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Score Big With Your Tailgate Party

These smart planning tips and easy food ideas will kick off a great day at the stadium.

Tailgating party held at

Tailgating parties held at "The Grove" at Ole Miss (The University of Mississippi), during the University of Mississippi vs. University of Alabama football game. Oxford, Mississippi. — Photo by: David Burnett/Contact Press Images

With fall and football season in full swing, now’s the time for the all-American tradition of tailgate parties. What’s better than an alfresco meal in a busy parking lot to jump-start a winning day at the stadium?

Just about anything can go on a tailgate menu. Usually, there’s a grill involved — and oftentimes booze. But the pregame party is mostly about the camaraderie of sports fans who are gearing up for kickoff.

You can never do too much advance planning when you entertain outside your home. Here are some helpful tips on creating a perfect tailgate party, and some great portable recipes to fuel up on before the big game.

Check and double-check. Don’t leave anything to chance: Make a list of everything you want to bring (think bottle openers, paper goods, garbage bags, matches or lighters, grilling tools, sunblock, hand wipes, plenty of water, serving utensils, supplies to wrap up leftovers).  If you tailgate regularly, you may want to laminate the list and check things off with a dry erase marker.

Keep cool. You can never have too much ice when it comes to keeping drinks cold and food chilled. Invest in a big, sturdy cooler. Better yet, get two (one for beverages, one for food), and bring an extra bag or two of cubes for replenishing. Remember that you’ll need to keep leftovers cool while you’re all watching the game.

Don't forget the foil. For one thing, you can use it to line the grill. This makes cleanup faster, and you can wrap up the used charcoal for easy disposal.

Share the load. Tailgating is much more fun with a group, and potluck is the way to go. Create a menu and assign recipes to your friends — that way, the burden isn’t all on you.

Bring the right gear. Make sure you have enough folding chairs, and unless you have the kind of trunk that can function as a serving spot, you’ll want to bring a folding table to hold all the chow. If you’re a frequent tailgater, you may want to invest in a pop-up canopy, which is great to shelter you and your fellow fans from heat or rain.

Next: Don't miss these tailgating recipes. >>

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