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Easy Dinner Parties Themes And Menus


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Like your friends, but hate all the work that goes into hosting a party? It’s possible to host easy dinner parties that leave your guests well-fed and you with plenty of energy to enjoy the party.

a couple preparing dinner in the kitchen with title text reading 7 Easy Dinner Party Menus

If you aren’t a complete shut-in, you have certainly found yourself in the position of being required to host a dinner party.  Certain jobs and social laws dictate that we grown ups do this occasionally as proof that we possess the requisite skills required to feed and house our families.  Our friends and acquaintances like this reassurance that they aren’t unwittingly hanging out with someone with a mental disorder.

Here’s the thing though.  You’ve got a lot of stuff to do.  The daily task of keeping your family fed is eating up (pardon the pun) quite a bit of time as it is.  And if you happen to have a teenage son at home, you’re spending a pretty penny just keeping your immediate family fed without worrying how you’re going to feed a large group of people.  For these reasons, I am a strong advocate for easy, affordable dinner parties.

Below are seven dinner party themes that won’t take you dozens of hours or hundreds of dollars to host.  For each party theme, I will list a variety of options to help with your planning.  Some of the options will have an obvious impact on price (e.g. serving steak instead of hamburgers at your backyard BBQ), but I wanted to provide some ideas that are still easy for those of you willing to throw a few more dollars around.  Likewise, some of the menu items will be more time-intensive than others, an option for those of you who don’t mind spending a little more time on prep.

Taco Bar

Who doesn’t like tacos?  The great thing about this theme is that you really don’t have to do much cooking.  It’s also kid-friendly if you were brave enough to open up your party to younger guests.

two tacos in a taco holder on a plate

Appetizers

Main Dish

  • Taco Meat – ground beef, ground turkey, shredded chicken, shredded beef, shredded pork (choose at least one, tailor your other choices to your budget and personal preferences)
  • Flour (white and/or whole wheat) and/or Corn Tortillas
  • Taco Shells (I recommend Stand N Stuff for ease and convenience)

Toppings

  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Shredded Lettuce
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Diced Onions
  • Sliced Black Olives
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Salsa (mild and hot)
  • Taco Sauce
  • Sliced Jalapenos (pickled or fresh)
  • Sour Cream
  • Guacamole or Sliced Avocado
  • Cilantro

Side Dishes

Desserts

Beverages

 

Italian Dinner

This is a great theme if you are going to have a large number of guests because it’s easy and relatively inexpensive to prepare pasta main dishes.  This is another kid-friendly theme as well.

several plates of food for an Italian dinner party

Appetizers

Main Dish

Toppings

  • Grated Parmesan
  • Crushed Red Pepper
  • Fresh Herbs (oregano, basic, and parsley)
  • Pesto

Side Dishes

  • Salad
  • Italian Bread, Breadsticks, and/or Garlic Bread

Dessert

  • Cannoli
  • Tiramisu

Beverages

  • Italian Wine

*Variation:  Prepare a variety of pasta and prepare sauces separately so guests can mix and match.

Backyard BBQ

Kid-friendly and your house won’t get messed up.  The only downside is that this theme is limited to nice weather if you really want to reap its benefits.

vegetables and meat being grilled

Main Dish

  • Steaks or Babyback Ribs
  • Chicken Breasts
  • Bratwurst
  • Hamburgers
  • Hot Dogs
  • Rolls and Buns

Toppings

  • Steak Sauce
  • BBQ sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Mayo
  • Relish
  • Sauerkraut (for bratwurst)
  • Chopped Onions
  • Onion Slices
  • Pickle Slices
  • Tomato Slices
  • Cheddar, American, and/or Swiss Cheese

Sides

Dessert

Beverages

  • Variety of Beer
  • Lemonade
  • Iced Tea

Souper Supper

In contrast to the summer BBQ, is the winter Soup Supper.  Even if you make one or two more expensive soups (e.g. lobster bisque), the costs associated with this theme will be reasonable.

