top of page
  • Writer's pictureDotty

10 Tips To Make Entertaining At Home Effortlessly Easy

So you’ve gone and done it. You’ve invited your friends around for dinner next weekend. “I’ll cook” you said. It came out so simply, so easily. It sounds so effortless, those two little syllables, but now you actually have to follow through. You actually have to cook. And probably hoover. And move that laundry that’s been sitting on the radiator for days.

There’s no denying it: having people over for dinner is a bit stressful. It’s certainly more stressful than staying home alone and is probably more stressful than going out for dinner too. BUT, having people round for dinner is the BEST.

There is no better feeling than filling your home with the people you care about and feeding them delicious tasty stuff. Stuffing your faces together, washing it down with a tad too much beer and wine, laughing and talking, all in the comfort of your own space. There’s no closing time or last orders. You can crank your tunes as loud as you like and sing your heart out, or dance, or both!

With a bit of savvy thinking, the right menu and a glass of wine in hand, you’ll soon be wondering why you don’t do this all the time.

1) Be Realistic

Before you even begin planning what you’ll cook or drink, or the playlist take a look at your schedule to figure out what is realistic.

It’s not just about how much time you’ll have to cook, but also how and when you’ll do the grocery shopping. Take a look at your work schedule and ask yourself when will you get the chance to go grocery shopping? Will you be able to make it to the butcher or bakery before it closes? Will you have chance to go to the big supermarket or is it going to be a Tesco express trip on the way home?

If you’re hosting on a weeknight this is especially important as you need to make sure that the menu you plan is achievable in the hour and have between getting home from work and people starting to arrive.

If you’re hosting on a weekend, you probably have a bit more time to play with. Perhaps you can go to your local bakery and pick up a great sourdough loaf to serve – heck, maybe you even have time to make your own! It’s still worth factoring in some conservative judgement here though because maybe you’ll want to snooze that alarm later than you planned. Maybe a friend will invite you out for coffee. Maybe you’ll watch one too many episodes on Netflix before you start prep. Don’t bite off more than you can chew… (has there ever been a more appropriate use of that pun?)

2) Design The Right Menu

My number one top tip is to design the menu around what you want to eat, not what you think your guests will want. If you’re cooking exactly the food that you fancy, it will feel less like a chore and more like a catharsis.

Sometimes you’re in the mood for something low and slow and comforting, sometimes you want chocolate; sometimes you want cheese. Sometimes you just want a chunk of juicy roast meat and sometimes you want a salad. Start with that one thing you really want and then go from there.

Once you’ve settled on the one thing you really want, build the menu from there. You want to get a mixture of lighter and heavier dishes. So if you’re craving a rich casserole you probably want to go a little lighter on the pud, but it it’s a big heavy chocolate pudding that’s calling your name, you may want to lean towards a lighter main course- perhaps fish or a light chicken dish.

One of the best ways to take the stress out of designing a menu is to get an expert to do it for you! My virtual supper club has a perfectly balanced, seasonal menu that changes every month. When you sign up to my unique cookery club, you get access to these monthly menus, plus the shopping lists, recipes and helpful prep sheets that you need to bring the night together without a hitch.

3) Choose Some Easy Wins

Bowls of crisps and dips definitely count as a starter. As does a charcuterie board, or cheese board. Ice cream with some fancy booze poured over it, or some beautifully presented fresh fruit is also definitely a pudding.

Balancing the menu between some easy win dishes and some super impressive dishes is the key to making this hosting thing look effortless. A charcuterie plate with some toasty bread and takes almost zero time and zero effort to put together. If you make some quick pickled cucumbers or fennel to go along side or add some pickled gherkins from a jar, you’ve suddenly transformed that easy win into something incredible. Easy smug points achieved.

4) Check The Basics BEFORE You Go Shopping

Nothing will ruin your calm, serene dinner party hosting experience like opening the cupboard to grab the olive oil at 6.58pm, only to realise that you used the last of it last week and forgot to replace it. Before you draft your shopping list, take stock of the essentials: have you got milk/ eggs/ oil/ salt/ lemons/ flour/ butter etc etc etc.

See also toilet roll/ bin bags and ice!

5) Make At Least One Thing The Day Before

No matter how complicated or simple the menu you settle on is, I always recommend making something the night before. It could be as simple as marinading some meat in garlic and thyme, or some fruit in sugar and lemon juice. It could be baking a cake. It could be making a stock or sauce. Whatever it is, it can help alleviate a lot of stress because on the night of the party at least you know that you have at least one element prepared to fall back on.

6) Don’t Forget Drinks

Make or buy some ice. Put some bottles in the fridge. Nobody will care if the food is late, or if you forgot to put away the laundry that was drying on the radiator as long as the drinks are flowing, there is some good music on and the company is chatty.

It is totally acceptable to ask your guests to BYOB. Just make sure they know where the glasses are when they arrive so that they can help themselves whenever they want. Make sure there’s a bit of room in the fridge too so that they can chill down whatever they’ve brought.

It can be a nice touch to serve a welcome drink. G &Ts, a glass of fizz or maybe even a cocktail are a great start to any night.

7) 15 Minute Blitz Tidy

Tidying up is my least favourite bit of having people round. I love planning the menu and will happily spend hours and hours prepping the food… but the other prep, the house prep, is loathsome. Delegate to a partner or friend. But if you can’t do that, set a timer for 15 minutes and blitz tidy. Prioritise clearing the table and freshening up the bathroom. Whip the hoover around, shovel the piles of magazines/ shoes/ work bag/ laundry/ insert other miscellaneous nonsense here into the bedroom or the cupboard. Once the time is up, leave it. What’s not done will add to the quirky charm of your home. They’re there to see you, not your immaculate home.

8) Stop The Prep to Preen

Similar to the blitz tidy, I recommend that you stop whatever you’re cooking at least 30 minutes before your guests are due to arrive. Have a quick tidy up in the kitchen – clean up and pots and pans that you’ve used already, do a little reshuffle in the fridge to make some space for bottles, empty the bin.

Even if your cooking schedule has completely gone to pot and everything feels super chaotic in the kitchen, a quick spritzy tidy will at least give the appearance of calm collected domestic bliss, for a while at least anyway.

9) Finishing Touches Add The Charm

Never underestimate the power of some nicely chopped herbs or toasted seeds. You can jazz up the simplest of dishes or shop bought goodies and make them look like you’ve been slaving away for hours.

A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil; a big handful of freshly chopped parsley/ mint/ dill/ basil / coriander. Wedges of lemons or limes. Shavings of cheese. Scatterings of freshly ground black pepper, paprika, chilli flakes or flaky sea salt. A dusting of icing sugar. A tumble or crushed roasted hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds or flaked almonds. Add, adorn, garnish away. It is worth the effort.

10) Say YES To Help

It took me a long time to learn this, too long. For years I believed that to be seen as a successful host, I had to be completely in control, do all of the work myself and let all of my guests sit and enjoy. This was incorrect. Very incorrect. I realised that I’d been missing out on so many opportunities for great chats over plate clearing, plating up and dishwasher stacking. Most guests will be more than happy to be part of the whole party which includes the bit in the kitchen!


bottom of page