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How to Host a Less Waste BBQ

Stop Food Waste Blog

How to Host a Less Waste BBQ

May 21, 2021

Stop Food Waste Blog

How to host a less-waste BBQ this summer!

It’s official summer BBQ season! Since we've been hosting plenty of outdoor gatherings these couple of years, I am excited to share a few tips and ideas to host the most epic less-waste BBQ for your friends and loved ones.

  1. Time of Day - plan portion sizes while considering the time of the party. People will eat more if the event spans lunch or dinner and also will eat more if alcoholic beverages are served.

  2. Snacks vs. Meals - if you have a wide variety of chips, dips, fruit, cheese plate, etc., people will eat less as a main dish; so plan on a smaller entree portion if you love snacks.

  3. Avoid Spoilage - food is safe at room temperature for no more than 4 hours, half that if it’s sitting in the direct sunlight at any time. If you’re setting out a gorgeous buffet, plan for a few items that won’t spoil (chips, chocolate chip cookies) and plate the rest of your buffet in small portions on smaller platters. Plan to replenish the buffet at least once during the event rather than heaping too-large bowls outside and risking their spoilage. Also, even if it doesn’t spoil, a giant bowl of pasta salad that’s been sitting outside and has been scooped into by multiple people is just less appetizing leftover. But, leftover pasta salad that never left the fridge is first rate! You’ll be more likely to eat it later. For the food you do set out, turn on an alarm or timer so you know when to refresh it. 

  4. Normalize Real Plates and Utensils - do we really have to keep using disposable plates? How about if we at least use the old fashioned, thin white paper plates --that are compostable -- and look for some of those fun, retro wicker holders for them? (I just found a bunch on Etsy!) Forks and serving utensils - your everyday utensils probably can go outside, if not, invest in an inexpensive set for events. For beverages spanning kid's lemonade, to water, to margaritas and rosé, small mason jars without lids are trendy and low cost. Put some tape and a sharpie or colored rubber bands (saved from your asparagus and broccoli bunches obviously!) on the buffet table so folks can label their jars. Cloth napkins can dress up your events through the whole summer and into holidays!

  5. Better Potluck - as the host, take control back while asking for help. Delegate! Make a list of the items you’d like to serve and share that list with your guests when asking them to bring something to share. Let’s say this is your menu: Green Salad, Pasta Salad, Corn on the Cob, Fruit Dessert, Crudité and Hummus, Chips/Salsa. Send these options to guests and have them select one so you end up with ONLY food that makes sense in your menu plan and you know it will get eaten. We don’t need 6 pies wasting away on the counter that will end up in the trash. Write a gentle note that it’s ok to show up empty handed if they aren’t bringing one of the items that will truly add to the menu - or ask them to come with their own folk and cup!

  6. Take Home Leftovers - while you're instructing your guests, ask them to arrive with jars or containers to bring home any leftovers so your home isn’t overwhelmed for days. I’ve done this for years and I promise it’s not weird and your friends will start to look forward to it.

  7. Eat a Rainbow - Load up with vegetables and serve less meat. If you do need a flank steak (I get it, I’m a fan too), just aim for a really small portion per person (2-3 ounces rather than our wasteful and conditioned 6-8 ounces) and pair it with hearty grilled veggies and side dishes. It’s ok to eat some meat but it’s harmful to waste meat.

  8. Meal Plan - Just like I encourage my followers and customers to do weekly, start your party menu with what you have! What cans of beans, dried grains, or open condiments are in needs of a great recipe and already taking up space in your cabinets? Do you have frozen veggies that can be added to a quinoa salad? Have you ever tried pasta salad with 2, 3, or 4 different shapes hanging around pasta? Use up old mustard jars and miso paste and make a sweet fusion Carolina-Style sauce for your grilled items.

  9. Decorate - Summer is naturally gorgeous! Ditch the balloons (forever, please) and look to nature. String up some reusable Christmas lights or use some candles. A potted plant or succulent tray from elsewhere in your house or yard can grace the table. Make a centerpiece with fruit from the farmer’s market that can double as dessert! 

Not Your Party? - If a friend is the host, share this blog with them, ask how you can help organize the menu among guests. Offer to let them borrow your stack of cloth napkins or mason jar glassware. Individual actions add up to matter because we influence our friends and friends don’t let friends throw wasteful parties!


Visit Ends + Stems for more meal planning tools, recipes, and inspiration to reduce wasted food in your kitchen.