Getting together with friends at a tailgate is one of the best ways to get ready for a big game. We've collected the essentials you need for your party to be a success. The supplies for tailgating aren't expensive (assuming you already have the grill if you're doing on-site cooking), and a little prep ensures that your tailgate is the best on the block.
Cooler: The bigger the cooler, the better (and a wheeled cooler is the best for transportation-between-tailgates purposes). Make sure the lid fits tight. Also helpful is a drain on the side of the cooler to release melted ice.
Warm-food tote: Keep casseroles warm with insulated food careers. A handle boosts portability.
Grilling tools: You simply can't grill without a spatula for flipping burgers and sliding under the filet of fish or other proteins. Also be sure to pack long-handle tongs, a long-handle basting brush, a stiff-wire grill brush for cleaning the grate, and an instant-read thermometer for gauging when your meat is done. Depending on the type of grill you're using, you'll also need fuel, a fire starter, and/or charcoal.
Bag clips: Bags travel fine unopened, but you'll want clips to tote them home with the leftovers.
Tablecloth: Keep the table clean and make tidying up easy. Choose tablecloths in game-day colors to emphasize your team of choice. If you're a messy crew, consider a disposable tablecloth that you can toss at the end of each tailgate.
Ice blankets: These easily wrap around food to keep everything cool.
Scissors: Keep a pair of scissors on hand to cut open food packages and to snip tape.
Sharp knives: Some recipes require last-minute chopping and dicing, while meat recipes require some on-site carving.
Blanket: A lightweight throw is great if the breeze picks up and also a handy wrap if you have warm dishes that need to stay warm. A blanket can also serve as a drop cloth to prevent food spills from spoiling the back of your car.
First aid kit: You never know when accidents will happen, so keep a basic kit with bandages, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes, aspirin, cloth tape, an instant cold compress, nonlatex gloves, sterile gauze pads, tweezers, a thermometer, and scissors.
These tailgating supplies can be bought in bulk and stored together for grab-and-go convenience over a full football season.
Disposable plates and utensils: Throw-away items make tailgating cleanup a breeze. Keep the weight of your food in mind as you select plates, or plan to double-stack if a flimsy, thin plate won't hold your meal.
Napkins: Create a color-coordinated theme with inexpensive cloth or paper napkins. Mismatched patterns are fine; buy napkins as they go on sale and keep a stockpile.
Moist towelettes: You'll need these after handling sticky sweets or ribs, or to wash up before or after cooking.
Water: Drinking water is a must; fill your own bottles to cut plastic waste. Water is also handy for rinsing dishes and dirty hands.
Ice: Keeping beverages and refrigerated items cold is required for a safe tailgating party.
Duct tape: On windy days, you'll want to tape everything down. Duct tape can also be handy at the end of the tailgate if you have some containers that need to be secured for the trip home.
Paper towels: Cleaning messes and wiping hands are just a few of the uses for this invaluable tailgating staple.