We all love eating outdoors in the summertime!
Here are 10 thrifty ideas for welcoming outdoor party settings and everyday enjoyment in your backyard.
No need to break the budget for a beautiful, outdoor setting!
Not all of these ideas will work for your situation, but if at least one does, you have saved some money you can put towards other things–like great food and drinks!
1. Free to Inexpensive: move indoor tables and chairs outdoors.
It helps if the table isn’t too heavy and doesn’t require 14 people to get it through the door! But if you can manage it, it’s a really fun way to enjoy a meal outdoors. It just feels so different to be eating on an inside table outside! You might not want to do this often, but when you do it’s a celebrations of summer!
In the meantime you might like to look for some wicker chairs and table that are more easily carried outside! Garage sale finds can be spray painted and look great! Any painted furniture can be weather-proofed by sealing with polyurethane several days after painting.
2. Free: bring pillows from the house to add to outdoor chairs.
I know, they are not made to get wet, but that’s not a problem. Just bring them back indoors when you are done using them that day/night. No problems of finding storage for outdoor cushions, no expense of buying mildew-resistant cushions, and no cleaning the outdoor cushions every time before you use them! It doesn’t matter if they are different colors or patterns from different rooms. It just seems more festive that way!
3. Free: table decor can be anything from the house or the garden.
Get creative with your tablescapes. For summer I love seashells in a vase and a few small potted plants. If you want something to go with a party theme, look first at what you have before heading to the discount store.
4. Low Cost: make your own canopy for shade.
By 4 bamboo poles at the home store and tie a flat sheet to the top of each. Stick the poles in the ground to hold up your canopy. You’ll need to push the poles down pretty far into the ground to make them stand up. If they still won’t stand up, use tent poles and twine to help. Even better: use twine to tie the canopy to a nearby tree, post, etc.
You could screw a few eye-hooks into a post also. Another canopy idea: buy a colorful large tablecloth at GoodWill, etc. to use instead of the sheet. It is usually a little thicker than a sheet so it gives more shade. Plus it’s pretty!
If the sheet or tablecloths doesn’t give you the amount of shade you want, try using a cheap fabric-backed vinyl table cloth instead. It will provide a little bit of rain protection with the vinyl side up.
5. Free or low cost: use candles from the house.
Again, if they are different colors, it just adds to the festive atmosphere. And who doesn’t love candles at night outdoors? Mix them with your table decor and/or set them around the garden area. If you have any of those lanterns that are popular now, put candles in them! Battery-powered candles work too if you have them.
Another idea I love is to put cheap votive candles in Mason jars. Put them all over the place! Lots of light, wind protection, and inexpensive! You can tie a bow around the jar if you like. Use twine, ribbon, or strips of fabric as you like.
6. Free: string white Christmas lights anywhere.
These look wonderful inside your canopy and wrapped around those bamboo poles. String them from tree to tree. Wrap the trunk of a tree in white lights. The more the better! Want more? Stock up next Christmas!
7. Free or Low Cost: gather potted plants to cluster near your eating area or party area.
If you don’t have any potted plants, it’s a good time to start some. You can also find good sales on these in late June/early July. Flowers that are light colored or white show up well at night. Potted plants of any kind look better in groups of odd-numbered pots. A grouping is more attractive if the plants are of different heights too.
8. Free or Low Cost: get creative with tablecloths.
Use what you have. You don’t have to be matchy-matchy. It’s charming to have a variety of tablecloths put side by side. You can use rectangular tablecloths as table runners. Square cloths look great put on with the corners hanging down “catty-corner.” Not enough tablecloths? You can pick up some at GoodWill for very cheap!
Another idea I really like is to take a rectangular tablecloth and cut it across the width into fourths. (Cut in half and then cut the halves in half again.) Hem the raw edges or use Heat ‘N Bond (get at a fabric store and follow package directions) to turn under the edge. Then place the sections crosswise on the table to look like across the table placemats. With the table showing through between, it gives a fresh, attractive look. And all you need is one tablecloth!
9. Free or Low Cost: use real dishes and silverware.
I know. Somebody will have to wash them. But they are very classy and you’re not adding to the landfills. Please don’t do like my mom used to do. She used plastic plates, knives, forks, spoons, and cups. And then she washed them all by hand to use again. If you’re going to do that (and we kids washed them all by hand since we had no automatic dishwasher) you might as well use real dishes. Not enough dishes? You can buy a few more at GoodWill or garage sales. Again, no need to be matchy-matchy. Alternate the patterns for the most charm.
10. Free or Low Cost: use blankets, bedspreads or quilts on the grass for extra seating and lounging.
This is really old-fashioned, but it’s fun too. Not for those who have to have a chair of course, but just fine for teens and young adults. If you don’t have anything old enough for this, check GoodWill etc. for cheap, but colorful spreads. Add a few cushions/pillows for after the meal lounging and star-gazing. It’s also a great place for tired kids to nap. If the night turns cold they are good to snuggle in too!
You can ask guests to bring a blanket for lounging if you don’t have enough.
Whatever you do, enjoy your family and friends!