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Get the Game Plan for a Terrific Tailgate Party

Kick-Off Tips Make Pre-Game Picnics Easy & Delicious
Get the Game Plan for a Terrific Tailgate Party: Main Image
Take along dishes guaranteed to fuel fans

Pack a picnic, collect your home team, and head for the game! Enjoying a pregame parking lot party with friends is a favorite American social gathering—even if your car lacks an official tailgate.

Take along dishes guaranteed to fuel fans (with a few easy tricks to make them both delicious and healthy). Make your menu easy by planning and preparing ahead, grilling burgers and/or sausages on-site, and toting easy-to-serve side dishes everyone will cheer.

Plan ahead for easy parking lot picnicking

For starters, decide whether it’s pot luck or not (if so, divvy up the menu and keep a list of who’s bringing what). Check whether grilling is allowed, and what beverages can be brought on-site; some stadiums may restrict alcoholic drinks. Keep an eye on the weather, and have Plan B ready if dry skies aren’t forecast. Begin by packing the basics:

  • Portable grill with a starter, charcoal or (preferably) propane
  • Meat thermometer
  • Knife, cutting board, eating and serving utensils
  • Bottle opener, wine opener
  • Condiments: ketchup, mustard, mayo, pickle relish
  • Recyclable plates (paper or bamboo), paper or cloth napkins
  • Collapsible chairs and/or table, table cloth
  • Ice chest and ice (freeze bottles of water to pack less ice)
  • Hand wipes, roll of paper towels
  • Roll of plastic wrap and extra plastic containers for leftovers

Go simple so you can party too

When planning the menu, think easy-to-transport and easy-to-serve dishes that can be made a day or two in advance and served at room temperature. For green salads, toss with dressing just before serving. Appetizers, salads, and side dishes can follow a theme—Mexican, Thai—or be traditional picnic favorites. Standard picnic fare such as grilled burgers, sausages, London broil, and/or hot dogs make a terrific main dish. (Remember food safety rules and transport meat frozen or on ice at a temperature around 40°F.) And don’t forget dessert!

Here’s how much you need to cook for 10 guests (with some healthy substitution suggestions):

  • 3 1/2 cups dip or salsa
  • 60 appetizers (bite style)
  • 3 pounds potatoes (for potato salad)
  • 1 pound dry/uncooked pasta (for pasta salad)
  • 2 to 3 heads of lettuce (for green salad)
  • 20 hot dogs (try turkey or veggie)
  • 4 pounds hamburger meat (try substituting 1 pound with a box or two of vegetarian burgers)
  • 10 to 20 pieces of dessert

Featured players 


Dip into tasty starters, such as prepared salsa, hummus or babaganoosh with corn or pita chips:


Select transportable salads and side dishes, such as your favorite coleslaw, pasta or potato salad:

Sweet victory

Get ready to cheer with cake and cookies:

Judith H. Dern’s favorite NFL team has long been the San Francisco 49ers, a secret now that she lives in Seahawks territory.

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