soup in a white bowl next to grilled cheese sandwich on a plate

Main Dish

Toppings

  • Crumbled Bacon
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Chopped Green Onions
  • Sour Cream
  • Crackers or Croutons
  • Crushed Red Pepper

Sides

  • Italian Bread
  • Pumpernickel Bread
  • Salad

Dessert

  • Brownies
  • Cookies

Beverages

  • Wine

Fondue Party

Fondue has made a comeback and for good reasons.  It’s yummy AND fun.  The one drawback is that this theme doesn’t work well for large parties unless you have a closet full of fondue pots.  Also, even for a small group, you will need at least 3 fondue pots or small crockpots.

fruit, marshmallows, and brownies for a fondue party

Appetizers

  • Cheese Fondue
  • Green Apple Slices
  • Italian and/or Pumpernickel Bread Cubes
  • Fresh Vegetables in Bite-Size Pieces (cauliflower, celery, carrots)

Main Dish

Side Dishes

  • Roasted Red Potatoes
  • Roasted Vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, zucchini, and/or squash)

Dessert

  • Chocolate Fondue
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple Chunks
  • Pound Cake Cubes
  • Large Marshmallows
  • Rice Krispy Treats

Clam Bake

Okay, this one can get pricey but it wins hands-down for simplicity.  You throw everything in a large pot and boil it.  This is ideally an outdoor party, but I am also providing a link to a site that tells you how to do an indoor version.

food and vegetables for a clam bake

Appetizers

Main Dish

  • Lobster or Crab
  • Clams
  • Mussels
  • Corn
  • New Potatoes or Red Bliss Potatoes

Side Dishes

Dessert

Beverages

  • Beer
  • Lemonade
  • Soda

All Appetizers

Perhaps it’s because I don’t have appetizers every day that I think they are so wonderful.  I personally love parties that serve only appetizers because I can get a much wider variety of flavors and textures than from an entrée and because finger food is somehow just more fun.  Admittedly, an all appetizer party is more work than the other party themes I’ve outlined, but you can cheat with a couple of store-bought options and a couple of dips (easier to put together than several dozen stuffed mushrooms).

several different plates of fruit and vegetables, and crackers for an appetizer party

Dips

Platters

  • Cheese and Crackers
  • Vegetable Assortment
  • Grapes and Strawberries

Prepared Hot Appetizers

Prepared Cold Appetizers

Desserts

17 thoughts on “Easy Dinner Parties Themes And Menus”

  1. Hi,
    Really like your information and photos – great looking meals. Being from Louisiana, I can’t help noticing that your ‘clam bake’ mentions several seafoods but not the ones in the photo – crawfish! Yummy!!
    Rowdy

    Reply
  2. These are great ideas. I really like the taco bar. I have a good friend who sometimes does a baked potato bar and that is really cheap and easy as well. On Pinterest the other day, I saw a brilliant idea for a caramel apple bar! You cut up apples into slices and have caramel or chocolate and then dip your apple slices into different toppings: coconut, graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips, etc. We do a lot of entertaining as well so I’m always looking for new ideas.

    Reply
    • Ooh! I love the idea of a caramel apple bar! This is the perfect time of year for it too. Thanks for sharing your find.

      Reply
  3. Pingback: Easy Deviled Eggs, the Perfect Snack
  4. Can I come to your party? 🙂 Those food are really delicious! I like the clam bake goodness. Back in Mississippi, when family and friends gathered for a party, everyone brings something. Easy for the host to prepare and set up.

    Reply
  5. Honestly, I am not a good host. I cannot cook dishes like everyone else. But I am willing to learn. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  6. My husband and I do a fair amount of entertaining and we usually Bar B Que. I also make soup a lot and the taco bar is always a favorite.

    Reply
  7. I guess I am a shut in! Actually very lucky-I have never HAD to throw a dinner party-when I used to-for my friends I would either order in a whole bunch of deli–or each of us would prepare something and converge on my apartment!!

    Reply
    • Those are the best kinds of parties because everyone, including the hostess, can just sit back and relax. You definitely don’t sound like a shut-in to me!

      Reply

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