Try these easy party food ideas and recipes, including tips for how to lay out a buffet dinner table so everyone doesn’t get piled on top of each other.
10 Easy Christmas Party Food Ideas
There will be a lot of us having buffet dinners and parties before and on Christmas and many of us will be looking for easy party food ideas.
Have you ever been to a dinner or party where the buffet was just not laid out right? It took forever for everyone to get through the line and trying to juggle everything was a tremendous challenge.
Here is the proper way to lay out your party food for a buffet dinner so that things go quickly and easily for you and your guests.
If you have room, set the table up so that people can walk down both sides of the table and serve themselves. Regardless of whether they walk down one side or both sides, make sure that at the end of the table it is easy for them to go on to the room where they will be sitting or mingling. Try to arrange it so they don’t have to push their way back through the other people who are trying to make their way down the table to serve themselves.
This is the order in which to set things on the table:
- Plates, meats, side dishes, relish dishes, salads, desserts, napkin, silverware and then drinks.Some people put the drinks first. This is a no-no because then everyone has to juggle a plate and a glass while trying to serve himself. This is why it is better to put the salads and desserts at the end if you are using salad or dessert plates too.
- If at all possible, put the drinks and desserts at a separate table.This helps reduce the congestion. Guests can then set their plates down after they are filled and go back to get their drinks without having to stand in line again. You’ll also avoid problems with guests trying to hold two plates or a drink and a plate.
- If it is going to be an all day get-together, you can wait and put the desserts out a little later with a pot of coffee and some tea to make things easier.
Party Food Recipes:
Here are some party food ideas including “red and green” recipes to use for those holiday parties or Christmas dinners.
These first two are our favorite salads that we serve every year with Christmas dinner. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without them. Our readers love them too, requesting them again every year.
Red Jello Salad Recipe
This easy red jello salad recipe is a family favorite and a staple for Christmas! The family says that we can’t celebrate Christmas without the Red Jello Salad! ;-) It adds a beautiful red color to the Christmas table and children and men seem to really love it.
1/2 cup boiling water
1 small package cherry Jello
1/4 to 1/2 cup red hot candies
1 1/2 cups applesauce
- Dissolve Jello and candies in boiling water. I usually do this in a small saucepan so I can keep it on low heat and keep it warm while dissolving the candies.
- When the Jello and candies are mostly dissolved, add the applesauce.
- Chill until set.
Here is a different and delicious side dish for Christmas that gives you a good variety of veggies for dinner while keeping the Christmas color scheme.
Easy Broccoli Salad Recipe – Green Salad
4 cups broccoli, cut into pieces
4 cups cauliflower, cut into pieces
2 cups celery, sliced
1/2 cup green olives, sliced
1 avocado, cut into small cubes
1/4 to 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- Put everything into a bowl except the dressing.
- Sprinkle with Italian dressing, to taste.
If you like, you can cut everything the day before you need it except the avocado and the dressing. Then you can add these items just before serving.
Take some of your favorite veggies like broccoli, green beans or cauliflower and cook them your favorite way. Add chopped green and red peppers.Toss it all with Italian dressing and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Cranberry Rice Salad
4 cups wild rice, cooked
1 can (8 oz.) sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/2 cup each of the following:
green peppers, chopped
frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup green onions, sliced
1/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup cranberry juice
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper
Mix all the salad ingredients into a large bowl. Mix dressing ingredients into a small bowl and pour over salad. Refrigerate overnight. Sprinkle with pecans just before serving.
Red or Green Dessert
1 (3 oz.) package lime Jello
2 (6 oz.) package key lime pie yogurt
1 small container of whipped topping
Combine Jello powder and yogurt. Then fold in whipped topping. Chill for 20 minutes.
You could also pour this into a graham cracker crust. Choose other flavors if you want. For example strawberry or cherry Jello with strawberry or cherry yogurt. In the summer months, use orange flavored ingredients.
For more easy party food ideas and recipes, check out volume 1 of our cookbook.
Click here to get our Dining On A Dime Cookbooks 25% Off NOW! They’re filled with tasty recipes and tips to make your life easier!
Another idea…if the meat budget is tight, put the side dishes first. There’s usually more varieties of those (especially if it’s a potluck where everyone contributes an item), and most people want to sample a little of each. When the meat is at the beginning of the line, they take a large portion, much of which is often wasted.
Also, pre-slice and serve the meat in appropriate portions. I’ve seen turkeys and hams served in slices large enough for two to three normal portions.
how bout casserole dishes with meat and veggies in it.
Growing up my dad was a chef. He’d set up a beautiful buffet and put the dinner rolls and breads first. They take the most room on the plate, then the meats second, but many will load up so much on meats that the people at the end of the line would have nothing but scraps. Have napkin rolled sivlerware at the very end, or even at the place settings. The bevvies and desserts can be at another table of space allows. Appetisers should be be on the same table prior to the desserts.
