Preparing for the big day...
First thing first. Figure out how many people you would like to attend your soiree. The more people you invite, the more expensive things may get so invite accordingly. Opt for online invitations rather than paper ones, which cost more, waste paper and require delivery. I recommend using Evite.com or Sendomatic.com.
Take inventory. Check to see what dishware you have in your cabinets, what frozen foods you may have in your freezer (e.g. turkey dogs, veggie burgers, etc.), if you have any unopened bags of chips in your cabinet, etc., whatever the item is, mark it off your checklist. The point of being Green is to consume less, waste less and save more. It is better to use “non-Green” products you already have, than to waste them and buy new.
Decide on a menu. Choose food you would normally serve at a dinner/BBQ/etc. and just add a hint of Green to each course.
Snacking Options (a.k.a. “Noshes”): Tortilla chips (traditional) with homemade organic mango & peach salsa (GREEN). Cut up organic veggies from your local farmers market (GREEN) with hummus (traditional)…you get the idea.
The meal: Keep it simple. I recommend staying away from red meat as it is one of the most harmful meats you can choose. The production of meat uses an incredibly large amount of water (something us Californians are in terrible need of), requires huge amounts of pesticides on the plants (e.g. corn) grown to feed the animals and releases a ton of methane into the atmosphere thus raising the level of greenhouse gases and warming up the atmosphere. Kabobs are always a great option as you have the choice of serving chicken, fish and/or veggies skewers. To be even Greener, serve veggies skewers only and serve a Quinoa dish on the side for protein. Whole Foods has a great recipe for a Cranberry Quinoa salad – it’s full of protein, flavor and is a great option for any vegetarians in the crowd (Cranberry Quinoa Salad: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/recipe.php?recipeId=544).
Dessert, the best part: No matter what you serve you must serve a fruit salad. Ask several guests to each bring several different kinds of fruit. Later, chop up all of the fruit and serve as fruit salad along with some homemade whipped cream and gluten-free chocolate brownies and voila! You have one incredibly satisfying, fruity dessert! Trader Joes Gluten Free Brownie Baking Mix is incredible – I have received tons of compliments on them and some people even say that they are better than the real deal.
Drinks: Although you may have to do a bit of searching, there are some great organic wines and beers out there. I recommend Benziger Sauvignon Blanc (which utilizes a sustainable grape growing program) and/or Grand Teton Brewing Co. Au Naturale Blonde Ale (USDA Certified Organic beer). Organic hard alcohol is a bit more expensive than non-organic hard alcohol, however, if you check out certain alcohol specialty stores, such as BevMo! you may be able to find great deals (one to try: Rain Organics vodka, which is USDA Certified). For some fabulous organic cocktail recipes check out The Daily Green (http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/recipes/organic-cocktails?click=main_sr).
Pot Luck: Ask friends to go Green and bring food too! Part of the Green BBQ experience is to educate others on being Green and what better way than to have them pitch in! Ask that guests let you know what they are bringing in advance, so that you don’t buy more food than is necessary. Offer to help with whatever questions they may have regarding where and/or what to buy organic, why it is important to buy locally grown foods, etc. You may even want to consider sending out some links with any information regarding local grocers, organic products, free-range meat products, etc. Have guests check out http://www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets/ for a Farmers’ Market closest to them.
Dishes & Silverware: Although you can eat like a cavewo(man) if you so choose, most guests will probably request some sort of plate. If you are planning on inviting more people than you have real dishes for, make sure that any plastic cups you purchase are recyclable, plates are compostable and utensils are made out of corn starch, so they are able to breakdown. BARE by Solo offers compostable cups and plates as well as recyclable cups (http://www.barebysolo.com/products.html) while World Centric offers utensils made out of non-GMO corn starch (http://worldcentric.org/biocompostables/utensils).
- Call ahead. After a long day of working and running errands it would be awful to find out that the one store you drove to doesn’t have what you’re looking for. Not only is it a waste of your time, but it’s a waste of already overpriced gas, which is in short supply.
- Buy in bulk. Costco offers organic veggies in large amounts, which means less packaging and less waste!
- Make an effort to hit as many places as you can in one trip – the fewer trips you make to and from the grocers, etc. the more gas and money you will save!
- Make sure to go to the Farmers Market no more than 2 days before the event so your veggies & fruits are fresh.