(BPT) - Everyone wants to be the 'hostess with the mostest' when throwing a last-minute party, but how can you wow your guests when you have little prep time and a budget that's more like 'least' than 'most?'
'With warm weather approaching, impromptu get-togethers can pop up at any time,' notes Amanda Gluck, lifestyle blogger at FashionableHostess.com. 'When you have to put together a party on the fly, there's no need to panic. You don't need weeks to plan or a big budget to create a fun, memorable get-together.'
Last-minute planning tips
Gluck offers some guidance for putting together a party on the fly:
* Start with a budget and stick to it. 'A budget will help prevent over-spending,' Gluck says. 'Plus, knowing you have to be creative on a limited budget can help inspire your creativity.'
* Buy in bulk. A store like BJ's Wholesale Club can be a great resource for last-minute parties because you can get everything you need in volume in one spot, including drinks, plates, food and decor.
* Building your party around items you already have can save time and money. For example, the box of butter crackers in your pantry can pair with a freshly purchased block of gourmet cheese to make a simple, satisfying appetizer. Grab a couple packages of Wellsley Farms Grilled White Chicken Ravioli from your freezer, top with jumbo shrimp from BJ's frozen section and you have the foundation for a quick Italian-themed feast.
* Choose a theme for your get-together. For example, 'Italian feast' or 'evening at the beach.' Having a theme can help you focus on what you need to buy and make, from food and beverages to décor.
* Bypass cooking whenever possible. No-cook appetizers are easy time-savers that taste great. Cheese platters or brie topped with honey and sliced almonds save time on dinner party prep. You can also find ready-made appetizers in BJ's frozen section. 'BJ's Wellsley Farms brand offers great taste and quality at a smart, affordable price,' Gluck says.
* Buying a floral arrangement to grace your table can get pricey, and who has time to create something complex. Go for simple and elegant - buy roses in bulk, trim and place them in your own vases for quick, clean arrangements.
* Get creative with presentations. 'Adding a different size or shape serving plate to your table can change the whole look,' Gluck says. If you're still using the same old serving ware, pick up a Berkley Jenson oblong serving tray set or a six-piece lazy Susan at BJ's to give your table a pop of fresh style. Add decorative stirrers to dress up cocktails or lemonade. Use brightly colored paper placemats on a white tablecloth to create a presentation that blends elegance with fun.
Finally, before you hit the wholesale store, be sure to make a detailed list of everything you need. Divide the list by category (for example paper plates, cups and napkins) to help ensure you don't miss anything and you can move through the store quickly.