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Planning a party can be a really daunting challenge if you don’t naturally consider yourself to be “the hostess with the mostess.” Whether your soiree is for five people or fifty, knowing which dishes can be made ahead of time will save you time and worry, allowing you to enjoy your party more! So relax, and let us give you a few ideas of make-ahead dishes that will ensure your guests have a deliciously good time.

Apple Pie Muffins:  These muffins may seem like they’re just for brunches and breakfasts, but they’re also a great appetizer or dessert. You can make them a few days before and store them in an airtight container to serve on the day of your gathering.

Trail Mix: Everyone knows about pretzels and chips as pre-party snacks, but if you mix it up just a little bit, you can serve your guests a light nosh that everyone from kids to grown-ups will enjoy. Simple doesn’t mean bland! The sweet, salty, crunchy mix will be sure to satisfy any craving.

Parmesan Rosemary Crackers: Make your guests feel welcomed and appreciated when you serve them this homemade version of a snack favorite. Cheez-Its are easy but these buttery crackers are easy to make and show your friends and family that you love them! They’re free of preservatives and have the fresh baked taste that you can’t buy in a box or bag.

Skinny Greek Salad: This salad is light and flavorful. Make ahead and dress just before serving or allow your guests to dress it themselves. If you want to pair this with some crusty bread, you’ll have a light main course that’s ready before guests arrive!

Skinny Pinwheels: Pinwheels are a great finger food for appetizers, substitute for a sandwich, or great option for a party with kids. Make them the day before and leave them in their original roll. Slice just before your guests arrive and arrange on a pretty plate.

Skinny Mac and Cheese: Many people think of mac and cheese as a side dish, or as a dish served piping hot. But you can make it the day before and either reheat it just before serving or serve it cold from the fridge. Cutting it into cubes is a fun way to mix it up. Who doesn’t love mac and cheese?!?

Slow Cooker Chicken Provencal: Okay, anything in the crock pot is a winner when it comes to serving a crowd. Just because it’s made in a crock pot doesn’t mean you serve it from the crock pot! Once your guests arrive, serve this delicious dish on a pretty platter, and no one will know you let the slow cooker do all the work!

Bonus! Here are a few ideas that you can generally make ahead for the day of the party! (Try a Google search if you need recipes.) Meatballs; Antipasto platter; Jarlsberg dip with crackers; spreads and chutneys, including cream cheese covered in fig jam or spicy jalapeño jelly (serve with crackers); cold shrimp cocktail, or even imitation crabmeat and cocktail sauce if you’re on a budget!

So let us know which dishes you make ahead of time. Which foods are your tried and true crowd pleasers that also save you time in the kitchen?