What to Keep Stocked for Quick & Easy Parties!

What to keep stocked for quick & easy parties! www.abeautifulmess.comAs sad as it is to admit, some of the best parties that have happened in out house have been unplanned. I love the planning aspect and can spend a whole lazy evening on Pinterest looking at photos of novelty appetizers and fun cocktail recipes. I LOVE planning. 

With that said, most of the time our parties are impromptu! We love inviting people over, and it’s a joke that we have guests staying at our house every other weekend (a joke that is sometimes true!).

After a particularly stressful quickie party a year ago (I’m talking thirty minutes to prepare a hang out for ten people starting with nothing), I learned to keep a few things on hand. A “just in case” stash if you will. 

Party foods you can keep on hand: 

Chocolate1. Fancy Chocolates. We love Askinosie (especially the ABM bar that we helped create!) and Vosges (especially the coconut ash & banana and bacon bars). I haven’t tried Compartes, but I want to just based on the packaging! 

2. S’mores makings. Do you have a fireplace or fire pit where you can make s’mores? These ingredients are easy to keep on hand, and I love that this treat doubles as a fun activity for groups! 

3. Quick pasta. It’s sometimes hard to gauge how much food to serve at a party, or what guests will be interested in eating. Quick pastas are a great backup plan. My other go-to (for Autumn parties) is chili because I can keep all the ingredients I need for a veggie chili in my cupboard. At one party I made a GIANT pot and the whole thing was gone in an hour.

4. Special Ice Cream. My all-time favorite ice cream is Jeni’s Brown Butter Almond Brittle, but I also love picking out a bunch of Ben & Jerry’s flavors for a party. 
*Bonus points if you keep chocolate syrup, maraschino cherries and sprinkles on hand. 

5. Nuts. Jeremy and I always keep lots of nuts in our house since it’s one of our favorite snacks, and I think they’re a great component for a quick, but beautiful, cheese tray. 

6. Fancy Crackers. We have a local wine shop where we love to shop for all things party related. One of my favorite things to buy a big variety of is fancy crackers. Since they come in all shapes, sizes and flavors, it’s fun to get a variety, and they make a cheese plate look more legit. 

7. Cookies. There is much debate about tube cookies, but Emma and I both agree that they CAN be delicious. Tube cookies are a good back up plan too. One night we had friends over to watch The Bachelor, and I did fancy popcorn with tube cookies. It was perfect (I like chocolate chip, Emma likes the slice-and-bake with the pictures inside). I’m also a fan of Milano cookies for a quick, but pretty treat! 

8. Chocolate Fondue Fixins. Raise your hand if you hate fondue? (I see no hands raised.) Fondue is a great party food! Keeping the ingredients for a quick chocolate fondue is a great idea. I typically like it with fresh fruits, but you can also serve it with pretzels, marshmallows or little cake bites. 

9. Fancy Popcorn. OK, popcorn is one of my top 5 favorite foods. I know it’s weird, but I love it so much that I can’t enjoy the movie theater without it, and I am very bitter that a popcorn shop opened in our mall (too much temptation). I like to cook it with oil in a pot on the stovetop (old school just like my grandpa), and for parties my father-in-law gifted us a GIANT popcorn machine (think high school basketball game size) for Christmas one year! My favorite ways to “fancy up” popcorn (that you can keep in stock) are adding parmesan cheese and pepper, tossing it in truffle oil, or adding cinnamon and sugar. 

10. Olives. Buy olives in sealed jars and packages that you can keep for a while before opening. These make great treats all on their own, or you can mix them into a cheese spread. My husband is a HUGE olive lover, so an olive plate is always sure to please in our home. 

Party drinks you can keep on hand: 

Champagne, please? www.abeautifulmess.comOK, we’re moving along to drinks and mixers. These are things that you can stock now and use for impromptu parties or date nights at home. Some of these ingredients are random, so I’ll try to list off how I would use each one in multiple ways! 

1. Champagne and frozen fruit. For life’s little celebrations! My favorite fruit to add to champagne is frozen raspberries, but any berries will do. I also love it with cranberry juice. During the holidays every year I make a few trays of champagne ice cubes and serve them with juice. It’s really good (basically turns into a slushy!). 

2. Fun beer. Even if you’re not a beer drinker (which my husband and I usually are not), it’s good to keep a small stash for parties because there are a lot of people who only or mostly want to drink beer. Bonus points if you go to a special shop (most wine and liquor shops) and grab a random variety of beers that are either locally made or made around the world. That makes you look cool even if you know nothing about beer! 

