As The Official Corporate Sponsor of Penn State® Athletics, we’re stoked that football season is finally underway! Gathering with friends and family before the game - in Happy Valley, or wherever you celebrate game day - is an experience unlike any other.
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.
1. Stay organized
Keep your tailgate organized by filling an empty toolbox with grilling utensils, cleaning supplies, plates, trash bags, etc. Make condiment sharing easy by placing them in a six-pack bottle caddy.
2. Use your cooler as a...warmer!
Turn your cooler into a warming box. Wrap three to six unglazed bricks in aluminum foil. Place the bricks in an oven or on a grill at around 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Carefully transfer the bricks from the oven to your cooler. Place a damp hand towel below and on top of the bricks and then add the dish or dishes you want to keep warm on top.
3. Get smart with storage
Bagged snacks like pretzels, chips, crackers, and cookies are tailgating staples. But the bags don’t offer much in the way of protecting the snacks from getting crushed or crumpled. Utilize things like plastic or glass jars and storage containers to avoid this pitfall. Plus, those items are easy to stack and pack!
4. Bring a trash receptacle
Whoever’s on trash duty at the tailgate will thank you for this tip: bring along a large tub or old bucket and line it with a trash bag before the party gets started. It gives people a clear spot in which to place their trash and makes cleaning up before the game a breeze.
5. Bluetooth speaker
Bluetooth speakers are easy to find and come in a variety of price points. Snag one (many are even waterproof for rainy tailgate days) and bring it along to ensure you have the perfect tunes to serenade you while you party before the big game. Bonus tip: build the perfect tailgate playlist ahead of time by asking all your friends for their favorite hype-me-up songs!
6. Capitalize on grocery specials
Food’s likely to make up the bulk of your expenditures for a tailgate, but there’s an easy way to make sure you don’t blow your budget and still get to enjoy all your favorite tasty tailgate treats.
Plan your menu around your local store’s weekly specials, particularly on meat, which tends to be the priciest item you’ll buy. If wings are on sale, snag them and throw them on the smoker. Brats marked down this week? Grill ’em up on crusty buns! If pork shoulder is on special, use your crockpot to make delicious and easy pulled pork sandwiches.
Double down on your savings by combining weekly specials with coupons. Or raid your pantry and freezer to make use of what you’ve already got and build your menu from there.
7. Don't forget dessert
What’s a tailgate without something sweet before kickoff? Finish off your football party right with a delicious and inexpensive dessert. Cookies, brownies, and cupcakes are all affordable and easy to make from scratch.
8. Make your own fun
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.
If you have a number of friends heading to the tailgate 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. Plus, taking fewer cars will save money at the pump.
10. Save on paper supplies
You’re going to need plates, napkins, cups, and paper towels for your tailgating feast and festivities. Don’t go broke buying name-brand versions of these disposable but essential items. Head to your local everything-for-a-dollar store and snag these items there, for cheap. To keep things green, make sure you recycle the items. Better yet, search for reusable versions at thrift or camping supply stores! Wash ‘em up and use at your next tailgate.
Find more clever money-saving tips on our blog.
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