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The Guide to Last Minute Tailgating

**Featured photo by  Harry Knight on Unsplash**

This is the guide to last minute tailgating, but what I really mean is busy people tailgating.  You know, people who know there’s a chance they’ll go tailgating, or know they’re going, but don’t have time to be elaborate. I’ve attended plenty of tailgates in my time, both large and small, and I love people who go all out. When I went to college in Nevada, long before Colin Kaepernick had anything to say about anything, but right alongside him, I joined a great group who would take turns doing all the work. I learned a lot from them. Unfortunately, I can’t put it into practice. I just don’t have the time. But, I love football. I feel guilty about loving it due to all those concussions, but if you invite me to a tailgate, I’m going to go.

Right now my husband is getting his MBA at the University of Tennessee. While I disapprove of their color choices, I like their school song, so I’m willing to attend their games. Tailgating for an SEC game is so different than tailgating for the Mountain West. If you haven’t done both, I think you should. At Nevada I’d roll up, park in the tailgating area, and commence the party. Here I have to find parking at least two miles away, probably pay $10 at a minimum, walk to the tailgate, and get to whatever tent I’ve been invited. People pay more for the good spots here, and a large chunk of them are catered, but if you can find your own spot, these last minute tailgating tips will probably help you out since you’ll be spending so much time just getting there!

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Equipment for Last Minute Tailgating

1. Cooler

I’ve reviewed ways to keep your drink cool before, but for this I recommend a regular cooler. It doesn’t matter if you’re drinking alcohol or not, you’re going to get thirsty. Throw your cooler in the trunk of your car, grab some ice at the gas station, and get going. You can even pick up water, beer, or soda at the gas station if you’re not already prepared. Now, if you’re not serving very many people and you want beer, I really like growlers. Then you don’t have to lug a cooler around. My husband has this one and it keeps his beer cold throughout the game. Hmm. I just realized I spend way too much time worrying about drink temperature.

2. Grill

You’ve probably seen those amazing set-ups on College Game Day where everyone has wild grilling options. Don’t get crazy here. You need something you can throw in the car and go. You’re probably wondering why you need a grill at all if you’re last minute tailgating, so I’ll tell you why. It means you get to cook your food when you get there instead of doing it at home. Genius, right? Okay, so I would say get a charcoal grill. They’re pretty cheap, plus if you’re a broke college student you can probably find one at a yard sale or on Craigslist. Or, even easier, get a stove for camping like this oneIt’s not going to get you on TV, but it will heat your food.

Last Minute Tailgating Food

Bring some dip for last minute tailgating.

1. Meat

Ah ha! Now you get it. You’re providing the main part of the meal, making you the hero – and you had to do zero prep work. Hot dogs are cheap and totally appropriate. Hamburgers are also great; I like to throw garlic salt and cayenne pepper in my bag to season them up, although you can get patties that are already seasoned. Remember to bring buns along, and cheese if you go with hamburgers. There is no need to get any fancier than that if you’re last minute tailgating. The fancy stuff is for people who have more time to devote to this than you. Vegetarians, grab some portobellos instead of meat.

2. Dip

I typically advocate a mix of homemade and store-bought food for parties, but if you are really last minute tailgating, you’ll only want store bought food. I say bring some chips and dip. Then you have a side dish that doesn’t need to be cooked, and really, who needs more than chips and a hot dog at a football game anyway? If you want to get really crazy, pick up a thing of sour cream and use one of those packaged mixes to make a fancy dip. You can even mix it once you get there, saving you even more time.

That’s it! Bring some meat, chips and dip, a cooler, and a grill. Unless you’re tailgating by yourself, request some else brings all the condiments, paper plates, etc. Why? Those people have to pack things up and bring them home. You will not, which means less clean up afterwards. Now, obviously this isn’t completely last minute tailgating, since you will already need to have the equipment at home unless you want to do a frenzied dash through Walmart. But, if you know there’s a chance you’ll be tailgating, you can at least be prepared and do the minimum amount of work beforehand. More time to party!

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Best Ways to Keep Drinks Cool at an Outdoor Party

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What are the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party? I wonder this from time to time when I’m browsing Pinterest and seeing all the little DIY coolers people have made. Do they actually work? Do we even need them? Doesn’t everyone own a Coleman or an Igloo? Why can’t we use those anymore? As you can see, I have a lot of questions about cooling devices. Anyway, since global warming is making summers hotter and hotter,  I thought it would be fun to test out a couple before the end of summer barbecues started. I tested out streamers verses tablecloth decorations awhile back and enjoyed bashing streamers, so I figured I could do the same with this.

Before I get started, let me give you a quick rundown of the method. I got four different cooling devices and a whole bunch of ice on a very hot day (91 when I poured the ice). The sky was sunny, humidity not bad. I poured the ice at 4:00 P.M., figuring most people have their barbecues in the early evening. Then I just left them to see how fast the ice would melt. I did put one drink in each of the drink coolers and a plate on the bonus food coolers, but I am aware that the ice will melt differently when completely full. This is still a good baseline. Anyway, here we go!

