Brunch — the popular breakfast/lunch hybrid — is meant to be shared with family and friends. But without a little proper planning, hosting what is arguably the best meal of the day can be fraught with panic and peril.
Following are 15 tips for serving up an easy, enjoyable and stress-free midmorning meal.
1. Get the invites right
Inviting more guests generally means more work, so keep your list to a manageable number.
Send out invites about 10 days in advance and include an RSVP date so friends and family members have time to check their schedules, and you have an accurate head count.
And don’t forget to send out email or text reminders a few days beforehand.
2. Don’t blow your budget
Decide how much you want to spend on brunch and stay within budget. Plan your menu the week beforehand so you can check store ads and see which ingredients will be on sale.
And don’t forget to clip those coupons. Racking up big savings should help you keep stress at bay.
3. Know your guests
Ask your invitees about their likes, dislikes and any food allergies. Nothing induces panic quite like scrambling to prepare a last-minute vegan entrée — not to mention having to tear your cabinets apart in search of an EpiPen!
4. Keep it simple
Center your menu on seasonal ingredients, and avoid preparing foods with overly complicated recipes.
Also limit the number of dishes you offer. A good rule of thumb: Serve fruit, salad, something savory and something sweet. Also, don’t forget to stock up on ice.
5. Supplement with prepared foods
Your guests probably aren’t expecting you to make everything from scratch. So, unless you have an inordinate amount of time on your hands, choose a few dishes that you enjoy cooking and leave the rest to your local grocery store, specialty market and/or bakery.
6. Make a list
Organization is key when hosting a successful gathering. Write down everything you have to do in preparation for the brunch so you won’t accidentally overlook anything. Crossing off tasks as you go will help you stay on track and feel a sense of accomplishment.
7. Stock up on serving pieces
Finding out that you don’t have enough plates, bowls and large platters on the morning of your brunch will send you scrambling. Instead, determine how many serving pieces you’ll need ahead of time so you can buy or borrow them well in advance of the big day.
8. Get a head start
If possible, prepare dishes and set the table the night before. This will free up your morning to focus on all of those last-minute tasks that inevitably arise.
While you’re heating up your award-winning recipes in the morning, take a few minutes to empty the dishwasher. Then, fill it as you go and prevent plates from piling up in the sink or on the counter.
9. Keep the décor doable
Don’t overthink your table arrangement. Nothing says brunch like a simple bouquet of fresh flowers. If you feel the desire to make place cards, try to avoid overly complicated decorations. This will help keep your stress level from soaring.
10. Double check your restroom
Avoid awkward conversations by making sure your guests have plenty of toilet paper, soap and clean hand towels. You want them to remember the good company and great food, not that time they had to hunt you down for the hand soap.
11. Go buffet all the way
There’s a reason why buffets are so popular. People like to help themselves to heaping servings of their favorite foods while avoiding other offerings altogether.
Setting up a self-serve station takes some responsibility off your shoulders, and allows you to eat alongside guests rather than attending to them. Just keep an eye on your food supply and replenish as needed.
12. Keep the coffee coming
Some guests require seemingly endless amounts of fuel, and you don’t want to disappoint them. So make sure you have plenty of java, cream, nondairy creamer and sugar on hand, and serve up the coffee hot and often. This is practically guaranteed to keep the conversation flowing.
13. Bust out the booze
Brunch and alcohol have become somewhat synonymous. We’re not insisting that you provide liquor with your midmorning meal, but you know your guests. If they enjoy an occasional drink, consider brunch-time classics, such as mimosas, Bellinis and Bloody Marys.
Set up a bar area so they can help themselves to libations.
14. Put your pals to work
If guests offer to bring a dish, let them. If they want to help out, give them a simple task like slicing fruit or refilling the ice bucket. Draw the line at allowing them to wash dishes. Nobody enjoys washing dishes.
15. Be flexible
Things happen. People get sick at the last minute and there’s always someone who simply forgot to RSVP.
The power of positive thinking — deciding that you’re not going to let certain events upset you — can go a long way toward preventing a meltdown so you can have a fabulous time.
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