The big secret to saving time (and money)? Buy everything you need in one trip: one-stop-shopping discount stores and warehouse stores are full of top-quality prepared food, gourmet frozen appetizers and desserts, even wine and beer— and everything's discounted.
- Put away the good china. Opt for paper and plastic instead. Mix and match some brights and patterns for extra flair. You'll need dinner and dessert plates, plastic cutlery, and napkins. For the bar, use cute plastic wine and drink glasses, and get some plastic cups for the kids. Stock your freezer with extra ice early in the day so you don't have to worry about it at the last minute.
- Map out your table. In the morning, put on the tablecloth (don't be afraid to use paper), then figure out which platters and utensils you'll need. Put Post-it notes on platters to remind yourself where each food goes. Then be sure it all fits on the table.