Easy Party Tray Ideas

A guide to making delicious party trays that are both easy and inexpensive.

Most people enjoy entertaining friends and family at home. Parties are great fun, but often when you entertain, it can become quite expensive, and time consuming. If you are not known for your skills in cooking, coming up with food ideas can be tricky. Hiring a catering company is extremely high in cost, and even the pre-prepared food trays that can be purchased at most grocery stores are tough on the wallet, and often not as good as homemade.

You don't have to be a professional chef to create some delicious part trays that your guests will love. With a little intuitiveness and some creative thinking, you can make your own delicious appetizer trays that will have your guests talking for weeks to come. The most common trays sold are the deli trays. Usually, these consist of mostly meats and cheeses. You can create your very own deli tray using a few easy ingredients. Simply go to your grocer and pick out some meat such as pepperoni, ham, turkey, and salami. Find cheeses that compliment the meats. The best way to purchase the cheese would be in a block, and cut the block into thin squares. You can roll the meat by the piece, or just layer each kind on the tray, rotating between cheeses and meats. Not only does this create a colorful and beautiful party tray, it's also a delicious and filling snack. Add some spice to the tray by placing small cups or bowls of Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, or dips in the middle so your guests can add extra flavor if they desire.

Fruit and vegetable trays are also another popular choice. Some people like the mix the two; others prefer to keep them separate. Either way is fine, depending on your and your guests' tastes. You can buy inexpensive things such as a bag of carrots, celery (you can even fill them with peanut butter!), cucumbers, raw mushrooms, and small tomatoes for your vegetable tray. Put a tub of ranch dip or French onion on the tray for a delicious dipping delight. For fruit, strawberries, grapes (preferably seedless), fresh pineapple, and apple slices are a popular choice. There are a lot of great fruit dips you can buy on the market today, or if you want to get fancy, have a fondue pot with a candle going on the table with melted chocolate to give the fruit a zing. Fondue is really a popular party favorite.

Seafood is another option for your party, although it can be quite expensive. If you do not want to buy a prepackaged shrimp tray, most stores sell pre-cooked and shelled shrimp by the bag. Just buy a bag or two, thaw them out (they should already be ready to eat once thawed), spread on your tray and add cocktail sauce. You can also make your own cocktail sauce by combining horseradish and ketchup. If you decide to go this route, make sure to taste it yourself before serving to ensure it has the right flavor.

There are a lot of other great finger foods you can serve at a party or while entertaining. Ham biscuits are always a hit, and you can use the ham you purchase at the deli, and just add them to either pre-baked or canned biscuits you bake yourself. Either way most people enjoy these and they are very easy to prepare. Miniature sausages in barbeque sauce is another crowd pleaser. Simply buy a bag or two of the mini sausages, put them in a crock pot in the morning, add pepper and barbecue sauce, allow to simmer all day, and by the evening they'll be ready to eat!

Finding a way to please you guests does not have to be expensive. These are just a few ideas to get you started. You may want to peruse your grocery store's aisles and see what other options you have, and no matter what you do, it should be sure to please.

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