(BPT) - Tailgating is an investment in having fun - 42 percent of tailgaters spend more than $500 a season on food and supplies, according to a Tailgating Institute research study. When you're spending that much on your pre-game fun, food failures, cooler crises and other disasters are not an option. Here are a handful of common tailgating disasters and your game plan for avoiding them:
Some tailgaters grill, others bring pre-made meals, and some pack a cooler of finger foods, but one thing all tailgaters have in common is that they're eating something. Food is as much a part of the fun as the game itself.
Choosing tailgating-friendly foods can make all the difference. You may dream of serving steak to your tailgating guests, but burgers are much easier to grill and just as welcome, especially if you give them a little extra touch. Try stuffing them with cheese or serving them with a selection of creative toppings, such as avocado, jalapeño or fried onions from the grill.
Your chips and dip are just as important. You can serve the most delicious dip, but the experience will fall flat if the chip can't stand up to the dip. Go with a chip that has some substance, like Cape Cod's Kettle Cooked Waffle Cut Chips. The new Farm Stand Ranch Waffle Cut works well with a variety of dip flavors, and the double-slicing of the chips makes them thicker than ordinary potato chips, and hearty enough to stand up to the thickest spread. Plus, those ridges provide plenty of lifting power to ensure the maximum amount of dip per chip.
With 95 percent of tailgaters prepping food at the stadium (according to the Tailgating Institute study), equipment crises are almost inevitable. You could break out the charcoal only to find you forgot the matches, or those collapsible chairs you brought for extra seating prove to be a bit too collapsible. Equipment that doesn't behave as planned can put a damper on the entire party.
Set yourself up for success. Find a portable grill that's made specifically for tailgating and that relies on propane for cooking needs; it will be more reliable than a charcoal grill. Check out consumer reviews for sturdy portable chairs, as they will help you to make a smart, informed purchase. It also pays to invest in a good cooler that can stand up to some bumps and scrapes. A damaged cooler that can't keep its contents cool can easily ruin the day.
Weather can also be a concern from the very first kick-off through the excitement of the playoffs. If you're fighting late summer thunderstorms or frigid temperatures, it pays to be prepared.
During summer games, when the sun stays hot and high well into the evening, a collapsible canopy can be a great way to supply shade and keep guests dry in the event of a shower.
A portable propane heater can help keep tailgaters toasty during winter games - and don't forget the heat you'll get from your portable propane grill, too. In addition to the heater, be sure to provide tailgating guests with plenty of warm blankets and consider laying some cardboard under chairs to help keep feet off the cold ground. Just be sure to remove and recycle the cardboard when you're finished.
Location, location, location
Finally, your spot in the parking lot plays an important role in the fun. You want to be near enough to the gates to get into the stadium quickly. Late-comers to the lot may end up in a tricky spot that guests won't be able to find and you'll be the last ones in the door when game time arrives.
Competition is fierce for prime spots, so arrive early; 51 percent of tailgaters set up three to four hours before game time, and 39 percent arrive more than five hours before kick-off, according to the Tailgating Institute.
By simply taking into account each of these suggestions, you are sure to be prepared this football season.