By: Jenna Beetstra

It sure did take a while for this summer to start up. Despite the dreary weather we’ve been having, sunny days are ahead which means BBQ season is in full swing!

I love walking down the street in the summer and being able to smell people barbecuing their food. It reminds me of people coming together, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company. Even more than how much I love that smell, I love hosting my own BBQs with my family and friends.

Sometimes after a particularly long spell of wet Raincouver weather, the sun will come out and I will feel like a new person. Although Canada Day has passed, which would have been an awesome time for a BBQ, I don’t think there needs to be a special occasion to host a BBQ other than wanting to share some good food with good people and have a nice summer evening. Any weekend or sunny day is enough of an excuse to hold a kickass BBQ. Here are some of my summer BBQ must-haves!

The food

On the grill

Obviously you cannot have a BBQ without food. I like to have a variety of things to go on the BBQ including beef burgers, veggie burgers, and hot dogs or smokies. It’s nice to have a variety for people to choose from and especially something for people who don’t eat meat.

TIP: Costco has good frozen garden veggie burgers.

Toppings

In addition to the stuff being grilled, be sure to have all the goodies to load up the burgers. Bonus points for sautéed onions, bacon, or other toppings that make burgers feel gourmet. My friends are always stoked for my BBQs because they know there will be delicious food. If money is tight, don’t feel bad for asking everyone to bring something or to pitch in $5 each for ingredients. People are usually just happy to get together and don’t mind helping out!

Sides

My favourite summer salad is something that people are always hesitant to try, but once they do, they are changed forever. It is a salad made with only watermelon, fresh mint, and feta cheese. Simply cut up a watermelon into bite-size squares, chop up some fresh mint (as much as you’d like), and crumble up some feta. I like to squeeze some lemon on top as well. Although this may seem like a strange combo, I guarantee the ingredients go together wonderfully and it will be a hit! Make sure to refrigerate it before serving, as the watermelon is best served cold. This salad is light and extra refreshing, especially on a hot day.

Potato salad is another side dish that goes perfectly with summer. It requires a bit of prep since you need to cook the potatoes and eggs first before you combine them. Add diced pickles and chopped cooked bacon to make your next potato salad extra tasty!

Snacks

Don’t forget to have some snacks and finger food that people can munch on. If people are drinking, it’s always good to have things people can grab so no one makes the rookie mistake of drinking on an empty stomach. I find cut-up veggies and fruit are always popular. If you go to the fruit and veggie market, you can buy quite a bit for relatively cheap. Chips and salsa are another essential at any BBQ.

TIP: The fresh peach mango salsa from Costco is delicious and not too spicy which makes it a good choice when hosting for many different people.

The drinks

Now I’ll move on to drinks, which of course is a key part of any summer BBQ. First off, make sure you have at least one big cooler with some bags of ice (you can buy ice from any gas station or grocery store.) There is nothing worse than warm beer, and your guests will be extremely appreciative if you can keep their drinks cold. As drinks can get expensive, I usually have a BYOB policy at my BBQs and may pick up some extras just in case, or some non-alcoholic beverages if people want those. If you pick up a container of iced tea or lemonade mix, people can make some if they please. That way you don’t have to keep a bunch of cans cold, you just need water and ice!

The entertainment

Summer games

You must have games at any gathering. They get people laughing and if there are people who don’t know each other, it eases the tension and helps people bond. If you have a lot of room (like if your BBQ is at a park or you have a big backyard), bring a volleyball that people can pass around. It’s even better if you can set up a net and get a game going, but that depends on the crowd.

Another fun and easy game that requires no setup is bocce. Bocce is fun because you can play it while drinking and don’t need to do any running or jumping around. If you don’t have a bocce set, ask around! I bet one of your friends’ families does.

Drinking games

If you’re into drinking games, beer pong is a great go-to that can be played in teams and is sure to get the party going. All you need for this is a long enough table, some ping pong balls (which are super inexpensive), and some red Solo cups which you should have even if beer pong is not on the agenda.

There are so many other fun games that can be played at a BBQ: Cards Against Humanity, charades, flip cup, king’s cup . . . the list goes on! Talk to your friends and see what their preferences are and then let the games begin.

The essentials

Some final extras for a successful BBQ include:

  • Good music
    This depends on your personal, and your friend group’s, preferences. Some love country music while some are more the EDM type of crowd. Whatever you play, make sure it’s upbeat and fun.
  • Seats
    Be sure to have enough chairs for people, especially later in the evening when people tend to enjoy sitting and chatting with each other.
  • Insect repellent
    With lovely summer weather comes those nasty mosquitoes, so having bug spray on hand is always an essential (especially for people like me, whom mosquitos just love.)
  • Sun protection
    If it’s a super hot day, having sunscreen and reminding people to wear it is always important. Hosting in a shaded area is also a good idea. Waking up the next day with a sunburn is definitely not fun.
SOURCEAuthor: Jenna Beetstra
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