Quick Entertaining Ideas: Are You Party Ready?

With the warm weather season upon us, do you have the necessary stuff to throw an outdoor party or casual get together for a small group in 30 minutes?

Would you have to run to the grocery store? Would you be stressed?

If you answered… no, yes, and yes to these questions – then you need some quick entertaining ideas. It is time you set up a party basket or cabinet.  It is the answer to stress-free impromptu entertaining.

quick entertaining ideas

I learned about this magical basket or cabinet from a southern friend of mine who had to impromptu entertain frequently because of her husband’s job.  Over the years I picked up a few other tips from observing my friends and family entertain effortlessly, but in style. I have included them here.

Quick Entertaining Ideas

Once you have a party basket set up you will be stress free when your husband calls you from the 18th hole and tells you he is bringing the guys over to grill some steaks and have a few beers – Oh, and is it ok if they all call their wives and have them come over too?

If it is just for some munchies and drinks and no one will be staying for dinner then you can answer your husband with – “Great see ya in 30 minutes.”

If they have a meal in mind, as in… steaks or hot dogs, then I say, “Great – on your way home pick up some steaks/hot dogs and rolls along with some corn on the cob. See ya in 30 minutes. Love ya”.

If the wives are coming – you know they will probably call you to ask it they can bring anything. This is not the time to be polite and say no, tell them exactly what you need. Impromptu entertaining is also when your college roommate calls you from the road and tells you she and her family are in the area and are going to stop by.

Once you know what is coming your way you can spring into action instead of panic mode because all you have to do is reach into your party basket/cabinet and pull out all the makings for one great get together in less than 30 minutes.

The nice thing about outdoor entertaining is – it is outside – your house doesn’t have to be spotless. Just a quick swish of the toilet brush and a quick “pick up and stash” and your house is clean enough.

Spray some of your favorite fragrance in the air and you are good to go. If it is an evening get together, dim the lights in your house and set up some candles. Candlelight hides a multitude of sins so you don’t have to worry about cleaning at all.  I have made many outdoor lighting projects that you can make in advance so they are ready to go.  The Tuna Can Lantern is one of my most popular projects.

What I Stock In My Summer Party Basket

To make an impromptu summer soiree special or any party for that matter more enjoyable – planning ahead will make all the difference.  You have time to think about how you would like to entertain, what music, food, dishes, etc. you would like to use.  Look in your inspiration files and make it happen. I like using wicker baskets and white items – it keeps everything looking summery, but not theme oriented.

My Party Checklist: I have a laminated copy so I know I won’t forget anything.

Quick Entertaining Ideas Party-Checklist

Download the check list  – here.

Citronella Candles – As soon as you know people are coming over, place the candles around the perimeter of your patio or outdoor space before your guests arrive so the scent starts to fill the air and the bugs stay away.


Tea Lights or Pillar Candles in cleaned out pickle jars. Simple, yet effective mood lighting. I like the big tea lights they sell at IKEA to place inside the jars. When the wax is gone you just remove the metal tin.

Quick entertaining ideas for outdoor parties

Inexpensive Utensils from Walmart. Metal utensils look nicer than plastic and if one piece gets accidentally thrown out it is no big deal. You can reuse them over and over again making it a “good for the environment” choice. Plus, you will never have your guests ask “Do you save the plastic or should I throw it out?”

Quick Entertaining ideas for parties

Colorful Paper Napkins – both dinner and cocktail size and a pretty rock to place on top so they don’t blow away.

Quick entertaining ideas Rock-to-hold-napkin-down

Tablecloth – Optional if your outdoor table isn’t pretty then have a tablecloth in your basket, otherwise it is not needed and is just something you have to clean afterwards.

Vase – If you have flowers growing in your garden – great –cut a few stems and place them in a vase on your table. If no flowers to cut – don’t worry – no one will really notice as they came to talk, mingle, or eat – not to marvel at a centerpiece. 

Sturdy Paper Plates like Chinet brand or Styrofoam. They look nice and won’t flop over when you place a steak or a hot dog on them. I like the Chinet brand better as some people get the chills when you touch a utensil to the Styrofoam ones when they are eating. Yes, I know for a fact that this is true.

Big Wicker Basket – I mean big, like the kind you see tall plants placed in that fill the corner of rooms in decorating magazines. You can find them at places like HomeGoods.

Line it with a 30 gallon trash can liner for a stylish trash can. If you can round up 2 then have one for trash and another for recycling. Make signs on your computer that say – Trash and Recycling.  I have a few free printable labels for you to download at the end of this post.

Quick entertaining Ideas Unlined-Big-Wicker-Baskets-
Quick entertaining Ideas Lined-Big-Wicker-Baskets-

Cooler and Labels for a cooler that say – Beer, Wine, Water, Soda. I make them up on my computer. When you have them already made in a stylish font it will only take minutes to attach whichever ones you need to the top of the cooler or coolers – making your 30 minute set up look like it took hours.

