Dinner Party Planner

I’m currently getting ready to throw the biggest party (quantity of food wise) I have ever thrown – for the Super Bowl! Although this party is exceptional, for most of the dinners I throw I usually follow this timing. For me it’s necessary, both to keep me sane (I’m admittedly a list maker) and to ensure that everything goes off without a noticeable hitch.

2 Weeks in Advance:

I know it seems like over-kill to start planning this far out, especially considering I – like many of you – don’t even send out invites this far in advance! The reason why it’s important to start ideating around what type of dinner you plan on serving is so you can purchase any necessary cooking tools or serving pieces you may need – which ultimately gives you more options when choosing your menu.

Those of us who are lucky enough to live in the big city, do have pretty much everything available only a short subway ride away. But let me tell you from personal experience, a last minute trip to Bed Bath & Beyond is the most stressful experience possible!

I also stubbornly believe that I’ll be able to find a better deal on almost everything online; or at least better selection. A great example of this is for disposable plates/bowls/utensils/tablecloths – Smarty Had a Party is a great site that I believe can not be matched offline. Of course this all only applies if you order far enough in advance so that you don’t need to upgrade your shipping – hence the 2 weeks. I think there is no excuse to pay for rush shipping – you’re paying for your own bad planning!

1 Week in Advance:

At one week out the party should just be starting to come together. You’re finalizing the headcount and deciding on the specifics of the menu. As I develop my menu I also build my shopping list at the same time. Although Fresh Direct makes the food-buying process so much easier – realistically you most likely wont get everything delivered by them. The deciding factor could be price, or because you really like a certain brand of crackers, or that you want to get your piece of fish day of – I find that nearly every party requires multiple sources of groceries. These multiple trips is why I give myself 1 week of planning. You can take your time deciding exactly what your shopping list will be, but you should start to think about which day Fresh Direct should come and when you will make the extra trips. At very least separating your “shopping days” from your prep and cooking time will make the whole event feel less overwhelming!

3 Days in Advance:

3 days out I really like to have my menu solidified. Unfortunately because Fresh Direct allows me to “edit my order” up until 11PM the day before my delivery I push the envelope more often than I would like to admit!

Despite Fresh Direct’s leniency, at 3 days you should start to move your thinking from high-level to executional – how you are actually going to get this meal on the table! This includes deciding what you can prep (or fully make) in advance, what dishes you will use to serve, eat off of or use for prep/cooking (and make sure they are all clean) and what chores need to be done before company arrives. By planning out all that needs to be done you can make sure you are not leaving too much for the day of. Plus, I find that knowing what I need to do reduces my stress considerably!

1 Day in Advance:

Unless it is an exceptionally smart menu, at 1 day in advance you will most likely already be in a flurry of prep and done with all things “planning”. The last step for me is determining the oven schedule, as well as any other timing for cooking the actual dinner. That said, if you didn’t think about oven logistics when determining your menu (assuming you only have 1 oven)  you could really be up a creek!

The bottom line is that I am clearly an over-planner. BUT I really do believe that planning makes the process more fun and less stressful. With all of this said, the most important part of making plans is understanding that they may change. I have never had any party go exactly as planned – and I don’t expect one to ever go that way. Be ready to roll with the punches and take confidence from knowing that by doing all the planning you know what you are doing and are in control!

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