Easy New Year’s Eve Menu Ideas

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One of the biggest challenges for any party is planning the food. If you're planning a New Year's Eve party this year, we have some useful suggestions that will help you strategize everything from the appetizers to the ice cubes. Party planning can be tricky, but the best parties look effortless. Use these tips for planning, creating and serving food and drinks at your New Year’s Eve party.

  • Keep it simple - Cocktail and New Year's Eve parties are all about mingling, so keeping the food simple and portable is usually the best option. Plan an appetizer menu you can prepare a day or two ahead of time. That way most of the cooking will be completed long before the party starts. At most, you'll be responsible for heating, plating and setting out food.

If you have professional help, that's great. If not, consider setting out a simple buffet with appetizers in one or two locations in your home, say in the dining area and the game room. That will encourage a nice flow of traffic through the space and provide a couple of natural conversation areas. This works well if your party will be composed of work as well as non-work friends and people of all ages.

  • Serve finger food - A good New Year's Eve party encourages lots of lively conversation. To keep people talking instead of trying to balance plates on their knees, prefer finger foods that are easy to pick up, hold and eat in a bite or two. You may have a great recipe for lasagna, but save it for another occasion unless you want marinara sauce all over your floors.
  • Consider the guest list - What you serve should be a function of your guest list -- in part, anyway. Your octogenarian grandmother may not appreciate jalapeno poppers or falafel balls while your son may take a pass on the mini fruitcakes. While formal New Year’s Eve parties can get away with more complicated menu items, parties for or with children should keep the menu simple.
  • Ask for help - Anyone who's hosted a party knows the amount of work involved. Don't be shy about asking friends and family for help and advice. The loan of a couple of serving platters and some nice stemware may mean the difference between coming in under budget and buying all kinds of extras you can't afford and won't use again any time soon. If you work it right, you may even be able to develop a close knit group of friends and relatives with whom you can trade and share items like folding chairs, silverware, punch bowls and other party extras -- everyone involved will save money and time.
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The Alcohol

The type of beverage a guest prefers can be as unique and varied as their taste in music. New Year’s Eve is a traditional nigh for celebrating with a toast, so make sure you offer as many beverage options as you can afford. To save everyone time, money and disappointment:

  • Make it a variation on BYOB - Ask guests to bring their own beverages if their favorites fall outside of a few generic choices you plan on having available, like white wine and domestic beer. Everyone will be happy, and you'll save a fortune.
  • Make a big bowl of punch - Making a festive punch, either alcoholic, non-alcoholic or both is a nice touch. It'll dress up your serving table and offer guests something to drink that they haven't tried before.
  • Offer non-alcoholic beverages too - Not everyone drinks alcohol. Pregnant women, children and designated drivers should have a variety of other readily available options like soda and tea.
  • Set up bar service - It wouldn't be New Year's Eve without beverages, and for that you need a drinks table. It can be a simple sideboard or folding table setup with a nice tablecloth. Keep plenty of glasses and ice on hand, and have a quick reference resource for mixed drink recipes nearby. As with the entry and buffet service, the drinks table can get crowded, so arrange for good traffic flow around it. The nature of the table really isn't as important as the expertise of the person manning it. Make sure your designated bartender knows a little about alcoholic beverages and can keep the conversational ball rolling. They'll be one of the most visible people at the party.
Last Updated: December 20, 2011
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About Sara Elliot Sara Elliott is a freelance copywriter and dedicated blogger. Her popular gardening, cooking and crafting blog, The Herb Gardener, was cited by The Wall Street Journal for its fun and frugal tips. Sara has a degree in English, and you can find her health, crafting, and lifestyle pieces on sites like DiscoveryHealth.com, HowStuffWorks.com, Savvi.com and TLC.com.

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