As a new hostess, I appreciate this, but where should I put butter, gravy, etc. With drinks?
Well, mom is the “hostess with the mostess” so I may be wrong but I think the answer is yes.
Now I understand why the gravy is always sitting with the ice tea. Never could figure your thinking on that one daughter dear but being the “mother with the mostess” I bite my tongue. HA!HA! Love you anyway.
PS Tawra really does a fine job and we had an excellent Thanksgiving dinner – well there was that small turkey glitch :) :) :) ……
You can put things like condiments in a separate area. It really depends on what you are having. If it was summer and I was having hamburgers and hot dogs I would put them at the end of the table right before the drinks.
But what I usually do is to try to have them as close to the item they go with as much as possible. For example I would put the turkey, mashed potatoes and dressing close together and the have the gravy next to them because most people pour it over those items. I would place the chips together and then the dip right next to it or the dinner rolls with the butter.
Sometimes I will have the butter, salt and pepper at the end because everyone will have their plate full and see where they need it. If people are serving from a buffet and then sitting at tables I try to have butter and salt and pepper on each table and if it is a long table a dish and shaker of each within easy reach for 4-6 people.
Just walking it through in your mind and see what you think would work best for the food you are serving. For example it probably wouldn’t be the handiest to have the chip dip then mashed potatoes, relish dish and then the chips. Have chips and dips together and maybe even the relish dish by it too because some would use the dip for it.
Hope that makes sense.
good article on the buffet set up. However, I have to disagree with your order of things. The desserts should always go first! ha ha ha ha Otherwise people fill up on the good stuff and you wind up with too many left over sweets you have to eat for a week. LOL!
Funny you should say that Denise because in my world I felt the desserts should go first too but then the selfish side of me took over and decided I wanted to have all those leftover desserts to indulge on all week. HA!HA! :):) A girl can dream anyway can’t she? :)
I usually have separate plate and table for salads, pickles and that type of thing.
I don’t like my dressing mixing with the other things so it is just a quirk of mine.
Also if you have 3 or 4 salads especially around holidays it is something healthier and tasty for those trying to watch what they eat.
They fill up on salads. I usually have 3 types potatoe bean and a large leafy salad. Olives pickles a bit of cheese and melons to add colour.
I put silver ware at the exit door so if anyone wants to leave the line it is easy to reach the utensils.
Drinks are there as well. Out of the way and easy access.
I must say that I subscribed to this newletter about five months ago. I sincerely enjoy reading each email! So many great ideas, insight, and wisdom; you help me to think of more and more ways to save money!
Many blessings to each of you and your families during the holiday season and all year long!
Go Living On A Dime!
Jill, you’re right on with putting the gravy by the mashed potatoes and stuffing. Things should be grouped so that they would go on your plate in the same order as you put things on your plate at a normal family dinner. Butter should be at the end as many guests may butter different things. (Rolls, taters, hot veggies, etc.) Think of flow, what set up would make things go the smoothest? You could do a walk through the day or even morning before by setting up the serving dishes as you think they should go and put a note with the food name on the dish it represents. Walk through the line with a plate and see if it has a good flow. You only want to go forward, no reaching back for something left behind you in the line. This will also call to mind any serving dishes you’d possibly have to get before the real deal.
The recipes posted in this newsletter look absolutely delicious. They are healthy, fresh, and not too heavy. What a change from the traditional heavy holiday fare.
If it were me, I would dump it all on the table and say, “Let’s say the blessing and have at it!”
A woman after my own heart. My 21 year old daughter is in charge of stuff like this and for the SAME REASON! Somehow, she “gets it” and I don’t.
She’s also in charge of clothes buying. I can not tell you how many times I’ve heard; “Mom! Step AWAY from that (shirt/pants/dress/outfit). It is NOT going home with us!” (No, the print on that Hawaiian shirt was NOT THAT big!)
Thank God for daughters!
Another idea for the layout is: plates, relishes, salads, sides, meats and then desserts. I always think of the way a meal is served in courses.
Grizzly Bear Mom
I put that which I want people to eat first such as veggies for health reasons. At a cafeteria they put desserts first so you buy them and they make more profit. Do what suits your goals.
But I always put cutlery last and beverages at their own table.
I have a big family (tribe) & when I serve buffet style, even though I have the drinks available in a separate space, I have everyone get their drink & put it where they are going to sit to eat. This ‘marks’ their spot so they aren’t trying to negotiate with a full plate of food & that promotes everyone being assembled for Blessing the Food, too!
When it is casual, we use big styrofoam cups (which don’t sweat) and everyone puts their name on them with a provided permanent marker & then their is no question if someone has someone else’s drink. Some revel in decorating their cup to the max! Ha!