3. Fruit juices (buy single serve bottles or cans). It’s helpful to have a variety of juices on hand, and if you buy single serve bottles or cans, they can last you through several parties. I mostly keep cranberry (for any party), orange juice (for brunch parties) and grapefruit juice. 

4. Mixers (again, single serve bottles are most practical). We normally just keep tonic water (for gin + tonics, which for some reason is the go-to in our group of friends), ginger ale and ginger beer. Ginger ale is useful for mixing with liquor (like rum or whiskey) if you don’t want to keep a ton of sodas in your home. Ginger beer is for Moscow Mules (another favorite in our circle of friends). Both ginger ale and ginger beer are great for making mocktails, which you always want to be prepared to do. Club Soda is also useful for making low calorie drinks. 

5. Wine. You don’t have to keep a giant stash, but I always like to have a few extra bottles for bigger parties because you never know how many “wine people” are going to be there. It’s nice because it’s a self-serve thing too. If you’re not a wine person, I would recommend getting a variety—a Moscato (sweet and easy to drink), a dry red wine and a dry white wine. I personally favor red wine, so we always have a little extra incase we run low on other things. 

6. Spirits. I wrote a giant post about stocking a bar cart last year that has a ton of information about the basic spirits and what you can make from them. These collections should last you a while, and I personally think they are really pretty too. I always keep in stock vodka, gin and whiskey (most common and easy to make cocktails with), a bottle of Scotch (It should last a while. If you’ve never bought Scotch, try Glenlivit 12 year (it’s not crazy expensive and a lot of different Scotch drinkers like it). We also love Ron Zacapa, which is a rum that’s really good served just with ice. 

The only rule I would really suggest when it comes to buying spirits is to stay away from flavored stuff until you have a good collection of basics built up since they are more versatile. 

7. Straws and swizzle sticks. Stock up on paper straws (I also buy them on Etsy) and fun garnishes like swizzle sticks. Or you can make your own! Wine glass markers are a good idea as well. 

8. Fancy ice cubes. It’s straight up silly how impressed my guests are by our giant ice cubes and spheres. All you have to do is buy the trays and it’s super easy to keep these around for parties. 

9. Syrups and bitters. These are fun to collect, they look cool in your home bar, and they last a long time. Most of my bitters are from Fee Brothers and Bittermens. I usually make my own syrups (super easy—learn how here, and then customize them with any flavor), but for pre-made syrups, my favorites are Bang Candy (plus their packaging is really pretty!). 

10. Kahlúa. Emma insisted I include Kahlúa for White Russians, The Cinnamon Girl and Bushwackers (which is basically a boozy milkshake, and according to Emma, “the ultimate hot tub drink”). Sounds fun for summer! 

Drinks to keep on hand www.abeautifulmess.com Now, these are just ideas. I don’t actually keep every single one of these items in our home at all times (I’m not Martha Stewart…), but I do have enough to throw a pretty decent cocktail party on the fly, pop a bottle of champagne or make the yummiest popcorn ever!  

Cheers to those sneak-up-on-you surprise parties. They’re usually the most fun. xx! Elsie 

Credits// Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Laura Gummerman and Janae Hardy. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess Actions

  • Champagne and frozen fruit has always been our go-to for something quick and easy. Such a simple trick to take a boring glass of champagne to something a little more classy and new!

  • That’s a party I would like to go to!! Vosges chocolates? I am in!!

    Juju Sprinkles

  • Wow, now I want to throw a party! I’ve gotta step up my hostess game!


  • I love this article! I have been meaning to do more entertaining, so this list is the perfect start for impromptu gatherings!

    Adia | beauty luxe life

  • These are all amazing ideas! Thanks for sharing!


  • Such great tips! I feel like whenever we do have people over its so last minute! These are great for those moments!


  • Love these ideas. Although, ice cream doesn’t really last at my house. I need a secret freezer that my husband doesn’t know about. And he needs a secret pantry I don’t know about where he can store crackers and I wont eat them. Haha we’re quite the pair.

    xo Heather

  • I love that you love popcorn :). And I totally ordered those big ice cube trays.

  • I absolutely love these last-minute, on the fly ideas Elsie! Thank you for sharing and grouping these great ideas together, as always you provide thoughtful inspiration for your readers! I have to come up with secret squirrel hide-outs just to keep chocolate chips away from my Hubs but I’m inspired to have a hidden stash for drop-in parties. Maybe a note posted on the chocolate will help. 😉

  • So many great ideas!!!

