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Planning a Barbecue Cookout

Updated on January 23, 2020
Kathryn Stratford profile image

Three of my passions are creating delicious food in the kitchen, writing, and planning.

The picnic grounds my parents frequently have a cookout in
The picnic grounds my parents frequently have a cookout in | Source

Inspiration Strikes Again

This morning I was trying to decide which of my many article ideas to pursue. At one point, I stopped thinking about it, and instead started anticipating a Father's Day celebration at some point in the future. Last year, we met at a picnic ground not far from where my folks live, and we had a great time. My dad loves to grill, and my parents go on picnics throughout the warm weather. My mother is always prepared, as you will soon see.

Once I started reminiscing about the many fun times my family has had at picnic and campgrounds, it was like a light bulb lit up, and I felt inspired. Of course, I could write about cookouts! And the next thing I thought was that my mother, the "Cookout Queen", could contribute. It was then that I sent her a message, and asked if she would like to collaborate. She was delighted to, and so here it is- the first article by Kathryn and Susan Stratford.

My mom did most of the writing here, so unless indicated, it is her "speaking". I put this together, and added the other elements to it.

This is my dad, Jim Stratford. He likes to picnic on a whim!
This is my dad, Jim Stratford. He likes to picnic on a whim! | Source

From the Mouth of Susan Stratford, a "Cookout Queen":

We started keeping a few picnic supplies in the trunk of our car a long time ago, mostly because we occasionally needed an extra paper plate or plastic fork when we bought takeout for one and split it. My husband can be very spontaneous at times, however, and we quickly learned how much easier it was to have a bag of basic picnic or cookout necessities in the car at least during the summer. That way, we only needed to throw some meat and condiments in a cooler, along with whatever else I might have on hand, and we were ready for our picnic! Over the years, we've added supplies to our bag, but there are a number of basic items that we try never to be without once spring arrives. Most of these are common sense, others we learned to have on hand from trial and error. I used to just pack it all in a paper or plastic bag, but they never lasted very long, so now I use a large canvas tote instead. But a box, plastic tote, or basket could be used just as easily, as long as it fits comfortably in the trunk--or back of the minivan or SUV--without taking up too much space.

Here is a list of the main necessities:

Bag of Supplies:

1) Disposable plates, cups, and assorted plastic ware.

2) A roll of paper towels and/or a package of napkins.

3) A few real spoons to use for serving food and a couple of sharp steak knives for cutting meat.

4) A tablecloth, either a sturdy disposable one from the dollar store or an actual cloth or vinyl one.

5) A can opener, just in case.

6) Matches or a grill fire starter--something to get the fire going.

7) Assorted plastic bags--we use plastic grocery bags for trash although you could certainly buy the actual trash bags if you wanted in whatever size you preferred. We also keep on hand some freezer bags and sandwich bags for the leftovers or for dirty plastic/silverware.

8) Barbecue utensils--the basic set will do or you can add as many extras as you want. We make sure to have a grill cleaner/scraper too so my husband can clean the gill before he uses it...and after as well.

9) I have also added a couple of old place mats in case the tablecloth is too much, too dirty, too worn, or otherwise not practical. Occasionally I've found that an oven mitt or two can come in handy, as well as hot pads if you have hot dishes to put on the table.

10) Some kind of wash wipes are useful too, since hands should be cleaned after handling raw meat. Or at the least, a wet washcloth can come in handy.

Other items might be added as needed, depending on what food you're having and how it's being cooked, and not everything may be needed all the time so a few things can be removed when they're no longer necessary.This list is the basic one I have used for many years.

A shady tree, and a glimpse of the water
A shady tree, and a glimpse of the water | Source

A Word on Cleanup:

I generally put the dirty barbecue utensils in a plastic grocery bag and the used utensils (and plastic ware because we use them over again) in a sandwich bag, bringing them in when we arrive home. Once they're cleaned, I return them to the tote bag in the trunk as soon as possible so they will be ready for the next cookout/picnic. Trash is either thrown away at the site or brought home for disposal, depending on whether or not the area has waste cans, a dumpster, or nothing in which to throw things away. I can wipe off my tablecloth with a damp paper towel before putting it back in the bag, but if an actual cloth is used, you'll want to wash it first if it's dirty enough.

Other Things To Keep In Trunk

Aside from the bag of supplies, of course, we keep a few other things handy in our trunk during the summer. Most important is charcoal briquets of some kind since it's a bit difficult to cook food on a grill without them! Obviously if you're using a gas grill or some other kind of cooker, you wouldn't need charcoal but the picnic areas we frequent usually have the kind of grills that are meant for charcoal briquets. Also, it might be wise to keep some water handy in case the fire gets out of hand. An empty 2 liter soda bottle full of water doesn't take up much room and can also be used for messy cleanups if necessary.

