Sure, living in the Tampa area means we can grill out almost anytime we want. But the summer months are an excellent time to invite everyone over to eat, hang out, and have a good time.

Prep the Night Before

You don’t want to run around in a panic as your friends and family arrive trying to get everything ready. Avoid that problem by prepping all your food the night before. Marinate the meat. Get the burgers ready. Chop fruit and vegetables. Make salads and let them get happy in the refrigerator overnight. You can even get out the supplies you’re going to need, too.

Clean Your Patio, Deck, or Backyard

Wherever you’re holding your barbecue, make sure you clean up a bit before people arrive. Pick up old pots, tools that need to go back in the garage, and old dirty shoes from the porch. Clean off any furniture people will be using, and make sure your umbrella is free of debris or creepy-crawlies (this is Florida after all). Set out extra chairs if you’ve got them. Sweep, mow the lawn, and make your space look nice and inviting.

Get Your Grill Ready Early

A few minutes before you’re ready to start grilling is not the time to clean and prep the grill. Do it the night before or the morning of instead. Clean the grill so you don’t have to worry about potential flare-ups or future rusting. Check your charcoal or gas. Make sure you have all the supplies you’ll need - wire brush, spatula, tongs, grill baskets, and more.

Don’t Complicate the Menu

Unless you really enjoy spending a lot of time in the kitchen or creating unique menus, keep it simple. You can make the event a potluck so you only have to worry about the grill. You can make it a burgers, hot dogs, and chips kind of barbecue. If you’re a master at the grill, barbecue ribs, pork, or brisket. Don’t forget dessert but remember that can be as simple as sliced watermelon or fruit salad, too.

Offer More than Beer

Of course, you’ll have soda and water, too, but for the adults who want a drink, offer more than a cooler full of beer. Consider a signature cocktail just for your party. Blend a bunch of margaritas. Spike the punch (and offer a special kid-friendly option, too). You don’t need to go crazy, and you may want to limit drinks or take keys, but if alcohol is an option at your barbecue, do something special.

Plan a Few Games

Depending on the size of your yard or whether you have a pool, you may want to plan a few games. Horseshoes, badminton, and lawn bowling are just a few that can keep adults and kids entertained for a while. A scavenger hunt, Simon Says, and even Red Rover will take you back to your childhood and give you a chance to teach the kids how you used to play before there were tablets, smartphones, and YouTube.

We live in Tampa Bay which means we can grill nearly all year long, but there’s something about this time of year that makes it more fun. Before you send out the group text or e-vites, make sure you have a plan so you know how to make your BBQ fun and not frustrating.

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