Pantry + Bar Staples for Effortless Last-Minute Entertaining
August 12, 2017
The key to effortless entertaining is keeping your kitchen stocked with crowd-pleasing items you can store (almost) forever and prepare in two steps or less.

So whether the group text lands on your place for happy hour, or your neighbor drops in to watch Game of Thrones, you'll look like a domestic goddess (with very little effort).
Tory Williams Photography

Your pantry and bar staples should look like this:

Water + Wine
"Welcome! What can I get you to drink? I have water and (insert drinks options here)."

Hostess tip: Always offer your guests water or non-alcoholic options. They might be parched and could be uncomfortable asking. They also might need to drive home later. As a responsible host, you'd never offer alcohol without also serving water.

You should keep at least two bottles of decent red and white wine at-the-ready. A good price point for house wine is $10-$20. Find bottles with cute labels and use them as décor on your bar cart until you need them!
Ruth Eileen Photography

Chips + Dip
Open salsa; pour in bowl. It doesn't get any easier.

Impromptu watch parties (and pretty much any group gathering) call for chips and dip. Store extra jars of salsa and bags of tortilla chips in your pantry for this occasion. Really, any jarred dip is a great option and keeps well if it's unopened.

Up your game with this quick and easy queso recipe: cut Velveeta cheese into cubes, add a few cans of Rotel tomatoes, and microwave until melted (stirring occasionally). This is its own food group in the South. Probably because both ingredients never go bad! Frozen dips like spinach and artichoke are also crowd favorites when you have a few extra minutes to heat in the oven. Store a few bags of pita chips for a warm dip alternative.
Anouschka Rokebrand

Cheese + Crackers
Charcuterie trays are synonymous with girls' nights. And wine.

They're super easy to pull together! Stock up on 3-5 cheese options to slice and pair with crackers at a moment's notice. Mild cheddar, gruyere, brie, pepper jack, and goat cheese are a great starting palate. Cheese keeps for several months, and odds are you'll use the cracker sleeve before it expires. Place on a fun cheese board for an easy, trendy app that's sure to please.

Another festive app: pour a jar of pepper jelly over a full block of cream cheese. Pair with crackers and a cheese knife. Guests will love it.

Sweet + Salty
Pour munchies into small bowls for short happy hours or pre-game parties.

When guests will be more focused on drinking than eating, you'll still want snacks on hand. Place little bowls of popcorn, M&M's, or snack mix strategically around the room where guests will be sitting or standing. You can't host a movie – or TV – night without popcorn! So when girlfriends come over to watch the Bachelor, put a few bowls of premade white cheddar popcorn and some wrapped chocolates on the coffee and side tables. The hardest part will be not eating all the bags of munchies you're storing in your pantry!
Tamara Gruner Photography

Frozen + Baked
Because what's better than warm cookies, straight out of the oven?

Let's say your dinner date goes extremely well. You could invite him up for a night cap. Or you could blow his mind with a night cap AND a delicious gourmet dessert! You know what they say about the way to a man's heart... Stash a few frozen desserts, like lemon bars or berry cheesecake squares (Trader Joe's has a lot of great options) in the freezer.

You need only to pull them out, plate them, and wait a few minutes for the treats to thaw (aka the amount of time it'll take him to open the wine). If you have a few minutes to spare before guests arrive, bake cookies. Keep a sleeve of cookie dough in your fridge or freezer – then all you need to do is break (or spoon), bake, and plate! Bonus: your kitchen will smell amazing!
Presentation (and long expiration dates) will take your last-minute plans from "scraped together" to "soiree." While stocking your kitchen, pick up a few serving pieces for moments like this. A pretty pitcher, water and wine glasses, a cheese board, and an assortment of bowls will be versatile and elevate whatever you put inside.

Style Me Pretty Contributor - Madeline Littrell is a corporate PR strategist and freelance writer. Born and raised in the South, she loves big hair, country music, and chicken fingers. Madeline lives in Dallas with her Sheltie puppy, Tennessee.