Reviews of Cooling Devices

1. The Yeti Cooler

Full disclosure: I don’t own a Yeti. My mom won my experimental cooler at a raffle a few months ago so I borrowed it from her. If you haven’t heard of Yeti, they’re basically the new standard of coolers. My husband got one of their glasses last year and that was the first time I’d heard of it, but even a year ago everyone acted like I was an idiot for not knowing. Anyway…

Review:

How Many Bags of Ice: 1.5 (could have put more, but I probably wouldn’t have if I was filling it up with drinks)

Time to Set Up: However long it takes to dump ice. If you’re entertaining at a park instead of a house, this will be a bonus time saver because everything will already be packed when you load up.

How Long To Melt: As of writing, it’s still holding strong, so at least one day.

First hour, still frozen
Hour four, still frozen
The next day – still ice, with a really low layer of water at the bottom

Pros: This is pretty obvious, right? The ice still hasn’t melted. Plus it’s portable.

Cons: It’s not “cute.” If you’re looking for a nice outdoor setup, this isn’t going to wow anyone with how adorable it is. It is plain white though, so it’s also not going to be that weird blue cooler color in your pink and purple party scheme. Also, it’s going to cost you way more than any other cooling device.

Best For:

You can’t really go wrong using this if you want an outdoor party because it will keep your drinks cool, but I don’t know that I’d pay for it if I was just throwing barbecues in my backyard. I would cough up the money if I camped a lot or did a lot of long hour entertaining, like days on the lake. It’s kind of strange comparing it to the others since it’s an actual cooler, but really, a list of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party would be remiss if it didn’t have Yeti. Besides, if you don’t feel like you need your drink holders to be Pinterest worthy, might as well be high tech, right?

2. Inflatable Cooler


This is basically just a float you can put ice in. It’s said to float in a pool, but I don’t have one so I can’t confirm that. I mean, it would definitely float, but I don’t know how much you could weigh it down before it started to sink.

Review:

How Many Bags of Ice: 2

Time to Set Up: It took me forever because I blew it up without a pump and I kept getting interrupted. But I think probably 5-10 minutes is a good estimate, including getting it unfolded and filled.

How Long To Melt: It was halfway gone by hour 2.

Survived hour 1.
Hour two we’ve got serious melting.
It’s just a pool of water by hour three.

Pros: The look. It would look fun set up on a table in your backyard, wouldn’t it? You can put both drinks and plates in it. Also, they’re pretty cheap.

Cons: I was honestly surprised with how fast the ice melted in this one. I realize that most people will not put it on cement (I don’t have backyard furniture yet), but if you’re using a table that’s always outside, it’ll still be pretty hot. If you have something to put in between your surface and the cooler, it’ll probably do better. It’s also the longest set up.

Best For:

Short parties or parties where the decor is important. Think pool party or maybe a summer birthday party – especially one at night. In one of the Amazon reviews, they added a picture of this with some glowsticks in it to light up a night party. That would be pretty cool, and presumably the lower temperature would help keep the ice frozen.

3. Kiddie Pool

The kiddie pool cooler is honestly my reason for writing this. I keep saving the idea on Pinterest then wondering if the ice would melt immediately. If so it definitely wouldn’t be one of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party, that’s for sure. Sorry I don’t have a link for it, but really, would you want to deal with a box that size? Go pick one up at Walmart or whatever. Mine came from Babies R Us for $5.

Review:

How Many Bags of Ice: 3, room for more

Time to Set Up: A couple of minutes, just dumping ice.

How Long To Melt: About 3 hours

The ice started melting immediately in this one, but there’s still plenty at hour one.
We’ve got a lot of slush at hour two.
There’s some ice hanging on at hour three, but it was gone by four.

Pros: It fits a lot of stuff. Plus people will probably tell you it’s creative. And it’s the cheapest on this list.

Cons: Um… you guys… it’s a kiddie pool. Good luck trying to keep your toddlers out of it. My son did not care that it was ice. It’s his pool, and he wants in. The pool’s so big you can’t really put it on a table, so people are going to be reaching to the ground to pick up their drinks, which is also kind of a bummer.

Best For:

Barbecues and kid parties, assuming you can get the pool set up without your kids trying to get in. The best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party do not involve freezing your children as well. 🙂

4. Bonus Food Cooler


So, I have this ice mat that you can put food on to keep cool. It’s definitely not going to be one of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party, but if you have a plate or bowl you want to leave outside this will work.

Review:

How Many Bags of Ice: 0

Time to Set Up: One minute, but you have to remember to freeze it at least 6 hours before.

How Long To Melt: I’m not sure when it was melted since you can’t touch the ice, but at about 3 hours the plate started to warm up.

Nice and frosty at hour one.
We’ve got edge bubbles at hour two.
Hour three – bubbles everywhere!

