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Ten Tips for the Ultimate Game Day Tailgate

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Safeway. All opinions are 100% mine.

Fall has returned and with it: Game Day!! Whether you are tailgating in a parking lot or staying cozy on your couch at home, a little planning goes a long way towards making your game day celebration into a winning season. With these ten tips you will soon be on your way to the ultimate game day experience for your next tailgating party.

Thank you Safeway for sponsoring today’s post. To learn more, check out their website at Safeway.com.

Food for a tailgating party: wings, beer, coleslaw, cookies, fresh fruit and vegetables, with a letter board saying "Go team go. Party w/ Safeway.

Tailgating with Safeway

When it comes to creating the ultimate game day I could not do mine without the help of my local Safeway, which is why I have partnered with them to bring you this post.

I shopped at Safeway in my local area, but you can also find convenient and delicious ingredients for all your tailgating needs at the Albertsons Companies family of stores, including Albertsons, ACME Markets, Jewel-Osco, Vons, Randalls, Shaw’s Supermarket, Star Market, and Tom Thumb. Safeway also offers Grocery Delivery and DriveUp & Go™ for convenient ways to shop!

An overhead shot of a game day spread: wings, cookies, fresh fruit and vegetables, coleslaw, beer.

1. Select the staring player

In the same way your team relies on it’s quarterback, your menu’s staring player is the most important part of your tailgate feast. This is the menu item that you will probably put the most time and effort into. It will also be the one you are most proud of too. Some of my favorites are balsamic honey dijon pulled pork, beer can chicken, cedar plank grilled salmon, and when it gets cold a bowl of fully loaded chili.

When choosing the staring player for the week consider these things: location, access to power or fuel (electric, gas, or charcoal), and weather. Don’t make it more difficult that in has to be to get the job done.

For example, it’s a lot easier to plug in the slow cooker at Aunt Sally’s than in a parking lot. While cedar plank salmon is great when the weather is warm, that hot bowl of chili is what you need to warm you up on colder days. Plan ahead and you’ll eat like a king all season long.

2. Bring on the first string

The first string is there to support your staring player and make it shine. What you’ll need is completely dependent upon what you’ve chosen as your starting player. Think of these as the necessary items you don’t want to forget so that you can fully enjoy your meal: sauces, toppings, buns, and such.

If you’ve chosen cheese burgers as the main event your first string might include things like burger buns, bacon, sliced cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, mayo, mustard, and ketchup. Your options are endless.

If chili is your star choice your first string is the toppings! Sour cream, hot sauce, crispy crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced hot peppers, avocado, and green onions are all good.

A closeup of a bowl of classic coleslaw.

3. Salute the supporting staff

You ever notice all those extra people on the sidelines that aren’t players or coaches, but are so important to the team? That’s your supporting staff and in this game day lineup they are the side dishes.

Things like potato salads, veggie couscous salad, coleslaw, and pasta salads. These are the items that help round out your plate when it’s time for the main event. You could make them from scratch, or you can swing by the Safeway deli and pick it up ready made for you.

4. Appreciate your biggest fans

Your biggest fans are the ones that show up early and stay late. In keeping with our game day menu, these are the two and three bite savory snacks. These tasty morsels are there to keep you going while waiting for the staring player. They also may come back out during halftime or the post-game tailgate.

Some of my favorite examples are bone-in or boneless wings, mini street tacos, pizza bites, marinated chicken skewers, and other items with substance that you can graze on all day long.

My local Safeway usually has buffalo wings and salt and vinegar wings in the hot section of the deli. If you are looking for a boneless version, grab some orange chicken or general tso’s chicken and serve them with toothpicks for an easy appetizer. For other fun ideas check the freezer aisle.

A close up of a plate of fried wings.

5. Score a touchdown with scoops and dips!

Making that first touchdown is sweet, but you can’t get there if you don’t move the ball in the right direction. In the same way that running yards and passing yards work together, scoops and dips are a winning game day combo.

No tailgate is complete without at least one dip and and a whole bunch of tasty scoops! Savory or sweet? Spicy or non? Chunky or smooth? From a simple spicy sweet sriracha sauce to a seven layer bean dip, there are so many directions you can go when adding dips to your game day line up.

Whatever dip you choose, make sure to have multiple scooping options. Tortilla chips, pita bread, crackers, pretzels, vegetables, and even fruit are all fun.

If you are looking for a homemade recommendation, one of my personal game day favorites is this bacon beer cheese with homemade soft pretzel knots. The knots can be made in advance and the dip can be kept warm in a small crockpot.

6. Include something fresh

Don’t forget to include fresh fruits and vegetables! They not only help you balance out the more indulgent choices on your menu, they can also serve as tasty scoops for your delicious dips.

You can stock up and prep them yourself or grab them pre-cut the produce department. With options like pineapple, berries, and melon washed, cut, and ready to go the pre-cut options are golden when the tailgate is anywhere that isn’t at your house.

An overhead shot of fresh pineapple, broccoli, bell pepper, and carrots on a wooden board.

7. Spike the water cooler?

While the players on the field are slamming back water and sports drinks, those of us off the field get to have a little more fun with our beverage choices. A well stocked cooler is always a game day win.

Beer and wine are a great place to start. If you are looking to take it up a notch, try pitcher cocktails. You can mix them in advance and serve them over ice as needed. Try Cadillac margaritas, a bourbon blackberry smash, or raspberry mojitos.

With the adults at the party covered, don’t forget water and other non-alcoholic options as well. Staying hydrated is just as important off the field as it is on. As always, please drink responsibly and designate a driver.

8. Treat yourself

Whether you are getting new team gear or a enjoying a delicious dessert, it’s always nice to treat yourself. When it comes to the best game day treats, think about ones that can be eaten without a fork.

Cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and lemon bars are all winning choices and are great for grab and go. Eat yours while walking into the stadium or on ride home at the end of the night.

My secret: pick one favorite homemade recipe and then get the rest from the Safeway bakery. You absolutely cannot go wrong with their chocolate chip cookies!

A close up of chocolate chip cookies with sliced fresh bell pepper blurred in the background.

9. Stock the essentials

The only drawback to tailgating is not having all the supplies you need to make it fun. You need stuff to cook, serve, and eat the food. Not having it is like getting stuck in the port-o-potty and realizing that it’s out of hand sanitizer. Ick.

This list will change depending on the food you cook and the location. One week you may need paper plates and compostable utensils, the next it may be easier to use glass and put it all in the dishwasher.

Some questions to ask yourself: Did you remember the charcoal for the grill? Is there a place to plug in the crockpot? Where will you put the food when it’s time to serve up? (Folding tables are great for this!) Do you have a place to sit while you hang out?

Things you should always take with you: paper towels, a roll or two of toilet paper, and extra hand sanitizer.

10. Don’t leave it for the janitorial staff

It may be last on the list, but it’s probably the most important tip for a successful tailgate: Clean up after yourselves. Just like you should not leave trash in the stands, don’t leave trash lying around at your tailgate either.

Bring a roll of trash bags and fill them up as you go. If you are so inclined, separate out your recyclables. Figure out where it’s supposed to go and get it there.

At the end of the night make sure that everything you’ve brought in has been cleaned up and cleared out before you go home.

Food for a tailgating party: wings, beer, coleslaw, cookies, fresh fruit and vegetables, with a letter board saying "Go team go. Party w/ Safeway.

No matter where you choose to enjoy your next tailgate, a little help from Safeway makes preparing for game day a game winning move!

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