What do you mean the holidays are already here?

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朝食を楽しむ女性Well, actually they aren't quite yet. The holidays are the same every year. So why, oh why, do they “sneak up” on us? This year, head off holiday party panic with early planning. Your nerves, and your budget, will thank you!

Here's help to get started NOW:

1.Sit down andthink.It sounds overly simplistic, but taking the time to think through the date of any party, the theme, what you'll need, what you'll serve, who you'll invite… will get you off to the best start. Make a list of the various aspects, and even set deadline dates of when you want to have things ready. This will help prevent panicky, stressful preparations the week of the party.

2.Buy ahead.Watch for sales and you'll be ready without overspending the week of the party. Suggestions:

a. Paper goods (if you're the type that hates washing dishes after a party)
b. Freezable ingredients, such as cheeses, meats and juices
c. Pies, cakes and other desserts that are frozen (if you're not one to bake them yourself)
d. Cooking and baking ingredients, including flour, spices, sugar and oils
e. Bottled beverages
f. Shelf-stable ingredients, such as gelatin and bread crumbs
g. “Special little extras” (that pull your party together), such as table covers, platters, colored toothpicks, even “˜to go' containers to send extra food home with guests3.Plan reasonable food amounts.You don't want to run out of munchies, but you'll be kicking yourself if you have so many leftovers you could have cut back. Save money and effort by thinking smaller. If you're planning a buffet-style party, remember people like to take small tastings of numerous items. Around 7-9 different dishes/items is a good goal – including dessert. (For this application, something like veggies and dip would be considered one item.) Design your meal with offerings that compliment, and offerings that contrast, with one another. Not only is this a delicious and fun way to dine, you're more apt to have “something for everyone”.

4.Plan kid food.If children will be at your party, don't underestimate the power-to-please of simple “˜kid' foods. Most children (and even some adults) are much more excited by easy pb & j mini-sandwiches than fancy cucumber ones. So don't overextend your budget and frustrate yourself counting kids into the amounts for “fancy food”. Go cheaper and kid-happier. The point is that they enjoy the party and food. And they will.

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