Pros: So easy.  I love just rolling it out.

Cons: It’s so small! Can someone create a giant one of these to go over a whole table? That’d be great. Although I don’t know how you’d freeze that.

Best For:

Barbecues and potlucks. How great would this be if you’re bringing a cool dish to someone else’s party but you aren’t sure they’ll have a way for you to keep it at the right temperature?

Decision: What are the Best Ways to Keep Drinks Cool at an Outdoor Party?

My decision here is there’s not a best way. It seems like a cop-out, but really, it depends on what kind of party you’re having. Is it a fancy event? I think the Yeti coolers will look classic, but baby pools will look, well, cheesy. Is your party only lasting an hour or two? Then any of them are fine. If it’s in the middle of the day and super hot, I would say the inflatable cooler is not one of the best ways to keep drinks cool at an outdoor party, but if it’s an average temperature or an evening party it will work. Also, how much are you serving? Do you really need a kiddie pool full of drinks? Do you need to lug everything to a picnic area? Think about these things, and the you be able to choose the appropriate cooling device for you.

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The Difficulties of Throwing a Man Party

Have you ever had a hard time coming up with a theme for a man party? I mean, a party for an adult male. I have, and I know I’m not the only one. My husband notoriously doesn’t care about parties, doesn’t want to decorate for anything, doesn’t care if there’s a theme, and basically just doesn’t care what I do as long as there are people there he enjoys and food he wants to eat. So why bother with him at all? Well friends, he still wants to have a good time. He just doesn’t want to participate in planning it.

I personally love birthdays. I know they come around every year and every person has them, but celebrating anything is fun and birthdays allow each person one day to feel special. That’s why I make a big deal out of all my family’s, including my husband’s. Most of the time, we don’t throw parties; we go on trips. Those are fun too, and maybe I’ll talk about how to host a vacation sometimes, but until then, let’s talk about the years I do throw a party. Here are my basic rules for throwing a man party when you don’t have time to make everything perfect:

Cut the Decorations.

I will almost always cut the decorations before I cut anything else, but that’s especially the case in a man party. If you do decorate, your husband/boyfriend/brother/whoever is probably going to say, oh, that looks nice. But he won’t notice the painstaking detail you put into every single hand-painted plate or the three weeks of calligraphy chalkboard lessons you took. Here’s my decorations for my husband’s thirtieth booze an bacon party:

See that? That’s a bacon bouquet in half a wine bottle. Know how long it took me to do all of that? Not including cooking the bacon, ten minutes. (Here’s a good tutorial for the bouquet; I do the wine bottles the dangerous way with flames and nail polisher remover. I won’t be responsible for sharing that with you.) He loved it. He actually looked at it – and eventually he ate it. And I didn’t have to do anything else.

Man Party, Man Chooses Guests.

It’s the one time where you have to like his friends. You don’t have to invite the alcoholic one who’s going to hit on everyone then barf in your kitchen, unless he’s your husband’s best friend, but you should invite the ones he likes, whether you do or not. Don’t spend much time on this. Either get him to tell you the list or pick however many you need if it’s a surprise. But, the guest list is going to help you decide what comes next so it is important. Are these guys/gals gamers? Drinkers? Outdoorsmen?

Food, Drinks, or Activities?

Pick what’s most important to the guy and focus on that – for my husband, it’s always food or drink, but for yours perhaps it’s what you’re going to do at the party. Remember, I’m not talking about an offsite event here. I’m only talking about a things you can do at your house. Perhaps you have a cornhole set. Would it be more important that you set up a tournament, complete with brackets and trophies, instead of serving something time-consuming? Or would he be more insistent that you have a special whiskey cocktail prepared and he and his friends can deal with the cornhole on their own? Once you decide what aspect of the party is the most important, it’s time to focus. If it’s food, you probably have the most work ahead of you, so get started planning asap.

Focus on One Thing.

You know what’s the most important, so you work on that. Let’s go back to my husband’s thirtieth. I chose booze and bacon as a theme, but I don’t want you to think that I put a lot of effort into both food and drinks. We had Bud Light and whiskey in the alcohol department. That was it. My efforts were solely on food; it’s just that I put booze in the food. Here’s a little sample of my menu: beer-candied bacon, wine bundt cakes, BLT cups, and bacon whiskey brownies. I included links, but you’ll notice there’s no bacon in the brownie recipe. Just add chopped up, cooked bacon. Done. I think my next attempt is going to be barbecue based. Good grief does that man like barbecue. He’ll be so excited for that, he won’t care what he’s doing or drinking.

I imagine that most men will be similar to my husband; if you make their favorite party of the party the best part of the party, you can skimp on the effort everywhere else. Actually, most women are probably that way too – except you might also want to consider decorations, unless the woman in question is me. 🙂 One day, when your kids are grown up a little bit, or you’re no longer working 80 hours a week to become a partner, you’ll have time to throw a party that’s fabulous in every single way. Until then, pick what the gentleman likes best and work on that!