    And can we talk about how gorgeous you look? 🙂


  • Wow – a party at your house sounds fun! We’ve been busy stocking up our alcohol cupboard recently and making cocktails – I love them and it spices up a party as much as it does a Saturday afternoon! Plus people are always impressed by them 🙂 Alice xx


  • I adore posts like this! Thanks for the great (and easily implemented) tips!

  • It’s custom made (by Josh) for our space! 🙂 xx- Elsie

  • So cute – I have 0 discipline and am unsure how long the snacks would last…

    Warm Regards,

  • I was going to ask the same thing. You look awesome in it! And also I want it 🙂

  • I love this concept. I art of throwing a last minute get together always seems to be more enjoyable and creative! Such lovely ideas! 🙂

  • I am the chili queen in my group of friends! Every year we have a party on Guy Fawkes night where we have chili before the fireworks!

    Great list!!

  • The old fashioned pan method is my favorite way to make popcorn too. I like to add smoked paprika sprinkle sometimes, and black pepper is a must! Also, those chocolate bars sound so good. What a great idea to keep some on hand for a party. Every time my co-blogger Valerie and I get together we usually have some fancy chocolate (and red wine). I never thought about serving it at a party.

  • Great list, having a few of this things on hand totally would take the stress out of entertaining guests at the last minute.

  • I love the fancy ice cube idea. There’s something so alluring about a cool looking ice cube or ice with frozen fruit in it. I love making a quick batch of hummus for parties, so the key ingredient would be a can of garbanzo beans. :]

    // http://www.itscarmen.com ▲

  • Thank U!!!
    I will admit this is the reason my hubby and I don’t invite people over! we are afraid we aren’t prepared, well no more-entertaining phobes are saved!!!!

  • This is such a great post! Love the idea of always keeping some special ice cream in the freezer. Brilliant! For parties, yes, but also just because. 😉


  • I second this. I never actually did it until I made a recipe that made a HUGE batch of dough, and which actually suggested freezing whatever wouldn’t be eaten right away. It was great to pull it out before heading to dinner at my neighbors’ and they were so impressed with my cookie making on the fly.

  • Ohh that is so great! I love the s’mores idea! So many simple ideas that would really impress your guests. Thanks for sharing!


  • I love all of these ideas! Most of my parties are for kids though, so it might be cool to do one on casual kid get togethers with or without a theme in the nearby future 🙂


    Laurali Star


  • I totally agree that you definitely need ice cream and cookies — even if you’re not having a party 😉


  • All of these are great! And I love the idea of being “prepared” for surprise parties!

  • I just sang this entire post to my son to get him to nap. It worked! I would also suggest keeping a few decorative items around like nice table cloths, napkins, and candles (or lanterns for backyard parties). For less fancy last minute parties, having homemade, canned salsa is a nice touch.

  • I love these ideas!! We’re usually stocked in the bar department (agree that small cans have been a lifesaver there). But, we usually run to the store for cheese and crackers at the last minute. I love the idea of having fondue, chocolate, nuts, popcorn, etc. on hand that are set aside for just that purpose. Not sure I’d be able to keep my hands off the ice cream though, even if it was “reserved” for entertaining 🙂



  • Hi Laura!
    It’s from ASOS! (a few years ago)
    xoxo- Elsie

  • I love all the ideas here! It’s a great idea to keep things on hand for when people come over.

  • Love love this,.. i will love doing a party like this at home… but with two kids is not easy ; )

  • This is such a great idea! I love party planning too but sometimes things just happen at the last minute, and being prepared is always a good idea! I’m moving in september and I will definitely be stocking my new place with some of these!

  • What an awesome post! Thank you for sharing 🙂 So many good ideas. I’m going to start stocking up now! You never know when a spontaneous party might happen!

    Grace, Faith, & Glitter

  • I always keep cookies and pasta on hand but I didn’t think to have the decorative elements like straws and fancy ice cubes on hand too.


  • Have you tried stove top popping with coconut oil? So good.
    These are great ideas- I need to up my party stock. We don’t really drink, though, so just goodies and teas.
    Also, I try to keep some homemade frozen cookie dough in the freezer- I double recipes and form the balls and freeze and then pop ’em into the oven when guests come.

  • I love this post. It has me in the mood to host an impromptu gathering this weekend.

    Happy Tuesday!

  • You are insane if you think “fancy chocolates, s’mores, special ice cream, cookies, and fondue fixins” are going to stay in party reserves around me. If I tried to keep them in stock in my house, I’d end up the size of a house.

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