Hard to believe that we are nearly into the Labor Day holiday! The calendar pages for 2009 are flipping so fast that it seems like we are all in cartoon. If you plan to have a few friends and family members over for a Labor Day BBQ, why not make it a labor-less Labor Day BBQ? After years of hosting labor-intensive parties, I got smarter, so here are my 10 tips for a labor-less Labor Day BBQ:
1. Plan Your Menu
Scribble down all of the options you might like to include on a labor-less Labor Day BBQ menu. You know, five kinds of meats, 10 salads, 4 desserts. (Get over the panic feeling of ”will there be enough?”) Then whittle the list to two items in each category. Think smaller portions instead of gobs per person. It is much easier to make more of one dish than several different dishes.
2. Create a Countdown Timeline
Plan the ”days before” and ”day of” actions a week in advance of your labor-less Labor Day BBQ so you will take care of the dust bunnies before the doorbell rings. It also forces you to think about what dishes, bowls or trays you might want to dig out of the top cupboard and wash.
3. Shop Early in the Week
Study your labor-less Labor Day BBQ menu and break it down into individual recipe ingredients. That way you’ll buy only what you’ll need to make each recipe. Try doing your grocery shopping after dinner; the crowds are gone and you can walk off a few extra calories.
4. Use Shortcuts
There is no rule that everything must be made by you and you alone. There is nothing wrong with using convenience foods for your labor-less Labor Day BBQ. If you do choose to use bottled BBQ sauce, store delicatessen side dishes, or canned beans, just be sure you are familiar with the products to make sure they meet your personal standards.
5. Be Flexible
Don’t be afraid to change your labor-less Labor Day BBQ menu or substitute other ingredients. Who will know you really wanted to serve Auntie Clementine’s three bean salad (from the family cookbook, of course), but instead served bagged green salad with bottled dressing because you couldn’t find yellow wax beans? Furthermore, be sure to check the local supermarket ads for seasonal items; these may be on sale and less expensive than the dishes planned on your original menu.
6. Use the Slow Cooker
Cooking for a crowd can be so easy with a slow cooker. Simply dump all the ingredients into the crock and turn it on. Next thing you know, there’s a tasty dish inside that you barely worked at creating. True magic for your labor-less Labor Day BBQ.
7. Cook Outside on the Grill
We are talking about a labor-less Labor Day BBQ, so we do expect part of the menu will feature a dish prepared by charcoal or gas grill (instead of using the oven broiler). Cooking outside on the grill keeps the kitchen’s interior heat to a minimum, and keeps the kitchen cleaner, too.
8. Say Yes to Guest Participation
Whenever possible, encourage guests to bring a dish they would like to share. That way you don’t have to deal with preparing the whole labor-less Labor Day BBQ meal (and it is gentler on your pocketbook). Have a list handy (or in your head) of items that guests can bring to fill out the table when those RSVPs come in.
9. Go With the Flow
Don’t fret the small stuff. Sit down, relax, and talk with your guests so you can enjoy your labor-less Labor Day BBQ, too. You don’t have to serve everyone all the time, and I have found over the years that guests are most capable of taking care of their own needs. In fact, my party motto is: ”I’ll serve you the first drink, show you where everything is, and then you are on your own.”
10. Encourage Clean-up
When the labor-less Labor Day BBQ party is winding down, most considerate guests will help put away food, wash dishes, or fold up tables and chairs, if necessary. Some will even take out the trash! By all means, let these helpers contribute. Welcome their good intentions, even if they put the washed and dried coffee cups on the drinking glass shelf. They are just trying to make it a labor-less Labor Day BBQ for you!
With these 10 tips, a labor-less Labor Day BBQ just might become a family tradition that will sneak into the pages of your family cookbook’s new edition.