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Remember how GLORIOUS it felt around Memorial Day weekend as a kid in school, knowing that summer vacation was thiiiiiiiiis close??? Oh my sweet Lord baby Jesus, I remember it too well. Fast forward to college, and summer starts a bit earlier (hollah!) – and now as an adult, I like to think summer starts whenever the heck we want it to start. 😉 So when the thermometer says summer, I say bring it on, baby! Especially with all sorta summer holidays right around the corner, we’ve all got summer on our minds…really, summer parties. I’m so stoked to be teaming up with my friends at Fresh Grocer today to bring you some summer party planning tips + tricks for whatever bash you’ve got coming up on the calendar.
Fun fact: Fresh Grocer was THE grocery store on UPenn’s campus, fondly dubbed “FroGro.” As an RA for two years, I kinda feel like I lived there for a hot sec – I was *always* making a “FroGro run” to the Fresh Grocer to stock up on supplies + groceries for hall meetings and activities with my freshmen! It’s easy, affordable, and they’ve got everything from your regular grocery faves to easy meal prep options and on-the-go treats, which J and I used ALL THE TIME in school for fast dinners that weren’t from the school cafeteria or a microwavable cup. 😉
But parties. A good summer party doesn’t HAVE to take nearly as much work + planning as ya might think; it’s more about having the right resources and being smart about it from the start. But there’s a difference between a summer party and a good summer party – ya feel? I distinctly remember the days of just grabbing a pack of hot dogs, some chips, and a 2-liter of soda and calling it a “party.” Which can totally work – but sometimes, you wanna step it the heck up. So that’s what we gon’ do today (with some help from Fresh Grocer). 😉
Planning the party…
- Keep bugs away. Still water is like a big fat invitation for big fat BUGS, namely mosquitoes. Ain’t nobody got time. Make sure your space – especially if you’re planning your bash outdoors – is inviting for the humans on the guest list and no other critters. Get rid of still water, and consider burning citronella candles or tiki torches before (or even during) your party to ward off flying pains.
- Make a master jams playlist! I humbly consider myself a *master* playlist maker. Like, coulda woulda shoulda been a DJ in another life good. 😉 The key: know your audience. If you’ve got older folks in attendance (think baby boomers+), today’s Top 40 might be a bit over everyone’s heads (and out of everyone’s taste). Pick a genre, pick a decade, or pick a good mix with a little bit o’ everything to please the whole crowd.
- Learn any allergies ahead of time. And if you’re potlucking anything, make sure any folks with those specific allergies, intolerances, or more specific tastes know and can bring their own personal faves accordingly!
- Get as much from one store as humanly possible. Fresh Grocer is SO GOOD since they have everything under the sun. From regular groceries to all of the meal kit options – heck, even a full beer + wine section! Which is AWESOME and was not a thing when I was in school…I distinctly remember how excited everyone was when they first introduced a tiny beer section in the Fresh Grocer on Penn’s campus, and fast forward to today – my Fresh Grocer has what feels like a mini liquor store AND beer store all in this one area. It’s amazing, and senior-in-college Erica is slightly salty she missed out. Moving on…
- Platter up! As a hostess, the WORST thing is having to constantly tend to different dishes and not get to actually ~enjoy~ your own festivity. I am OBSESSED with the different platter options at Fresh Grocer. For my own bash, I grabbed a mini sandwich tray, sushi tray, mini Philly hoagie tray, as well as a fruit tray, Italian apps tray, AND dessert tray. Literally effortless. I was prepared with my cute party platters and dishware, but TBH, I didn’t even need to use ‘em because Fresh Grocer sets the platters to be pretty AND ready to serve. I absolutely loveloveLOVE hosting, but I do not love feeling stuck in the kitchen all night. So these platters do the trick – the team makes them look so nice, so you can just pick up and put out and be good. to. go.
- Plan for different palettes. Everyone and their mom has different taste – from interior design to party food. So make sure you’ve got the gamut covered! The big keys with good summer party planning – when it comes to food – are a.) a cohesive menu with b.) crowd-pleasing options, and c.) mess-free presentation (or at least easy clean up). The platters I grabbed from Fresh Grocer were great since they were SO diverse without clashing with one another. My “main” dishes were sushi (I’m not personally a sushi/seafood gal, but SO many folks are), and then a handful of different types of sandwiches (so grab meat, but also vegetarian options!).
- Plan for pairings! Specifically, all about dem food-drink pairings, since yannno how your girl feels about wine and cheese nights. 😉 Grab a few different drink options with your menu in mind, specifically! I grabbed a case of Blue Moon with the intention of it pairing well with the easy hoagie platters, bottled rose to pair with fruit + desserts, and sangria with sushi. A classic beer is easy peasy, a novelty rose in a bottle feels fun (+ fruity), and a bottled sangria is a piece o’ cake to pour in a pitcher with some cut up fruit – and it feels ~classy~. Of course, folks can + will do as they please regardless, but it feels nice to have options – and it feels nice for guests to feel like YOU did your job as hostess with the mostest. 😊
During the party…
- Keep platter lids handy to lessen bugs. Don’t get rid of lids! They’re SUPER handy to lightly lay over food if/when it’s sitting out so that no buggies get into it.
- Separate course platters. No need to put it all out at once! Work with the space you’ve got, and don’t be afraid to layer out when you put out what dish. Separating things into “courses” is a great way to up the class factor of your fiesta, too!
- Keep ice buckets handy. If the drink is meant to be served cold, make sure it’s on ice until that point! Beer, chilled wines, non-alcoholic options, the works – an ice bucket or bigger cooler to the side will do the trick.
- Be ready to adjust lighting. Especially as the night carries on…the sun sets, yo! Be ready with a few fun lighting fixtures, pillar candles, string lights, tiki torches, etc to keep the party going strong.
- HAVE FUN. I mean, do I have to tell ya twice? 😉
After the party…
- Team up for clean up. Because no hostess should have to go at it alone! But then again, it can also be a pain in the you-know-where when everyone thinks they’re being helpful by carrying a dish somewhere, but it can create MORE work for ya if it’s all done without direction. So, have a plan! Know in advance what containers you’ll be using for leftovers + whereabouts you’ll be storing everything so that you can calmly take charge and appreciate everyone’s help without feeling frazzled to end the night.
- Have spare containers that are good to give away! Justbecause leftovers are the best thing ever, in my opinion. 😉 I lovelovelove getting doggie bags to take home, cos that means no cooking the next day – bless up. What I *don’t* lovelovelove is losing my best Pyrex to folks who don’t remember to *ahem* give it back. So have a few non-favorites on hand that you don’t mind never seeing again when you’re sending the entire guest list home with some snacks for later.
Is summer party planning already underway at your house?
Do you prefer hosting or being the guest? What’s your fave dish at summer parties? I’m all about a good fruit salad with loads of watermelon…mouth literally watering now, so clearly time to go make myself a bowl. 😉
Fresh Grocer is local to my Philly/Delaware peeps, so if you’re in the area – make sure to make a run this summer! Have any of y’all ever been to one??
P.S. Find your nearest Fresh Grocer here!
P.P.S. If you’re already a loyal FroGro shopper (yay!), make sure you grab a Fresh Grocer Price Plus Card – it’ll help ya save extra bucks while grocery shopping!
*Thanks to The Fresh Grocer for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions + thoughts presented are entirely my own. Thank YOU for supporting the brands that support Coming Up Roses!