Football season is underway, and with it comes tailgating season. When you gather with friends and family before the game, you get an experience unlike any other. People catch up, laugh, and of course, eat.
Planning the perfect tailgate requires more than a few hot dogs and buns, though. With some preparation, it’s possible to put together a great pre-game party without spending a lot of money. Here are a few expert tips to help you do it.
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Plan Your Menu Around Your Grocery Store’s Weekly Specials
The biggest outlay for a tailgate is food. You probably want to serve a few side dishes in addition to a main one. Look at the specials on meat, which will be the most expensive thing you buy, and purchase whatever is on sale. That could mean bratwursts, chicken drumsticks, or even ham steak. Following a vegetarian diet or have friends who are? Find whatever pasta is on sale that week and whip up a main pasta dish as well, which will likely cost much less.
If you combine the circular specials with online coupons, you can easily save on your tailgating grocery bill. Other tips for saving money on food for your tailgate include:
- Using items you already have as opposed to buying new ones. If that means subbing out an ingredient in a recipe — such as Greek yogurt for sour cream — do it. It most likely won’t be noticed.
- Buying in bulk and freezing items for your next tailgate. If you’re planning on tailgating multiple times in a season, you’ll need the basics, so stock up when they go on sale.
- Purchasing store-brand chips and pretzels. These usually taste similar to name brand items, and are a fraction of the price.
Make a Quick & Festive Dessert
Gelatin is inexpensive, and you can incorporate it into your tailgating theme. Choose flavors that echo your team’s colors, and use football-shaped cookie cutters to make some festive football-shaped treats topped with whipped cream.
Borrow or Make Your Own Games
Before you invest in a pricey cornhole set, ask your neighbors if you can borrow one. Or, for a fun alternative, make your own tailgate games:
- Using balls or bean bags from home, try to toss them in a bucket from 10 yards away.
- Make a ring toss set with soda or water bottles and shower curtain rings.
- Go “bowling” with 10 filled soda or water bottles and a soccer ball.
Carpool to Save Money on Parking
If you have a number of friends tailgating together, be sure to use the fewest number of vehicles possible to get to your destination to avoid paying what can be steep parking fees at many stadiums. Some minivans can fit up to eight people, greatly reducing your parking cost.
Get Paper Supplies at a Dollar Store
Dollar stores usually have cheap paper products. Stock up on utensils, plates, napkins, and whatever else you need for a fun day. Toss in a pack of balloons for a little added décor.
Find more clever money-saving tips on our blog.