Quick entertaining ideas for drinks in a cooler
Party-Trash-Can-and recycle can Labels
Party Cooler Labels
Party Cooler Labels
Party Cooler Labels

Tap the links below to download the free printables:


Make a Party Playlist on your iTunes or make a party CD and have the CD player/iPod or phone with bluetooth speakers readily accessible so that it can be placed outside. I like a mix of music from Frank Sinatra to Lady Gaga and lots in between so everybody hears something they like and it will make them feel good – enjoying the party even more.

Quick entertaining ideas Music

A Pretty Tray for condiments. No need to pour each condiment into little bowls that you only have to clean up later. When the bottles are all grouped together on a pretty tray they look nicer and not an afterthought.

Quick entertaining ideas Condiments-on-tray

Frozen Hor d’oeuvres and food – Keep a few frozen appetizers and side dishes in your freezer that you can throw in the oven until the guys or your friends get home to grill the steaks. Costco and Sam’s Club are great for finding impromptu party food at a good price.

Hanover brand makes a delicious veggie pasta mix with black beans that goes great with steak and corn on the cob. I have big white serving bowls and platters in my kitchen cabinet that I use to serve the food so it looks like I cooked it from scratch.

Munchies – Have some snack food in your pantry that won’t go bad and that can simply be poured into a pretty bowl or basket. Make sure your kids do not to touch them. These are my go to staples:  a can of mixed nuts, tortilla chips, salsa.

Quick entertaining ideas Munchies

I place them in napkin or paper doily lined baskets. You can find paper doilies at the dollar store. I put the salsa in white ramekins.

Quick entertaining ideas Lined-Basket-for-party-food

Misc. Items – Outdoor extension cord to plug in music source, extra white candles, and matches so if one burns out you have back-up.

Quick entertaining ideas Extra-Candles

Add anything you like to your party basket that makes a party a party to you.

The next time your husband or friend calls and says they are 30 minutes away, you’ll be confident to know that you will be party ready.

Quick entertaining ideas Party-Ready

Do You Have Teenagers Living in Your House?

When your teenager asks if they can have their friends over to roast marshmallows and hang out, having your party basket ready lets you easily tell them YES.

Deciding what food to serve is as easy as opening your refrigerator door and pouring every leftover into a serving bowl and placing them on the table. Leftover Rice a Roni looks like gourmet food to them.

Be prepared to hear compliments like – “Wow, Mrs. (your last name here), you didn’t have to go to all this trouble for us.” or  “We love coming here.” or “My mom would never do all this.” 

You can just smile and say “thanks” never letting them know the secret of a party basket.

How do you prepare for impromptu entertaining?  Do you just wing it, say no when the call comes, or do you have an action plan, too?

Want more quick entertaining ideas – all festive and fun?

Check out these posts:

Planned or last minute...use these ideas and printable checklist to have a party set up in your home in 30 minutes! From food to music, it is all covered.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. lorraine Ortiz says:

    You’re the best. Just sayin. I’m always last minute gal and then have some regrets ( not all).

  2. Your creativity, outstanding tips and ideas have me Getty with joy and excitement. I will be doing all of this in June. My son is a senior in high school, and I pray that he will be able to have at least a few of his friends over. If, not, (due to the coronavirus), then it will be just his dad and I. I can hear him now saying, “ Oh goodie!”

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Ivory – It must be so hard being in high school during the pandemic. I hope you can have a party for him with all his friends. Only time will tell as everything is still so uncertain.

  3. I know this post is a bit older – found it off pinterest – it’s GREAT! I see at the end of the post that you have a basket for cold beverages….did you line it with something? I really need to know that trick! I NEVER have people over b/c I live in a tiny condo, but I’m throwing my own 4-0 party and I’m really really nervous about all 30 people (including kids!) that are coming over!! Have to remind myself that it’s about friends/family!

  4. This is a great post! I love having people over and it’s usually always last minute. :) Thanks for all the great ideas!


  5. Just finding this post over a year later (thanks to Pinterest!) and love it! One tip I’d add to your printables is to have a set of labels for your coffee. I always have coffee available too and usually have them either in pump thermoses or candle-lighter carafes and label them ‘regular’ and ‘decaf’ and if it is winter, also a set of labels for ‘cocoa’ and ‘cider’.

  6. I hope you don’t mind, I’m pinning you on Pinterest.

  7. Inspire Me Heather says:

    Oh Diane – how fabulous! Your tips are just great and I linked this to my outdoor entertaining post today – come on by for a peek!

  8. Perfect ideas … makes me want to throw a party !! Thanks for sharing. Becca (your newest follower)

  9. great post! I love all your ideas and how sweet of you to include some free printables. : ) Would love to feature you on my blog.

  10. OMG !!!!
    This is such a good idea…. why haven’t I seen/thought this earlier? My house’s nickname is the “party house” and I was just thinking about adding trash cans… but didn’t think about the recycle bag. Thank you!!!!!

