In an economy in which people are entertaining at home more and more, it’s always good to be prepared for a spontaneous soiree! That said, knowing where to start — or what you truly need -- can be difficult.
We always keep an eye on circulars for great deals on products that prove to have an extended shelf lives: chips, salsa, dip mixes, etc. We keep these items in a certain section in the pantry, and they prove to be perfect go-to items for those unexpected get-togethers. Same goes for those rare great sales on cocktail napkins, candles and small vases -- always great additions to any party!
But those are the basics. Here's the nitty-gritty:
Always have a bottle (actually, make it three) of champagne in the fridge for an instant party. Plus, you can mix it your favorite fruit juices to stretch the bottle and create fun cocktails.
Keep a few appetizers in the freezer from Trader Joe's or your favorite gourmet shop. Our fallback: Throw some spaghetti sauce in a fondue pot, cook a bag of frozen meatballs, boil some pasta, and set the two out in separate bowls with some toothpicks. Instant pasta bites, for meat-lovers and vegetarians alike!
A bottle of red, a bottle of white... Put it in the freezer just before the party to get it cold quickly. A six-pack of beer never hurts, either; girlfriends tend to bring boyfriends, or at least hope to.
A selection of cheeses is a must. They don't have to be fancy, but points for uniqueness if they are. Remember, though, not everyone is adventurous, so offer a few safe bets.
Your computer set to Pandora.com
Let your guests take turns creating channels. It will make everyone happy and serve as a conversation piece. Used well, this can also help create a mood or theme for the party.
This is a closet or spare room where you can hide clutter and mess quickly to deal with it later. Be creative if space is at a premium. I use my bathtub.
Spray a light, clean air freshener around to give the place the illusion that you have just finished deep cleaning.
Candles, candles, candles
...and matches or a lighter to light them spell ambiance, romance, and, if necessary, a cleaner smell.
Stash cleaning wipes in the bathroom for a 30-second once over to make the bathroom appear sparkly clean. Is it truly clean? Truth is relative.
Set a beautiful table; I've set many with items from the dollar store. Those fabulous pastel dinner plates? Perfect for a ladies' brunch! And I can't tell you how many garden parties have grown out of 99-cent green plates and a variety of faux twigs.
Make sure to set up a bar area (rather than have guests help themselves in your kitchen). It takes only minutes to do, makes everything feel special and -- as a fringe benefit -- keeps the kitchen cleaner.
Never underestimate the power of a quick and easy dip. Whether it's a tried and true favorite like fresh-made (or store-bought!) guacamole or a secret home recipe for black bean and corn salsa, dips tend to be quick, easy, inexpensive ways to pull an event together.
Make sure your porch light always has a working light bulb to give a welcoming impression for your impromptu party.
Always have a few spare hangers in your coat closet (and a little spare capacity).
Most importantly, always maintain a smile and a positive attitude. Be spontaneous and open to the possibility that your impromptu party could be one of the very best nights in your entire life -- or at least a better than average one.