14 Party Essentials Everyone Should Have

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Whether you invite friends over after work for an impromptu drink or entertain an unexpected guest for dinner, having a pantry stocked full of shelf-stable foodstuffs to rely on is a secret of many experienced hosts. Event planner Karen Bussen calls it her "Party Pantry" — a place in your home, be it a shelf, drawer, or closet, where you can stash away products to pull out when you need something to serve, but have no time to make something or run to the store.

Annette Joseph has dedicated a large enough space for her pantry that in addition to party staples, she collects foodstuffs that allow her to throw together a delicious meal in just minutes — like tomato sauce and fine dried pastas. All she needs to do is open a couple bottles of wine, set out some snacks in bowls, and she's ready to go. "That way, when I run into a friend and make last-minute plans for a relaxed Sunday supper, most of what I need I've already got," she explains.

There is no time like right now to begin stocking up for your next get-together to make it easy and stress-free. Begin with a bunch of long-lasting food items like crackers, marinated olives, cocktail nuts, salsas, and spreads, suggests Bussen. Clodagh McKenna, the author of Homemade, always has a can of chickpeas on hand to make homemade hummus in a flash as well as good chocolate for serving alone (or making truffles). And don't neglect your liquor stash. The hard stuff aside, it never hurts to have a couple of bottles of white or sparkling wine chilling in the fridge. That way, you can always offer guests a small bite to eat and a cold beer or glass of wine.

Click here to see the 14 Party Essentials to Have in Your Pantry Slideshow.