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.
The hors d'oeuvres selection at today's stores is amazing—sometimes several aisles are dedicated to nibbles and noshes.
1. Cheese please. Skip over the boring block of cheddar and go for a wheel of creamy Brie. Warm it in the microwave oven for 1 to 2 minutes on medium-high right before guests arrive—it's delicious with grapes or on top of crackers.
2. Simple shrimp. Frozen shrimp are quick and easy to defrost -- and taste fabulous. Buy a bag of medium-size shrimp. Or pick up an already cleaned and cooked ring of shrimp with sauce, take it out of the container, and put it on your own platter—no one will ever know you cheated!
3. Frankly speaking. Kids love pigs-in-the-blanket, but buy extra, because let's face it—adults go crazy for these classic bites too.
4. That's Italian. We bought the ingredients for a huge antipasto platter (dried meats like prosciutto and salami, olives, and fresh mozzarella), but we divided the ingredients among several smaller dishes. It looks prettier on the table that way.
5. Warm bites. Assorted frozen hors d'oeuvres come in large boxes—ours contained 50, which was more than enough (this mix had mini quiches, cheese puffs, spinach bites, and empanadas). Heat and put them out early—they're just as good at room temperature.
6. Take a dip. Buy three or four gourmet dips (we went with hummus, fresh salsa, goat-cheese spread, and olive tapenade) to serve with a big platter of cut-up vegetables. Round out the dish with whole-grain crackers and crisp breadsticks.
How much is enough? Don't go overboard (remember all the appetizers your guests have just eaten!). Offer a few main-course options with some side dishes, and make sure you serve something kids will actually eat too. Plan on three ounces of meat per person, and about the same for sides. Count every three kids as one adult when you're figuring out how much you'll need.
You can buy all the drinks you need for adults and kids in one trip—since many stores today sell alcohol, there's no need to make a separate trip to the liquor store. And keep it simple. Everyone will find something they like from this lineup.
Going mini means you give lots of options: Everyone will find at least one treat they'll love.