September 4th marked the kickoff of the 2014 NFL season and football fans everywhere are gearing up for an exciting time. Football enthusiasts are eager to start planning some Fall get-togethers to watch a game and cheer for their favorite teams.

If you’re like most people these days, you’re busy and on the go and don’t have long hours to waste prepping for a party. That’s why game day entertaining should be more about enjoying time with friends watching the game and less about stressing over dazzling them with your gourmet skills. After all, nobody goes to a game for the gourmet food, right?

Want to score big with your guests? Try these NFL inspired ideas for your season kickoff party! This year, plan to keep your menu simple so you can cheer along with the crowd. That’s why I’m all for fast, simple to make, yet delicious recipes you can make ahead of time before everyone arrives.

A simple ball game menu including chips, pretzels, dips, nachos, chili, wings and burgers are all fine choices for a traditional football feast. There’s nothing wrong with making a few stellar dishes (the kind your friends will ooh and ahh over and ask you for the recipe) and then supplementing with some store-bought side dishes and desserts.

Remember when it comes to parties – the membership-only warehouse clubs like Sam’s and Costco can be your prized assistant chef. They usually have interesting side dishes and a wide selection of cookies, brownies and baked goods. Don’t be shy about asking guests to bring a favorite appetizer or dessert. When they ask, “Is there anything I can bring?” they really do mean it, especially if you have guests who are all-star cooks and want to show off their culinary skills.

Everyone is thinking low carb diets these days so it’s always a good idea to offer some healthier options, too. Here are links to delicious, but easy to make recipes. Guests will enjoy the food as much as the game and they are certain to make your game day entertaining a success.

football-fruit-helmetTry making this watermelon helmet fruit bowl from Occasions. They also have some other interesting ideas, like football-shaped cheese and sausage crackers, cookies, and cupcakes.

One year we had a bangers and beer party for the Super Bowl. Bangers is the English word for sausage. They are called bangers because they sometimes split open with a “bang” during frying. We bought several different varieties (hot dogs, kiełbasa, chicken and apple, Italian sausage) and wrote place cards describing the type of ‘banger’ along with a recommended beer for pairing. It was an easy menu and the guests enjoyed trying something different. Plus, you can throw the kielbasa and Italian sausage in a crockpot and have it cook all day.

Hopefully these ideas will provide inspiration to try a couple of new things this football season. Whatever you decide, just make sure you have lots of food for the game – your guests will work up an appetite cheering their team on to victory. Enjoy!!