How I Plan a Party

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Putting together a spread like this doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes a lot of time and planning.  If you are like me it takes a lot of detailed planning.  This past Christmas was the first one I celebrated in my new home.  I decided to have an open house for friends and family and wanted to have some food for them to enjoy while hanging out.  Deciding to do something like this was just the first step.  So what all did I do to get to this point?  

I started planning about 2 months in advance.  I started making a guest list to get an idea of how many people could possibly be there.  I didn’t really set a budget because I was only going to be doing food and drinks, not special decorating or entertainment.  I looked through my recipes and jotted down different ones that looked good to me.  I made lists of other items I would need, like plates and cups.  I had one notebook in which I kept all this information.  I love making lists as they help me to make sure I have thought of everything.

About 2 weeks before the party I really buckled down and got things planned out.  I finalized the menu; I wrote down every item I was going to have, both food and drinks.  If the recipe was in a book I wrote down which one and the page number where I could find it.  After I had the menu set I opened up an Excel spreadsheet.  I went through each recipe and put the ingredients and measurements into the spreadsheet.  Column A was the ingredient and Column B was the measurement.  I did this for all my recipes and even included the other items like cheese and veggies.  Every food item I needed for the party was listed in that spreadsheet.  After it was filled out, I sorted the whole thing alphabetically.  I was then able to scroll through and add up how much I needed of each item.  For example, maybe 5 of my recipes called for flour, totaling 8 1/2 cups.  In Column C I would make note of the total I needed for each ingredient.  Next step, I brought my laptop into the kitchen and started going through my cabinets to see what I had on hand.  Any item that I needed to buy I would highlight in Column C.  If I had some in my pantry, but not enough, I would adjust the total amount needed so that I wasn’t overbuying anything.  After all of that I had my shopping list ready to head to the store (after it was in aisle order of course!)

Since I had some produce on my menu I didn’t buy everything at once.  I made a shopping trip later in the week to buy the remaining items.  In order to make sure I could have all my recipes made on time I came up with a schedule.  I wanted everything to be as fresh as possible, so I did all my baking and prepping within one week.  Every night when I got home from work I had 2-3 recipes to get through.  I started with the items like almond bark dipped pretzels and crackers and peppermint bark because those items stay good for the longest amount of time.  The last couple days I did the brownies and cookies and I ended with the produce, meat, and cheese.  Something I made a note of for next time – verify if any items need to go in the fridge for several hours to set.  I didn’t account for that, but luckily was able to move on to another recipe while the first was in the fridge.

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While things were baking, cooling, or setting, I decided to asses my platter situation.  I wrote down a description for each platter and bowl I had.  Then I looked at my menu and started deciding which platter each item would go on the night of the party.  If the item would need a spoon or spatula to pick it up I made a note of that as well.  This level of detail may seem like a bit much to some people, but it made setting up so much easier and didn’t leave me short of something on the night of the party.

After all the prepping my fridge looked like this:

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All my planning proved to be very helpful.  The day of the party I was able to pull everything out and get it set up with great ease.  Even the way I set out the food had a schedule.  I put out the cookies first, and then moved towards the items that had to stay refrigerated the longest.

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Hungry yet?  Curious what all I made?  Here is my menu: Hot chocolate with marshmallows, various 2-liters of soda, bottled water, sherbet punch, wine, holiday truffles, chocolate mint fudge, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, celery, tomatoes, veggie dip, peanut butter brownie cups, cookie dough truffles, chocolate and vanilla peppermint bark, bread with cream cheese and carrots, peppermint meltaway cookies, peanut butter clusters, crackers, summer sausage, cheese, chocolate mint dream cookies, almond cheesecake bars, brownie mallow bars, almond bark pretzels, chocolate covered peanut butter cookies, shrimp with cocktail sauce, peanut butter blossoms, and little smokies.  Whew!!!  I did also fill some crystal glasses with various Christmas candies.

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