Sigh, the romance of outdoor dining. When we were first married, my husband and I loved to eat outdoors. An avid gardener, he had turned our backyard into an oasis and it felt like a date every night of the week. Sure, it might be double the work but the work wasn’t that much to begin with. Fast forward four years and two kids later and double the work means I need to start prepping for dinner at 1pm if we’re going to eat outside. “Enough is enough,” I said! There has got to be an easier way! Guess what, there is. With a little ingenuity, I’ve developed a system that has us eating outside regularly and having fun while doing it! Or, at least as much fun as you ever have eating with a picky toddler.
Consistent Clean Up
Just like the inside of our houses can seem daunting to clean when they get away from us, if we only tidy up our outdoor dining space when we want to eat out there, it can be overwhelming. There is an easy solution to this problem. Leave a designated outdoor broom and rag on your back porch. If you’re out there supervising the kids or taking out the trash, it’s easy to grab the broom and give things a quick sweep. Use the rag to dust off surfaces and chase away cobwebs.
Make a Kit
The Outdoor Dining Kit was a major breakthrough for me this year. Using a cheap Rubbermaid tote from Target, I gathered together all my outdoor dining essentials. First, a durable tablecloth that I didn’t mind getting roughed up. No more having to take hot, soapy water or a million disinfecting wipes out to the table to get it clean enough to eat on. Just fling that table cloth over your roughly dusted table and you’re good to go! I added lightweight, reusable plastic plates and a stack of paper napkins so I didn’t have to haul our good (but very heavy) plates out every time. The icing on the cake was a small salt and pepper shaker so we’d have all the luxuries of indoor dining in the great outdoors!
Pick Your Meal
I know exactly the thought that goes through your mind at 5 p.m., “Oh, it looks like such a nice day! We should eat outside!” STOP! Stop right there! Weather should only be a small part of your considerations. What you really need to think is, “Oh, this would be an easy meal to serve outside!” What makes a meal easy to serve outside? The main question to ask is “Is it complicated with a lot of components?” Things like tacos and hamburgers may seem like a good idea but after your 48th trip through your sliding glass door that isn’t working so well these days, you’re going to wish you’d just sat down at the dining room table. Pick one dish meals or meals that aren’t so individualized to minimize the hauling.
Get Yourself a Good Tray
If you’re committed to eating your burgers in the open air, make sure you invest in a sturdy tray. This will make hauling all those condiments out to the table and back in again so much easier. If you don’t have a tray, don’t sweat it, a cookie sheet or a cake pan will work just as well!
I hope these ideas have giving you some inspiration to get out into your backyard space more regularly! If you have any tips, tricks or hacks you’ve seen that have made your outdoor dining life easier, please share in the comments below!