For special occasions (THXGvng & Christmas), I have the table set ahead of time with dishes & utensils & after they take their drink to the table, we pray & then they get in the buffet line carrying their plates, bowls, etc. from the table. We have a hall everyone lines up in & they file through the kitchen where food is on the counter and as they come out they are in the dining area so that works great.
I put a table cloth over the washer & dryer & desserts are served from there.
My hubby made a sink cover out of plywood (leave room at the back for the faucet) & that gives me even more serving counter for our “buffets.”
THX so much for this great website & that we can share our ideas, too!
Thank you for the buffet pointers. One of my biggest gripes is a buffet that doesn’t flow well with the room. I would make one change, though. Put the salads first, because a smaller full salad plate is easier to sit down while you hold a larger dinner plate to fill it. After attendig many buffet banquets for business, this is what they do, and I have fould it works best.
here is a tip that has nothing to do with the set up just comfort for people.
My hands are full of arthritis and I find holding a plate really hard to do. When it is full it is almost impossible. I am lucky I have my husband who understands and he carries both plates while I serve us from the buffet. When my sons are around it has been them if Don is busy or not ready for the 2nd trip or the dessert run. My oldest grandson loves to help me when he is there.
So if you have elderly people or someone who uses a cane maybe delegate and nice youngster to help them with the meal. This would involve them and they might find they enjoy talking with great aunt ethel and want to sit with her while eating.
If this can’t be done have light plates so they are easier to handle.
Boy I feel like such a complainer always pointing out things for the less able.
Not complaining at all <3 This is a great tip.
Our group at church started providing trays for mother’s/ children and elderly people who need to help someone who must carry two plates.
Really good idea Janet
grizzly bear mom
Grandma, I don’t hear a complainer. I hear someone telling me how to take care of my guests.
Thank you for that comment.
I just try to remember embarassing moments as we go to a lot of political dinners and I want to make a good impression then something screws it up on me. I depend a lot on my husband for help but a few times that wasn’t possible.
One funny story now not then was I was sitting next to a very prominent government official. We were served dinner and it was a great meal. Until I took a fork full of peas. I have the shakes in my arms and that day was really bad. I got the fork almost to my mouth and disaster struck. The peas took off in the direction of the official. He wore a forkfull of peas. He laughed and said my mother taught me to share but I don’t think this was what she had in mind.
He was very gracious but I was very red faced. Now I only eat small loose vegetables if there is mashed potatoes to help glue them to the fork.
I have had many high up politicians take a plate from me and carry it through a buffet line then take it and me to my table. That was wonderful of them but a friendly face doing it would be less noticeable. But talking with them is great.
Like I said I now rely on Don but any one person would do. I just think involving a youngster would be a good idea as they get to know the older generation even if it is just for a few minutes. Who knows what can transpire.
grandma.. i agree with grizzly bear mom too .. thanks for the reminder .. when busy with the preparations of the buffet, if not a reminder, this can be overlooked .. and its really nice to see the little ones helping the ones who need it the most ..
thank u so much for the many great advice u share with us (esp for the less able) ..
I love doing buffets or potluck dinners and this thread gave me many excellent ideas I had not considered before. Thank you!
Grizzly bear mom
I am a disabled veteran, and have 30% disability in both feet. At work and home parties, people remove the chairs so that we circulate. It is painful for me to stand for long, so I leave early, exhausted from the pain. What is the polite way to change this?
I would just request a chair. Most people are very kind and willing to make things easier. If that isn’t possible then you may have to just keep leaving early. I have had to adapt my life around my illness in so many ways too. As much as I would love to go to different things I just can’t because of my limitations. There is a thing tomorrow I have been planning on going to tomorrow but I am sick enough today that I don’t think I will probably make now. I am disappointed but then I think of all the things I have been able to do and I am so grateful for that. Be sure to ask though because some people just don’t always realize there are needs out there but once told are often good about making things easier if they can.
Grizzly bear mom
Another consideration is serving the meat to ensure that everyone gets a portion, not just the first in line. You only have to do it for the first pass through the buffet, if they didn’t take any meat their first time through and it gets eaten up, its on them.
Sometimes at restaurant buffets I’ve seen someone standing near the meat to carve it for each guest.
Do you think I could make the green salad using frozen broccoli and cauliflower? Would just letting the frozen vegetables thaw out work?
I don’t think so Terri. This is one of those recipes that you need to use fresh veggies for the crispness and texture of the salad and frozen veggies don’t work for something like that.
I slice the meats myself, but I do not put it all out at once, I keep some back to keep it ‘warm’, and if we run out we replenish it. my grown children make my 96 yo mothers plate and offer to make mine, then they make the childrens, while the men weave in and out lol. There will be aprox 30 this year for Christmas eve, lasagna and pot luck. I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas