Create a Party Pantry for Frugal Entertaining

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Want to host friends and family without going broke? Build a Party Pantry so that you always have on hand the basic ingredients for fun drinks, appetizers, and desserts.

lemon meringue sundae in martini glass

You want to open your home to friends and family, but you also know that it can cost a pretty penny to extend hospitality. Much more than one thinks.

Grocery items just add up.

In fact, in the old days, it was typically the well-to-do who invited people over. No one else could afford to feed those outside their household!

Back in the day, savvy home cooks found ways around it. They knew that they didn’t have to throw a 6-course dinner party to entertain. Instead, they could entertain in creative ways that didn’t cost a fortune.

They could invite friends over for drinks before heading out for a concert.

They could host an late afternoon cocktail party before every one left for the game.

They could invite folks over for dessert after evening Bible study.

There are lots of ways that you can open your home to friends and family without going broke.

One way is to build a Party Pantry.

You already stock a pantry at home with ingredients and food items that you and your household consume on a regular basis. Why not step it up a notch and stock a few party items that you find on sale or clearance?

By keeping your pantry stocked with easy appetizers, desserts, and beverages, you’ll be prepared for drop-in guests and spontaneous family celebrations.

Not only will you be prepared, but planning for spontaneous entertaining can also save you more money than shopping for a big pre-planned party.

Consider these scenarios:

You find sparkling apple cider at Costco for $1.25/bottle. Normally this beverage costs up to $3/bottle, so you know this is a fantastic deal.

Buy a couple bottles (2 for 1!) and stash them in the cupboard for another time. The beverage is shelf stable, so you don’t need to worry about it going bad.

You’re trolling the clearance aisle at Ralphs and you find name brand crackers for $.79/box. Normally these crackers go for about $3/box, but the store ordered too many and want to unload some quickly. The dates on the packages are for 2 years from now. Even though you don’t eat crackers on a regular basis, you do like to serve them to company.

Buy a few boxes and stash them in the pantry or freezer until the next time company drops in.

That premium sorbet you love is on a killer sale for $1.50 a carton. Normally it’s upwards of 4 bucks. You buy three for the same price as 1 on sale and stash them in the freezer. You’re all set for the next time you need a quick dessert to serve to guests.

Boom! You’ve got some fun party fixings without spending a fortune. Whether someone drops in unexpectedly or you plan to have friends over, you’ll be able to shop your kitchen and save a lot of money.

bottles of sparkling cider and water as well as cups and napkins

Create a Party Pantry

Stock up on affordable pantry staples that you can work into fun drinks, snacks, and desserts. Look for items on sale or clearance so that you don’t have to spend more when you want them.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

Beverages to keep on hand

Lay in a supply of the following:

  • bottled water, fizzy and not
  • hot cocoa mix
  • coffee
  • tea
  • sparkling, bottled or frozen juices
  • wine and spirits
  • better yet, create a Beverage Basket


Keep these items on hand as budget and space allows:

  • chips (potato, tortilla, pita)
  • canned tomatoes for Super Easy Salsa
  • crackers (wheat, rice, whole grain, water)
  • cream cheese, plain yogurt, or sour cream for making dips
  • veggies for dipping
  • Snack Tray ingredients


Easy and quick dessert fixings:

What quick fix do you keep on hand for special occasions?

Ease your holiday stress!

Speaking of beautiful meals…. Want to make the holiday season a little brighter this year?
Ease your seasonal stress by planning in advance how you will handle your holiday kitchen.

Take the Celebrate Simply workshop and get ready to jingle all the way.

Learn more here.

Create a Party Pantry for Frugal Entertaining | Good Cheap Eats

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. This is a great little list! I tend to keep all of these things on hand.

    I also alwayyyyys make sure I have ingredients for 7 layer dip, matzo ball soup, and a variety of trail mix and nuts.


  2. Serah says

    This is such a great idea. I’m a huge planner/scheduler, Type-A person, so entertaining spontaneously is very hard for me! But I’m really trying to get better about it and hopefully stocking a “party pantry” will make that easier.

  3. Barb@My Daily Round says

    This is a great list. I kept it in mind when I was food shopping this morning. Genuardi’s had soda and soda water on sale for $.47/2 liter bottle. I picked up a bunch for the family holiday party we’re hosting next weekend. I also picked up cream cheese to try the dip. I already had yogurt and frozen spinach.