  11. renee@alifemorebeautiful says:

    Diane, I love your ideas, makes entertaining so much more enjoyable when your running around trying to pull everything together. This is my first time visiting your blog, I’ll definitely be back.

    I’m visiting from Centsational Girl’s Link Party.

  12. You have the BEST ideas. Always usable for real life. I appreciate it so much. Thank you. You should write a book!

  13. Katharine says:

    Great advice! I especially like the idea of using candles to disguise the dirt. I always put stuff in baskets too and use napkins. I agree about the Chinete. Just reading the word styrofoam made me think of that sound. lol

    Your post reminds me that I need to go to IKEA soon. I need white baskets, a desk, more organizing stuff, a knife magnetic strip and more.

  14. Stephanie says:

    Thanks for the idea. I keep lots of these items already, but scattered here & there. I already have the perfect basket to put it all in. So I will be making a party basket soon. BTW – my husband works for Mt. Olive Pickle Co. Thanks for the advertising!

    1. Hi Stephaine-

      You are so welcome. At first I didn’t understand about the Mt. Olive Pickle Co – then I did – the Pepperoncini on the tray. Good eye! Do you get a discount? :),

  15. This is GREAT, thanks so much, I have not had opportunity to entertain much, so when I do have people over I am a nervous wreck, this will help me to feel more in control and organized.
    Thanks! Cindy

  16. I have always had a good supply of paper goods, cups, napkins, etc. in a plastic container in the basement. You’ve given me so many great ideas to add to that. I really enjoy your blog!

  17. I find it difficult to be organized, I could be very scattered, especially when I am having company. These are great tips to follow to help with easing the pressure. Thanks for all the ideas!


  18. abeachcottage says:

    Thanks for all the great tips, it’s always a good idea to be prepared :) Thanks for adding your link to Beach Cottage Good Life Wednesdays.

  19. We tend to host a lot of parties at our house and I’m always scrambling to find things. Can’t tell you how many silverware sets we’re missing pieces to, so this idea to buy a cheap set at Walmart is a great idea!! One question though—where do you store the basket when it’s not in use to keep everything nice and clean? Even dust creeps in the cracks in the cleanest of homes…

    1. Hi Betsy-

      I have a large pantry closet and it all goes in there. I devote one side of a shelf to my party baskets. I cover the baskets with plastic bags when not in use – the kind from the grocery store. I just place the bag upside down over the top of the baskets. I keep the 2 big trash can baskets in my garage.

      1. Thanks, Diane! That gives me some great ideas—-our parties tend to be year-round: birthdays, holidays, and just anytime. GREAT ideas!! Thank you SO much!

    2. YES- buying cheap silverware was the tip that I loved the most too! Well, I loved everything, but this was really really good!

  20. I love the idea of a party basket! What a great post, thank you so much!!!

  21. Marie @ Sally Lee by the Sea says:

    These tips are fabulous – I love using baskets. By having everything ready it makes it so much easier.

    Thank you for visiting our blog & leaving such a nice comment. :O)

    Love your “style” and will be back!!


  22. Carol-Anne (Use The Good Dishes!) says:

    I swear….you ALWAYS have the best ideas!

    1. Hi Carol-

      Thanks. Funny thing happened when I was setting up the contents of the baskets to take photos for this post. My daughter had come home after being gone all morning and and went searching for me. She found me outside and saw some of the items I had placed around and asked “Are we having a party?” I had to laugh. No sorry, no party just a photo shoot for the blog. She was a bit dissapointed.

  23. Bonnie@Creative Decorating says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I don’t have many impromptu gatherings but I would like to start. I am getting ready for a HUGE (okay, just 50 people) party for my son’s graduation and my husband’s 50th birthday party. These are great ideas for me and I am printing those labels now!

    1. Hi Bonnie-
      50 people is a lot of people. Congrats to your son and Happy B-Day to your hubs. The big 5-0! Fun. I use some of the items in my basket even when I enterain more formally, too. The food is the biggest difference and I use better candle holders etc. I hope you have one great party!

  24. Great a ideas! Lot of fun!

  25. Ashlyn@pinecone says:

    Holy smokes….I am so unprepared. I would be scrambling all around looking for things. Great ideas…love it!!

  26. Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions says:

    Great idea, Diane! I do tend to keep a lot of the paper goods on hand anyway, but not together in one place. I think I may have to just see what kind of large baskets I have around to hold everything. I love your outdoor serving area; it looks perfect for laying everything out and in reach.

  27. Sallie @ Texas Cottage says:

    What great ideas! I had a party basket years ago, but kind of forgot about it. Time to get it out and restock it. Thanks for the tips.

  28. aninchofgray says:

    What an incrdible post! I thought I was doing pretty well w/ my party basket, but you take it to a whole new level! What a gracious hostess you are!