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How to Plan, Shop for, and Host a Dinner Party in Three Days

Whether it’s for a last-minute work dinner or simply a spur-of-the-moment party, knowing how to throw a dinner party with short (short) notice is a great skill to master. Here’s what to do when you have three (or fewer!) days in which to plan a dinner party.

Confirm your guests

You don’t have much time, so be as straightforward as possible -- just call your guests to invite them or confirm their attendance. If you don’t hear from them by day two, assume they’re a no. You should always plan for a few extra guests, though, so if they change their minds or simply respond late, you won’t have to scramble.

Plan your menu

Go with a simple theme, preferably including dishes you’ve cooked before. Choose a basic cuisine like French or Italian so you won’t have to visit specialty grocery stores when you shop. Choose recipes that don’t take long to make -- The Nest has tons of under-30 minute recipes -- and that also include simple ingredients.

Go shopping

When you make your list, plan for a little extra of everything; whether it’s for a last-minute guest or a culinary mistake, it’s always good to have a little wiggle room. Shop the day before your party. This way, you should have a solid count on who’s coming, and it’ll leave you time to do night-before preparations. Try to visit only one grocery store when you shop. If your menu requires more stops, it might make sense to rethink it.

Start cooking

Do whatever preparations you can the night before your dinner party. This will leave time for you to handle whatever inevitable snags come up on the party day. The less actual cooking you have to do on party day, the better. If all you need to do is throw your dishes in the oven to warm them up and then add some finishing touches, you’re in great shape.

Last-minute touches

Here’s where you get your partner to chip in: Do you want polished silver? Fresh flowers for the table? Send him on errands or give him tasks so that he’s a contributing member of the party (and so you can get everything done on time!).

Also check out How to Always Have Something for Dinner.

-- Paula Kashtan

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