How-to: Organize Outdoor Party Food and Drinks

Get great use of trays, buckets, baskets, and other household items for your next outdoor party. Whether you're hosting a big neighborhood potluck or a small outdoor gathering among friends, we show you how to keep everything together (and easily transportable) with our simple tips for organizing and serving outdoor party food and drinks.

By Holly D'Anna


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Appetizer Caddy
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Repurposed Wire Caddy with Compartments

    Make serving your outdoor party appetizers easier than ever with a wire caddy that can hold multiple items, such as breadsticks, olives, tomatoes, toasted bread, and olive oil. Bringing out everything at once will save you trips back and forth from the house, plus the caddy can act as its own serving centerpiece. Find a caddy like ours at Target or at a kitchen-supply store.

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Labeled Plastic Baskets

    This outdoor party food organizing idea is perfect for picnics: Round up a few plastic containers with wire handles and label them with blank mailing labels. With a separate basket for condiments, cheeses, bread, and meat, you'll never be at a loss for finding any of the party food you need.

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Deep Tray with Ice

    Keep cut fruit for outdoor parties fresh in a deep metal tray packed with ice. Instead of cutting the fruit outside, where you'd also have to bring utensils for cutting and plates for serving, prep the fruit inside and put in this tray. Cover it with a few clean dish towels to keep it cold.

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Round Tray with Serving Cups

    Organize individual outdoor party food servings, such as a summer salad, in glasses and carry them out on a circular metal tray with the needed silverware. Don't worry about mismatched glasses, variety adds a fun twist to the presentation.

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Storage Cube for Drinks

    Put all your outdoor party drinks, from bottled water and cans of soda to larger bottled beverages, in a waterproof storage cube before transporting them outside. Layer ice on the bottom of the cube, making sure it isn't too heavy to lift. If your cube isn't waterproof, line the bottom with a towel and keep the ice in a resealable plastic container.

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Outdoor Party Cookie Basket

    For easy transport and pretty presentation, put a dozen cookies in a wicker basket lined with paper towels or clean dish towels. Depending on the size of the basket, you may be able to fit more than a dozen to serve a large party.

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Easy Appetizer Tray

    Keep crackers, olives, spreads, and dip neatly organized on a functional and attractive wicker tray so it can be easily carried outside for a sophisticated outdoor party.

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Small Drink Bucket

    If you're hosting a small outdoor party or you don't want to drag a heavy cooler to serve cold drinks, a metal bucket filled three-fourths of the way full with ice is a great option. You can fit up to seven or eight bottled drinks on the layer of ice in the bucket (or 10-15 metal cans if you layer the cans and the ice).

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Meal on a Tray

    Prepare a single outdoor party course or an entire meal on a large serving tray and include bowls, utensils, condiments, plates, and anything else you might need before bringing it outside. Everything will stay together and you won't have to make multiple trips in and out of the house.

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Cover Dishes with Plastic Wrap

    When transporting outdoor party food, keep everything fresh by wrapping it with plastic wrap. Plastic wrap also is a good idea to keep food covered until ready to eat.

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Drink Accessories Organizer

    Outdoor party drink tags and other accessories are easy to organize in mini loaf pans. Stack the loaf pans on top of each other for easy transport outside, or hold them together with thin strips of metal to create a long tray.

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Layered Fruits and Veggies Tray

    Combine function and beauty by adding fruits and veggies to a serving tray. Place smaller bowls on the tray to allow you to load it up with several different items while keeping everything separate. It also creates a dazzling food display that can be brought outside in one trip.

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Tiered Appetizer Platters

    For outdoor party appetizers that have two major components, such as chips and dip, keep them close on a tiered platter. Put the finished dip on a footed platter, then put that platter on a large round plate. Scatter the chips around the plate for an easy-to-transport and attractive appetizer.

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