Having friends over for dinner should be something we look forward to, but too often, the pre-party reality feels more like a panic attack. The next time you’re feeling stressed or stretched for time, we give you permission to cut yourself a break by using store-bought ingredients. We promise no one will ever notice.
Add these five foods to your shopping cart to make every party easier
We know it and you know it: your guests are here for your company, not just your cooking. There is no shame in your supermarket shortcut game.
Turn off the oven, set down the canning jars, and put away your food processor. For busy people (read: every person ever), there is no rational reason to DIY an antipasti bar.
Take a stroll around your grocery store’s salad bar area and look for flavorful goodies like marinated artichokes and mushrooms, olives, and mozzarella balls. You'll often find these sold in bulk, so you can purchase exactly what you need, rather than buying big jars. Pop these tasty morsels in a bowl (toothpicks on the side) or on skewers for a simple appetizer in lieu of elaborate hors d'oeuvres. Add some cheese, sliced cured meats, purchased pesto or garlic spread and bread or crackers and you can basically call it dinner.
2. Rotisserie chicken
Those roasted chickens at the supermarket that smell so good? They often cost less than raw chicken, and require practically zero effort on your part. Whether the chicken plays a starring role as the main course in dishes such as tacos or pot pie, or more of a supporting role in a casual snack like buffalo chicken dip, the mighty rotisserie chicken is the ultimate dinner party hack. Keep the leftovers in the fridge for soup or salads.
3. Pre-packaged greens
In an ideal world, we’d be growing our own leafy greens — but if convenience is what you’re after, there’s no easier shortcut than buying a pre-washed bag or box of salad. You can still make the salad a show-stopper by skipping the store-bought dressings, and making a simple vinaigrette out of a few pantry staples: olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
4. Pre-cut produce
Forget struggling to slice and dice a butternut squash or pineapple. Save time and hassle by picking up pre-cut fruits and vegetables. And don’t feel bad — you’re not the only one outsourcing this kitchen task. More and more grocery stores are offering “we chop while you shop” produce butchering services because of the demand for fresh-cut convenience. Once you get those babies home and arranged on a tray with a side of homemade dip, nobody will be the wiser about who chopped what.
5. Frozen Pastry
Whether it’s for sweet or savory dishes, ready-made pastry is the (savvy cheater's) secret to success. Quiche, beef Wellington, pot pies, dessert pies, tarts, turnovers — the options are endless for puff and shortcrust pastries. Stock up on frozen pastry sheets and shells so you can spend your time on the fun part: making memorable fillings.