The Outdoor Entertaining Staple You Need to Have

Impromptu outdoor entertaining with family and friends made easy.

With the “Dog Days of August” upon us, do you have the necessary stuff to throw a casual outdoor evening party or get together for your family and friends to re-energize everyone after a hot summer day?

Lakeside living and entertaining

Would you have to run to the grocery store?

Would you be stressed?

If you answered… no, yes, and yes to these questions – then it is time you do as I do and set up a party basket.  It is my answer to stress-free impromptu outdoor dining and entertaining, even when you are living in the summertime slow lane as I have been the past few weeks.


I have found that the best plans are no plans at all when it comes to sharing an evening together with family and friends.  When you have some mood lighting, a good forecast and a little spontaneity, your backyard, deck, or patio is only a few minutes away from being party-ready.

Outdoor party ideas and tips

How do you make this happen?  Answer… a party basket, box, drawer, cabinet or closet in your home! 

effortless entertaining tips for outdoor gatherings

When we think about dining outside, we tend to think we need a reason or a theme to enjoy entertaining outdoors. Over the years I have found the impromptu, last minute invites are always the best.

They are come-as-you-are, no fancy invite or theme required to have an enjoyable evening. Eating and entertaining family and friends outdoors like this can be made even less stress-free when you have a “Party Basket” set up and ready to go.

Last summer I tweaked my “Party Basket” a little to a “Party Tote” that could carry everything I need except the food to set up the party. I have even expanded on my tote and now also have a “Party” closet that I will share with you soon.

In my tote is where I gather everything I need to entertain family and friends for outside dining out on the deck, lawn picnic table or gazebo that sits over the lake.

Fast outdoor party set up ideas

I learned about this magical idea many years ago from the southern wife of Ed’s boss at the time who had to impromptu entertain frequently because of her husband’s job.  Over the years, I picked up a few other tips from observing my friends and family entertain effortlessly, but in style.

Once you have a party basket or tote set up you will be stress-free when your husband calls you from the 18th hole and tells you he is bringing the guys over to grill some steaks.  Oh, and is it ok if they all call their wives and have them come over, too?

If it is just for some munchies and no one will be staying for dinner then you can answer your husband with – “Great see ya in 30 minutes.”

If they have a meal in mind, as in… steaks or hot dogs, then I say, “Great – on your way home pick up some steaks/hot dogs and rolls along with some corn on the cob. See ya in 30 minutes. Love ya”.

If the wives are coming – you know they will probably call you to ask it they can bring anything. This is not the time to be polite and say no, tell them exactly what you need.

Once you know what is coming your way you can spring into action instead of panic mode because all you have to do is reach into your party basket/cabinet and pull out all the makings for one great get together in less than 30 minutes.

The nice thing about outdoor entertaining is – it is outside – your house doesn’t have to be spotless. Just a quick swish of the toilet brush and a quick “pick up and stash” and your house is clean enough.


TIKI Brand tabletop firepieces

To make an impromptu summer evening special or any party for that matter more enjoyable – planning ahead will make all the difference.  You have time to think about how you would like to entertain, what music, food, dishes, etc. you would like to use.  Look in your inspiration files and make it happen. I like using wicker baskets and white items – it keeps everything simple and summery.

Paper and Plastic – Sturdy white paper plates. They look nice and won’t flop over when you place a steak or a hot dog on them. I normally like to use the real dishes, but for an impromptu evening alfresco, paper and plastic keeps things easy for serving to clean-up.

Colorful paper napkins – Both dinner and cocktail size.

Outdoor party lighting ideas

Tablecloth or Table Runner – Optional if your outdoor table isn’t pretty then have a tablecloth in your basket, otherwise it is not needed and is just something you have to clean afterwards. Above I lined up heavyweight placemats to make a table runner. I bought these at Walmart about 5 years ago, so I don’t think they are available anymore. :-(

TIKI Clean Burn Fuel and Tabletop Firepiece

Tabletop Firepieces and Torch Fuel –  When you need to set up quick, no need to worry about flowers on the table. Since it will get dark outside, no one will really notice as they came to talk, mingle, and eat. What you will need though is light. Add a few TIKI Brand Clean Burn Firepieces all around to add ambience for your gathering.

Tabletop ideas and decorations for outdoor entertaining

A warm glow is the perfect centerpiece. A beautiful flame and the plant based clean-burning fuel are more inviting than ever.  

TIKI Brand Clean Burn Fuel and Tabletop firepiece

These tabletop firepieces are part of a system designed for use with TIKI Brand Clean Burn Torch Fuel. The Clean Burn Tabletop System emits dramatically less smoke and soot than traditional petroleum-based fuel. And the Reuseable RoundWick Burner sustains a bright, brilliant flame for up to three hours on just four ounces of fuel. The absorbent wick also reduces the risk of fuel spillage. Built to provide warm light summer after summer.

Lighter –  To make lighting TIKI™ Brand Torches, Clean Burn Firepieces, and Citronella Wax Candles easy.

