahead! Any spills shouldn't require much, if any, cleaning.
However, there are a few tips and tricks to put in place before your guests arrive, to make sure that you're not spending too much time cleaning after the party ends.
- Put your recycle and rubbish bins in plain sight
You'd be surprised at how much of a difference this small change will make. If you're eating and celebrating outdoors, people will be a little more inclined to be carefree and leave things laying around. Make sure your recycle bins and rubbish bins are in plain sight ready for your guests to use. If there's a bin right next to them, it's likely they'll use it!
- Bring a bucket of hot, soapy water out
There's no denying it, barbecue grease, oils, and food residue will quite easily take a tight hold of your plates and utensils if they're not rinsed quickly. The simple solution to this is to bring a tub of hot, soapy water out after dinner. You don't have to wash the dishes on the spot - take your time and enjoy the party! At least this way, by the time you wash the dishes or place them in the dishwasher, the majority of the grease and grime will be rinsed off already.
- Line your entrances into your home with mats
Throughout the night, your guests will be making trips in and out of the house. Even if the party is outdoors, they'll still need to use the bathroom and grab bits and pieces from inside your house, so it's really important to stop the mud in its tracks.
We'd suggest putting mats outside all of your doors, and even a towel down on the inside of doorways if possible. Also a little sign saying 'please take off your shoes' wouldn't go amiss!
- Have a backup plan in place
Even the most prepared of hosts and hostesses experience unfortunate accidents at their gatherings. With drinks, food, lots of people and entertainment, it's likely that there's going to be some splashes and spills here and there.
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