It’s Friday at 4:45 pm. The clock is nearing 5 pm. You are super excited for sweat pants and Shark Tank, maybe Chinese takeout. Then your hubby texts to say he invited that couple over from work and they will be there at 6:30 pm. Entertaining? Awesome. You think I guess I will wear pants and set the DVR. And now the panic sets in, the house is a disaster, there are no groceries, and you have zero time to plan. So what do you do??
I love entertaining so I always say yes. Always. My hubby doesn’t like to ask questions and I never know if people are expecting a full spread, appetizers, nothing, or a 5-course meal. So I usually over-prepared. I seriously love entertaining and to me, food and beverage is the most important thing. After a long week or a long day at work, people want a good meal and a cool drink. With a couple of quick last minute go-to options and a couple of simple tricks, I promise you won’t lose your mind and may enjoy yourself next time you are asked to last-minute host. I promise anyone can enjoy entertaining with just a few quick tips.
With limited time to begin now is not the time to be fancy. A quick menu is ideal, nothing that requires a ton of prep or cook time. Obviously. Here is my favorite option for a fast, no-fuss dinner.
- Ground beef can be defrosted quickly in the microwave. Most people have seasonings on hand. Total cook time is 10-15 minutes after a 6 minute per pound defrost, roughly. While in the microwave you can grate cheese, wash and chop lettuce, cut onion. You get the idea. Plus all you need to do for sides is chips and salsa or guacamole.
- If you get a call or text for what to bring, take them up on the offer. It makes people feel good to help and it eliminates a little extra cost and works for you. Win, win.
If you are getting together after 7 pm I wouldn’t suggest a full meal but always plan for snacks. We live in Atlanta and not just here, but everywhere lately it seems you have people with special dietary needs. We have Vegetarian friends, Vegan friends, Gluten Free friends. I’m well versed in tons of options but if you aren’t here are a few secrets for appetizer options.
- Chips and salsa or guacamole. I know I already said this but it’s that good. It’s so easy. Plus we buy the $3 giant tortilla chips bag from Costco so we almost always have chips on hand. If you have dietary needs you can grab corn chips from the store which is Gluten-free too! Plus is vegetarian, vegan, and just plain delightful. Kick it up a notch and buy a few kinds of salsa and guac. Then everyone can choose their favorite.
- Veggies and hummus. I find this is a huge hit for our healthier friends. They can enjoy an extra margarita and not worry about calories. Plus it’s also usually vegetarian, Vegan, and Gluten-free! See where I’m going here. One-stop options.
- Want something a little fancier? Wow, your guests with a perfectly prepped appetizer. How did you ask? Hit the frozen foods section at Trader Joes. They have so many good options and offer special dietary needs too. When you get home you don’t have to do anything but pre-heat the oven and pop them in.
Side note. I love dessert. So I always plan for something sweet. Cookies. Ice Cream. Strawberry Shortcake if the season allows. My step-mom always had dessert growing up. My hubby asks for it every night. Everyone can appreciate a little sweet treat. Think ahead and delight your guests.
- Don’t try to make everything from scratch. I struggle with this too but just buy something quick and easy. Thank me later 😉
Okay, so the food is taken care of. If you are alcohol drinkers you may already have a beer, wine, or liquor at home. I don’t usually plan a whole bunch of non-alcoholic drinks unless we have known non-drinkers or a bunch of kids. We drink water and milk primarily so that’s about all I have to offer. Sometimes we have orange juice. I like mimosas, so win for you if you drink OJ without the champagne and find yourself at my house.
- Pick up a cheap bottle of wine, white is usually a safe bet. I would choose a $15-20 bottle depending on your budget. Go for a Pinot Gris or Riesling. I think Riesling is too sweet but use your judgment based on what you and your guests like.
- If you do have non-drinkers coming or kids, grab a fruit punch or lemonade mix. Something quick and easy.
Now the house. Ugh. Last-minute guests make me have a mini heart attack as I am always worried my house isn’t clean enough. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we live in filth. But I am not an obsessive cleaner. I can’t state this seriously enough, don’t worry about it! I guarantee you no one is coming over to criticize your house cleaning and likely won’t notice the extra dust you can’t stop thinking about. Unless it’s your mother, in which case all bets are off. So how do you fake a quick clean house?
- Do a quick clutter clean. Put the old mail on your desk in the office, pick up shoes, and household items out of place. Cheat: Stash stuff. No one will be looking in your closets and drawers. Just don’t forget about it later.
- Double-check the guest bathroom. Swish the toilet clean. Take out the trash quickly. Wipe down the counter and mirror. Close the shower curtain.
- Close the doors to the rooms you don’t have time to clean and don’t want people to see.
- These are the only things that you need to worry about. Don’t stress yourself out trying to do a deep clean before guests come over. They won’t notice.
Finally, my last quick tip. And one of the most important. Don’t worry about décor or centerpieces. If you plan to stop on the way home buy a quick $5 bouquet (or cheaper at Trader Joes), plop them in a vase. Done. You will be surprised how nice it looks and it’s so easy. Done and done.
There you have it. Don’t get stressed! Ask for help and enjoy yourself. Don’t work so hard you miss the moment. Happy entertaining!