Throw a Labor Day party with leftovers

Have your seasonal summer decorations taken over your house? Why not plan a party this Labor Day that gives you an extra kick to get rid of your leftovers?

Time to clear out your pantry, your closet and your summer storage. Use this last summer hurrah to finish off the Fourth of July decor, your beach items, and invite friends and neighbors over for an outdoor, potluck, family-style celebration.

I’ve created a fun mishmash I’m calling “red, beach and blue” since it uses my leftover summer items. Here are some tips.

Leftover decor

When you are having a family-style potluck and you are incorporating a theme, the best advice is to keep everything looking uniform. So suggest to guests that they bring their items in glass or white bowls so the dishes don’t conflict with your color scheme.

  • For your outdoor dining table, use an oversize beach towel as a runner or as a festive throw. I’m using a red striped towel from my leftover Fourth of July stash. Mini bamboo torches anchor each end of the table and can keep the mosquitoes away.
  • Next, create a functional centerpiece. Use a trifle bowl or punch bowl filled white sangria. This also works with a colorful, chopped garden vegetable salad, too.

  • Sand pails aren’t just for sand at this outdoor barbecue. You can use them to hold hand sanitizing wipes. I find when you have kids running around you can’t have enough wet wipes to clean their sticky hands.

  • Small metal pails can be used to hold your old citronella candles. Maybe you have a few leftover pails that were favors at past weddings. You can also decorate votive holders with shells to create an “oh, wow” factor at the party.

  • Do you have a collector in your house? Maybe someone who goes to the beach and collects shells, sea glass, various found objects? Well, if you are feeling artsy, you can take these objects and create beautiful leftover decor such as these sea glass orbs. Large seashells can also be used as place cards or to identify the food for a family-style dinner.

  • Keep your place settings simple. This is a great time to finish up all of your disposable red and blue plates, cups and utensils at this sit-down bash.

Got to feed the people!

Barbecue sauce is easier to make than you might think, and most of us have all of the basic ingredients in our pantry. You can personalize it with your own touches if you like it hot or sweet. Just throw the ingredients into a blender.

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Get the recipe

If you get into a pickle, and don’t have sauce or ingredients to make your own, no sweat — add a flavored pickle to your beef, chicken or veggie burger. Seriously, it can be that simple. You can make your own — or there is a guy in Long Island called Nick Horman who will ship them to you. My favorite is the Southern Cajun. They also add kick to your egg salad.

Of course, no party would be complete without the perfect end-of-summer cocktail. Let’s keep with our leftover theme and use up all the fruit in the fridge and opened bottles of wine to make festive sangria. Here is a great recipe for strawberry white sangria that tastes yummy.

Another tip: Freeze fruit like grapes and strawberries and add them to your drink so no ice is needed. You can garnish your cup with festive starfruit slices to match your Fourth of July star napkins.

Conversation sparkers

  • Serve your ice and other beverages in a wheelbarrow. For guests who don’t know each other, this is a great way to break the “ice.” You never know, you could have a Leftover Labor Day love connection. Don’t forget the ice scoop.

  • For another “conversation sparker,” create a summer photo album — you can pay a service like Seventh Generation Stories to create any type of holiday album, or it can be a fun family do-it-yourself activity. Oriental Trading can help you get started.

I wish I could freeze this leftover party and extend summer a few more months, but alas, on to the next holiday ...

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