Make a party playlist that you can play from a phone or tablet and a Bluetooth speaker. I like a mix of music from Frank Sinatra to Lady Gaga and lots in between so everybody hears something they like and it will make them feel good – enjoying the party even more.


2 Big Wicker Baskets – I mean big, like the kind you see tall plants placed in that fill the corner of rooms in decorating magazines. Line it with a 30-gallon trash-can liner for a stylish trash can. If you can round up 2 then have one for trash and another for recycling. Make signs on your computer that say – Trash and Recycling.  I have free printable labels for you to download at the end of this post.

Frozen Hor d’oeuvres and food –  Keep a few frozen appetizers and side dishes in your freezer that you can throw in the oven until the guys or your friends get home to grill the steaks. Bulk retail stores are great for finding impromptu party food at a good price.

Munchies – Have some snack food in your pantry that won’t go bad and that can simply be poured into a pretty bowl or basket. Make sure your kids do not to touch them. These are my go to staples:  a can of mixed nuts, tortilla chips, salsa.

TIKI Citronella Candles for outdoor entertaining

I place them in napkin or paper doily lined baskets. I put the salsa in white ramekins.  An Earthtone Citronella Wax Candle will help keep the bugs away.

Misc. items – Outdoor extension cord to plug in music source.

Croquet and Lawn games to play at outdoor parties

Games – Set up some games and TIKI Brand Torches around the yard to add some warm light to keep the fun going once the sun has called it a night.

Fishing at night

And the energy level of one or more of your guests has them ready to start a new activity after you have eaten.

Add anything else you like to your party basket that makes a party a party to you.

The next time your husband or friend calls and says they are 30 minutes away, you’ll be confident to know that you will be party ready.

Do You Have Teenagers? 

When your teenager asks if they can have their friends over to roast marshmallows and hang out, having your party tote or basket ready lets you easily tell them YES.

Deciding what food to serve is as easy as opening your refrigerator door and pouring every leftover into a serving bowl and placing them on the table. Leftover Rice a Roni looks like gourmet food to them.

Be prepared to hear compliments like – “Wow, Mrs. (your last name here), you didn’t have to go to all this trouble for us.” or  “We love coming here.” or “My mom would never do all this.” 

You can just smile and say “thanks” never letting them know the secret of a party tote, basket or closet.


Free printable download:  Trash and Recycle Labels

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  1. Sheryll $ Critters. says:

    Well, who hasn’t copied you on this post? They should teach this in high school or finishing school! I believe such knowledge could save a few marriages. One of those, “What Every Bride Should Know”!

    1. Nancy Bowen says:

      Great ideas, wish I used it when my kids when little.

  2. What a great idea!!!!! Love it . ✔️I’m doing this.

  3. Excellent post! Great ideas!! I have a big picnic basket just sitting in my front closet doing nothing, so this is what I will use it for from now on. It will make it a lot easier to say “yes” knowing it is ready to go. Thanks for the inspiration, Diane. :)

  4. TerriC/HoustonLady says:

    Hi Diane,

    Thanks to you and your blog, I too have a “party basket” in my pantry. I am always on the look out for wicker baskets too : )

    Have a great day and thanks for all your tips!!

  5. Sherri Smith says:

    I just found your blog and I am super excited to keep reading. I never even thought of having a party bag, or anything like it. This will definitely make those quick get together my family has a breeze. I also just love those clean burning candles. They are probably the coolest thing I have seen in awhile. Thanks for all the great ideas and the links to where I can find them. I look forward to reading more!

  6. Great ideas!!!!!!
    You always seem to be able to pull those creative ideas out if your head.
    Wish I was your neighbor?

  7. Love the idea of steak dogs…. cute! They look yummy! Do you fill them with anything? Added to the meal is that little burlap burner which gives some ambiance to everything! Yeah, Target…. here I come!
    (How I envy you that Lake!) Enjoy the dog days of summer! I’ve been hitting the beach with my almost 9 yr old great-grandson and we’re really enjoying ourselves! We’ve had a couple of really hot weeks!

  8. lou clifton says:

    I love that you add older post to your new post. Enjoy your slow time, and hopefully you are getting a break from the heat.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Lou – I have so much content on my blog, it feels good to be able to recycle and update some of the older posts. It is cooler now this first week of August then it was the last 3 weeks in July that were brutal. Yesterday I sat outside all day reading and didn’t get hot at all. I know it won’t last and the heat will be back, but I sure am enjoying it. I hope you are too.

  9. Love, love, LOVE your ideas! Great idea with the party tote! I’m on the hunt now!

  10. Calypso in the Country says:

    How cute are these? Love the burlap one!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Shelley – The burlap firepeices are sold at Target. They are my faves that I have been using all summer. You can find them here:

  11. What a simple, but terrific, idea! I have a “decorating closet” – so why not an entertaining basket?
    Can you please please share the source for your cheetah placemats? Are they brown or black?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Lori – I bought placemats at Walmart, but about 5 years ago. :-( I loved them and they were on clearance so I bought 12. I use then all the time indoor and out. They have dark brown spots.