TIPS & TRICKS
Game Day Hacks: Tailgate Like a Pro this Football Season
Millions of people look forward to football season every year, and die-hard fans gather all across the country to share the big game with their family and friends, complete with great food, office pools and serious rivalries. While most people follow their team from the comfort of their own homes, there's nothing like sitting in the stands and cheering on your favorite players live and in living color! For about 18 percent of football fans, tailgating is the only way to go, but there's an art to bringing the party with you. Tailgating has been around for well over one hundred years, believe it or not, so there's plenty of tips and tricks to make it your best football experience ever.
1. Create a Tailgating Kit
There are some things that you will need to bring with you every time you tailgate, no matter what you are serving. Instead of having to plan and pack every item for each game, compile a kit that includes all the essential items that you will need. Use something sturdy like a truck or tool box to store your tailgate kit, so it will handle both abuse and inclement weather. When deciding what to store in your tailgate kit, consider things like can openers, barbecue utensils, seasonings, garbage bags, cleaning wipes and other nonperishable items. Also, throw in a small notebook and pen so you can make a note of anything that you wish you had included so that you can add those to the box before the next football game.
2. Prepare Like a Pro
The key to a good tailgating party is preparation. The last thing you want to do when you get to the football stadium is spend all your time getting things ready to go because you neglected to plan ahead. Anything that can be prepared ahead of time should be. It's much easier to pull an already marinated steak from a baggie and throw it onto the grill. You can also pre-form hamburger patties, slice veggies and cheese and mix salads and sides at home. Pay attention to how you store your prepared items, as it's easier to store and transport food in baggies or square containers than in bowls.
3. Keep Your Cool
Because you can't bring the kitchen sink nor the refrigerator with you to the football game, you'll want to have plenty of cooler space and be smart about how you use it. All food that you pack should be pre-chilled to keep it as cool as possible. You'll also want to layer your cooler in a way that makes sense so that you aren't trying to pull things you need right away out from under a stack of items that won't be used until later. It's a good idea to store drinks underneath and containers and bags with ingredients toward the top. If you plan to party hearty, it's advisable to keep alcoholic beverages in a separate cooler, especially if you have children in the crowd. The last thing you want to do is send your nephew to get a soda that turns out to be not what his parents ordered, so be a responsible drinker.
4. Grill It Up
The grill is the key to a successful tailgate party, so be sure that yours is fully operational before you hit the road. Most tailgaters favor cooking at the stadium over bringing everything in pre-cooked form, and full-size grills are preferable to portable models, so you don't be afraid to bring out the big guns. Whether you have a gas or charcoal grill, it's a good idea to have plenty of extra fuel on hand in case something unexpected happens. Nothing will kill the party vibe faster than finding out the kitchen is closed because you neglected to check your tank level.
5. Go Big or Go Home!
If you have just a few friends or your immediate family that will be enjoying the football game with you, it might make sense to use a simple setup that operates from the back of your truck bed. However, celebrating with a larger group is not only more fun but can also be super convenient. If you're familiar with the venue and know that there is room, consider bringing a portable pavilion and setting up a full-service kitchen that caters to a crowd. Portable drawers and buffet tables are more accommodating than a few lawn chairs behind your vehicle. In addition, you'll be prepared for whatever weather the day brings if you have a semi-permanent shelter. Be sure to pack up before the game starts, however, to avoid losing any valuable gear. While planning big takes more effort, you'll find a routine that works for you once you've done this a few times, and the setup and takedown will become quick and painless.
6. Contain the Mess
It doesn't matter what the reason is, any time you party there will be a mess left in your wake. While hosting your friends for football at your home means that you will have full access to facilities, eating off your truck bed makes cleanup more of a hassle. Still, you can keep things under control. Use jumbo sized garbage bags to hold the disposable products, tucking them into your truck box until you can find a proper disposal site. For dirty dishes, bring a large covered bin to hold everything. Once you get home, it will all be in one place, and you can easily throw it in the dishwasher and pack it back in your tailgate kit for the next game.
7. Think Outside the Box
There is so much more to a tailgate party than just burgers and beer, but not everyone is adept at making menus that work well on the go. If you plan to beat the crowd and support your favorite football team all day or for an entire weekend, you'll be eating more than just one meal on the road. Be creative about finding food that travels well. Check blogs and Pinterest for recipes and ideas. You can store soups or sauces in an insulated thermos, for example, or pack pre-made jello shots or condiments in mini nut cups. Try one or two new things at every event to keep things interesting.
8. Pack Your Pride
While the food and fellowship is a big part of the reason that football fans love to tailgate, you are really there to support your team, so don't forget to represent with team gear and colors so that your fellow fans know exactly who you are cheering for. Besides hats and tees, you can decorate your buffet spread with a banner or even paint your cooler with your team's logo. If you have a mixed crowd, split your tent in half and make the rivalry part of the fun. In addition, don't forget to connect with the fans around you. After all, part of the excitement of tailgating is sharing the energy and love of the game with a wider variety of people.
Like any other party, tailgating at a football game is an event that takes forethought and planning. However, if you are smart, these game day hacks will ensure that you have the best event possible without biting off more than you can chew.
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