    Another good dip is the artichoke one. I try to keep a few cans of artichoke hearts on hand for making that.

    I’m also trying to keep a few quick breads in the freezer like zucchini and pumpkin bread. They’re always good as an appetizer or if someone stops by unexpectedly.

    Your list reminded me that I need to pull together an entertaining notebook. I’ve been keeping notes on my entertaining menus in a spiral notebook, but I’d like to be a bit more organized now that I’m doing a Coffee Hour for my Shaklee business monthly.

  4. MrsD05 says

    I love Pellegrino. It reminds me of Italy. I get car sick and we took a car trip in Italy so I drank approximately 1,000 gallons of Pellegrino in 12 days.

    I love Perrier because it reminds me of the trip I took to NYC with my dad for my 16th birthday. I had some with my dad in a frou frou longey (not a bar) type thing because it was cold in there and it was HOT outside.

  5. My party beverage pantry includes 7-up, marischino cherries & grenadine syrup. My kids love Shirley Temples and serving them in wine glasses with cherries on fancy toothpicks (umbrellas or swords) makes them extra special. In fact, adding cherries to any beverage makes them a party beverage in my kids’ minds. I keep a variety of tea and coffee (and flavored syrups) on hand as well. I also keep club soda and tonic water in the pantry — mix with fruit juice (grapefruit & tonic is a favorite!) or something stronger if you please.

    We always have crackers and corn chips in the pantry. I also keep cream cheese in the fridge. Using what’s on hand, I can make a variety of hot cream cheese dips (served with crackers) or serve salsa & chips (I froze some homemade salsa from our garden). There is often something freshly baked around here which is perfect for afternoon tea drop ins.

  6. Margaret says

    This is a really good idea. I was just thinking about holiday budgets, and how in the past I’ve spent a fortune on groceries before we have company over. Baking really tends to add up for me. I can’t believe how much butter we go through in November and December, so I’m going to keep an eye for sales in that aisle. I am not good about planning dinner party menus in advance, either. We live in a big city without some of these super sales that are more common in other areas; and we have a small apartment without room to store a lot; but still, no reason not to pick up well priced crackers, butter, cheese, ice cream in the next few weeks. No matter what we decide to serve, we will use them!

    My favorite store for a lot of these is Trader Joe’s. Sometimes a conventional grocery store will have lower sale prices, but not always. TJ’s is very dependable for me.

    This post also inspired me to think about our cut-out holiday cookies. I always spend a fortune on edible decorations the day before we bake them. Going to plan this a little better this year – probably will try to order some things on Black Friday!

    • Yes! And watch for holiday clearance. Usually those edible decorations are good for several years, so you can buy them 50% off after the holidays.

  7. Janet says

    My unexpected company is usually comprised of my teenage daughter’s friends. Can anyone else eat as much as a teenage boy? I try to keep a few dozen cookies in the freezer. A quick zap in the microwave and you have warm cookies. Serve them alongside a cold glass of milk and most teenagers are happy campers. I also try to keep bags of frozen fruit on hand. Add fruit, some lemon or lime juice and a little water to the blender and you have fruit slushies in just minutes. The other item I try to keep on hand that has not been mentioned yet are bags/tins of popcorn. You can often pick up the holiday tins for half price and they usually have at least 12 months left before the expiration date.

  8. Lara says

    There is no way that sorbet or crackers would last in my house. Kids and hubs would gobble them up! LOL!

  9. Angie says

    I like to keep several types of cheese slices on hand. Not only are they good for sandwiches, they make for a quick cheese and cracker tray too.

  10. april says

    This takes a little thinking ahead but crepes…
    Make a bunch and freeze
    when needed…defrost and fill with things like….

    sweetened cream cheese and fruit (peaches, strawberries, blue berries, ect) fill, roll, and top with drizzle of sauce of choice or whipped cream…

    lemon curd is good to…oh and for a special treat…orange curd filling with a drizzle of chocolate on top..yum

    curry chicken filling (many chicken options out there), top with some curry sauce and chutney

    I could go on and on… crepes are an easy thing to make and many filling options….

    oh and I also like to make different types of meat balls and freeze until needed

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