Because we have a fairly large trunk, we are also able to keep a couple of canvas lawn chairs in there, although any kind of folding chairs will work. Picnic table benches are not always comfortable to sit on, especially if you're going to hang around for a while after you eat, so we found that having alternate seating can be a really good idea! Or if you don't happen to have room in your vehicle for all of these things, you could keep them in a special spot in your house so they'd be ready at a moment's notice.

Supplies For A Cookout

Dish Soap
Lighter Fluid
Steak Knife
Hand Sanitizer/Wipes
Place Mats
Serving Spoons
Trash Bags
BBQ Utensils: Tongs, Spatula
Cutting Board
Can Opener
Jug of Water
Grill Cleaner/Scraper
Ice Chest
Plastic Wrap
Lawn Chairs
Grill Basket for Veggies
Games/Toys For Entertainment
Tablecloth Clips or Weights
Bug Spray
Cool Mist Spray

Great Food Options

Side Dishes
Toppings & Bread
Hot dogs
Cole slaw
Potato chips
Potato salad
Baked beans
Trail mix
Macaroni salad
Chopped/Sliced Onion
Deviled eggs
Grilled vegetables
Fruit salad
Hot Sauce
Chopped/Sliced Tomato
Veggie Burgers
Broccoli salad
Pepper & Salt
Cheese slices
BBQ Ribs
Green salad
Graham crackers
Lettuce or Spinach
Kielbasa or Sausage
Chocolate bars
Steak sauce
Meat Balls
Grilled potatoes
Baked goods
BBQ sauce
Hamburger Buns
Canola or Olive Oil
Salad dressing
Hot Dog Buns

Don't forget drinks: Bottled Water, Soda, or Fruit Juice

Potato salad, sprinkled with smoked paprika
Potato salad, sprinkled with smoked paprika | Source

Please Rate Susan's Basic Potato Salad

4.8 stars from 12 ratings of Susan's Basic Potato Salad

Susan's Basic Potato Salad Recipe

This is the basic potato salad recipe that my mother (the Guest Writer) makes. It is simple and easy, and I added a list of variations to suit many tastes.

Potato salad is a dish that reminds me of cooking out, because throughout my life it has been a main side dish in the Summertime. It is amazing how food can be so ingrained in us that the aroma of it can cause so many memories to flood into our minds

Enjoy the recipe, and feel free to tweak it as desired.

~ Kathryn


  • Use Miracle Whip or low-fat versions of mayo, instead of regular mayo
  • Add in 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • Add in 1/2 cup red onions
  • Add in some dill
  • If you don't have garlic pepper, add both garlic powder and pepper separately
  • If you like spicy flavors, use a different variety of mustard. Or even add some hot sauce. I put hot sauce on almost everything!
  • For a little tang, add 2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • Sprinkle paprika or curry powder over it, for added color

Cook Time

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 10 min
Ready in: 15 min
Yields: Approximately 4 Servings of 1 Cup Each


  • 4 Potatoes
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup mustard
  • garlic pepper, to taste (optional)


  1. Boil potatoes
  2. Boil eggs
  3. Cut potatoes
  4. Slice eggs
  5. Mix together carefully

Our Picnic Ground in Northern Massachusetts

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Picnic areaGrilling burgersBridge that separates two picnic areasIt's a beautiful lake
Picnic area
Picnic area | Source
Grilling burgers
Grilling burgers | Source
Bridge that separates two picnic areas
Bridge that separates two picnic areas | Source
It's a beautiful lake
It's a beautiful lake | Source

Grilling Vegetables

Favorite Grilled Meat

What is your favorite "meat" to eat at a cookout?

See results

Favorite Side

What is your favorite side dish at a cookout?

See results

Favorite Dessert

What is your favorite dessert to indulge in at a cookout?

See results

Conclusion, From the Mouth of Kathryn:

It was fun to brainstorm with my mother. It also brought back lots of happy memories of going on cookouts when I was younger. Back then, we would go to one of a few picnic grounds, and if it was the least bit warm out we would beg to go swimming! Even when I don't go in the water, I find it very peaceful and relaxing to be near a river, brook, or the ocean.

Nowadays, we try to get together with my parents for a cookout at one of their two favorite picnic grounds once or twice a year. It's always so much fun! There's nothing like chatting, relaxing near the water, and eating delicious grilled food.

Feel free to share any stories or tips with us. We appreciate comments and feedback! I hope you enjoy the warm weather, and experience the excitement of cooking out.

Have a fantastic season!

~ Kathryn

This is my mom's cat, Hannah, standing in for my mother. She doesn't write as good as "her human", but she is very photogenic
This is my mom's cat, Hannah, standing in for my mother. She doesn't write as good as "her human", but she is very photogenic | Source

Susan (Guest Writer)

Bio, in her words: "I've been married to my wonderful husband for 36 years. We have three adult children and four grandchildren, and we are slaves to a cat who graciously allows us to share her home"


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