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Easy, Affordable Buffet Lunch Ideas

A buffet? What a great idea!

With no formal settings or seating arrangements to fret about, your hosting duties at buffet stand-up luncheons can be fun and you let your guests help themselves!

But do the words "easy" and "buffet" always go together? There are factors to consider when planning a casual luncheon that beginners may not realize -- such as what food to serve, or where to place everything that allows a free flow of party traffic.

Keep the following tips in mind for an easy buffet lunch that can be enjoyed by everyone - as your guests happily mix and mingle with drinks and plates in hand:

  • Serve easy-to-eat food your guests don't have to cut, or handle. Even small snacks like chicken wings can be a big challenge to negotiate using one hand. If you are serving chicken try using the breast and cutting it into bite size pieces. Small precut sandwich triangles are a great idea. Small frozen hor d'oeuvres can be picked up at warehouse supermarkets like Sam's or CostCo - they taste good and are so easy to prepare and to eat one handed!

  • Round foods can pose a problem. Tomatoes, olives or grapes roll off plates and on to the floor (or your just-cleaned carpet). If you happen to forget and serve your prize-winning Swedish meatballs, remember that toothpicks will keep any 'rollable' food stationary...and with pretty cellophane ends they add a festive touch to the food table.

    Easy buffet step-by-step:

lunch buffet
Make it easy on guests by serve bite-sized appetizers that can fit on a cracker or that can be held
together with a toothpick (left). If serving hot food, play it safe by keeping paper napkins and plates
away from sterno heaters (middle). And, don't skimp on serving dishes! Buy sturdy paper
(not plastic) plates that can withstand any buffet dish placed on it without wilting. (right).

  • To keep guests coming back for more, the serving tables should be clear of chairs or any other tables that may tempt guests to linger...or block their path to the food. Extra napkins, plates, glasses and cutlery should be near the food. As guests wander they tend to lose plates and implements. A good safety tip: keep sternos or other open flame used to heat food away from anything ignitable, like paper plates and napkins!

  • A golden rule of a successful buffet luncheon is DON'T skimp and buy a gross of flimsy paper plates. Sturdy paper plates are worth the extra expense - as you'll soon realize when your guests begin to pile the food on with gusto. For this reason, it's always best to provide small and sturdy paper plates or in a pinch go for the more reliable plastic version. Don't worry about the smaller plates if you choose to use them. Smaller portions are very 'in' with diets on everyone's mind. Guests who are still hungry can always go back for seconds.

  • Finally, when serving finger foods you can definitely skimp on the price of napkins and buy the super-economy pack. Just as long as you have lots of them. Place them in nice baskets around the eating area and no one will suspect they were a bargain.

Have fun!

More buffet party how to's around the Web:

Easy Buffet Party Planning

Buffet Entertaining - Quick Make Ahead Menus

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