Parties & Gatherings

Decide on a budget for your party, and choose food accordingly.

  • Shrimp cocktail is delicious and festive, but cocktail meatballs are equally tasty and much less expensive.
  • Prepared foods from the deli or bakery can be delicious and save time, but are usually more expensive than preparing your own.

Decide how the food will be served.

  • Will it be a sit-down formal dinner, a sit-down buffet, or an appetizer buffet where guests stand and mingle?
  • If guests are standing and eating, choose finger or fork foods, or foods that do not require a knife.
  • For a sit-down dinner, consider enlisting the help of responsible, dependable teen friends or relatives to help serve.

Inventory your kitchen equipment.

  • How many dishes can you bake at one time?
  • How many stovetop burners do you have?
  • How much microwave space do you have?
  • How much refrigerator and freezer space do you have?
  • What pots and pans do you have?

Set out each serving piece you will need.

  • Meat platter and serving fork, serving bowls and spoons, bread baskets, gravy boats.
  • Be sure you have a way to serve each menu item.
  • Borrow equipment from friends or neighbors if necessary.

Remember: you can rent almost anything, including kitchen equipment, large coffee pots, refrigerators, and dishes.

Prepare a shopping list.

  • List ingredients for each recipe.
  • Check off what you have in your pantry (flour, spices).
  • Make a list of shelf-stable items, including paper products, and a list of perishables.
  • Shop for shelf-stable items and paper products up to 2 weeks ahead of time. Clear a pantry shelf or two so ingredients and serving pieces can be kept together.
  • Shop for perishables 1 to 2 days ahead. This is a good time to clean the refrigerator and clear a shelf for party ingredients.
  • Choose recipes that you know and love! This is not the time to experiment with a recipe you clipped 2 years ago.
  • Any menu item that can be made ahead and frozen is a bonus. Many desserts, bars, cookies and breads can be frozen up to 1 month ahead. See our recipes for great make-ahead desserts.
  • Create a timetable for preparing the menu items so everything is ready when you want to serve.

Plan ahead. Do as much ahead of time as you can. Look for make-ahead recipes.

  • Cut up vegetables for a salad or relish tray.
  • Clean fresh vegetables and have them ready to cook.
  • Keep mashed potatoes warm in a slow cooker for up to 4 hours.