If you're hosting a party, it pays to have a food plan. Whether it’s a big night time bash or an intimate lunch, the best route to a happy group of guests is a full table and full tummies. We're not here to dole out the recipes, rather to give you a few party food ideas and planning suggestions. We'll help you create a hassle-free party food list so you can enjoy the fun for yourself. With guidance on easy canapés, hot and cold buffets, drinks for adults and kids’ party food ideas, this guide will help you to write the ultimate checklist for a successful bash.

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Before you invite your entire address book, it's a wise idea to think (realistically) about how many people you can accommodate. Are you hosting a sit-down dinner party to catch up with friends or throwing a summer cocktail party to celebrate the great outdoors? Browse through our home and furniture range to ensure you've got plenty of seating or pick up some extra plates

Whatever the occasion, thinking about the food you're going to offer your guests is important. If it's a dinner party, you can design a small menu based on your visitors’ preferences and cook it yourself. For bigger bashes, it's easier to have a large range of items to cater for a variety of different tastes. Whichever you choose, here are a few things you can do to make sure everything runs smoothly:

  • Do a bit of clearing out to make sure you have enough room in the fridge for all your delicacies.

  • Cook and prepare as much of the food as you can, and store it in stacked plastic boxes until its needed.

  • Chill all of your drinks in advance and transfer them to an icebox on the day.

Crystal tray

Easy canapés

If you're throwing a drinks party, people will still appreciate a little something to nibble on. If you're serving simple canapés, a good rule of thumb is to serve around six to eight per person. Try to choose a mixture of hot and cold options, as heating up endless plates will leave you missing out on all the fun. With light bites, presentation is key so find (or borrow) beautiful serving plates and spread them out. Mix and match varying colours and textures to make your offerings look irresistible.

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Simple teal coloured tray

Cold buffets

A cold buffet is a convenient way to provide sustenance for your guests as most of it can be prepared well in advance and stored in the fridge. Go for foods that can be eaten with a single fork, perfect for guests who are standing and holding a plate of food at the same time. One main dish surrounded by extras is a tried and tested buffet formula – a large salmon or roasted ham as a centrepiece works well with lots of salads, bread and dips. The same rule applies to desserts, so go for easy-to-eat fruit salads or tarts.

Black casserole dish with lid

Hot buffets

It doesn't take much more work to prepare a hot buffet instead of a cold one, and the extra effort will make you a very popular host during the chilly winter months. Again, follow the rule of one plate, one fork. One-pot dishes like winter stews or curries served with a large bowl of rice are excellent – guests can help themselves to as much or as little as they'd like. These types of dishes also work well as they can be prepared in advance and left to simmer while you pour the drinks for guests as they arrive.

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When it comes to drinks, it's best to keep it simple. Rather than making individual cocktails, make big batches in large pitchers or jugs. Stock up on two wines: one red and one white. Open up a few bottles of the red to let it breathe before the party starts, and make sure the white is super chilled. The same goes for champagne, prosecco, beers and soft drinks. Get them all in a fridge the day before to make them as refreshing as possible.

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London skyline outline on white plate

If you're diving into the world of kids’ parties, good luck! Just remember that hungry kids can get grumpy and tired, so you need to keep their energy levels up. A mixture of healthy carrot and cucumber sticks and fruit slices alongside crisps, cakes and juice drinks will go down a treat – just make sure that everything on offer is fun and bite sized. If you're making sandwiches, keep the fillings basic. Ham and grated cheese is a classic, or you could use jam for those with a sweet tooth (all of the children, then). Try using a pastry cutter to make them into interesting shapes, and keep plenty of small bottles of water close by.

If there will be parents attending too, it might be worth offering more adult-oriented snacks (think fancy crisps and dips or small pork pies).

Top tip: you can put any leftovers in goodie bags for your guests to snack on during their journey home.

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