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Bring home your own victory.

Don’t get sacked – have your playbook ready for a winning tailgate!

The game is fun, but the tailgate is serious business! I know folks who organize their feasts like they’re in a competition with fancy decorations, special marinades, and signature dishes. I’ve been to all kinds of tailgates, ranging from high school field hockey games to huge SEC football games. I love them all.

Tailgate is just another name for a party, where everything is transported to the event location. Like any party, a little planning goes a long way to ensure everyone’s enjoyment, including the host!

Kick off your tailgate with these ideas:

Pregaming: Preparation is key to a win. Make your lists: people you want to invite, activities, tables and chairs, plus food and beverages. Tailgates are often potluck, so don’t feel shy about asking folks to sign up with what they can contribute. Check out these great sign-up resources here and here, to keep track of what everyone is bringing. Pre-populate the list with some suggested ideas that are healthy, like a veggie tray and steamed shrimp.

Players: A tailgate is a fluid event. People come and go between tailgates, so over-invite. The more the merrier.

Fan support: Team colors in the tablecloths and napkins, plus a few fun football-related table toppers are all you need. In fact, disposable products make cleanup a snap.

Play-action: Tailgates can last hours, so ideas to keep your guests entertained are always appreciated. Cornholefour square and touch football are favorites. For younger guests, provide coloring books, sidewalk chalk and  jump ropes. My favorite memories include hilarious games of touch football where all ages played.

Root for the home team: Set the mood for fun! Learn the fight song for your favorite NFL team and for your favorite college team. Or have a contest for the best cheer! Invest in a few pom-poms and noisemakers to enthusiastically show your spirit.

Hydrate your team: Bring plenty to drink, including nonalcoholic options for nondrinkers, kids, and designated drivers. If you run out of beverages, the party will move on to the next tent.

Game-day meal: A good team meal helps prepare the athletes to perform. I’m not a football player, and don’t want to eat like one either! I do want to feed my guests delicious and healthy food. The key: Offer a variety of dishes — something for everyone. I prep as much as possible in advance, and choose easy-to-serve recipes. I usually provide the protein, and ask guests to bring salads, appetizers and desserts. Grill-ready recipes are my favorites. Anything on a skewer is popular because it is easy to eat. Short chicken skewers or premade chicken fingers that just get warmed on the grill are a hit with the kids.

When the clock runs out: Make sure you bring plenty of trash bags, and leave your space clean. If you have a lot of leftovers, consider donating to your area shelter.

Find more recipes like these in the DinnerTime Recipe Box!

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Creamy and tasty dip everyone will love.

Super easy, healthy and delicious.

An easy make-ahead salad .