Easy Meals For Casual Entertaining

When you need easy meal ideas for entertaining, follow this plan. It’s perfect for casual dinner parties and the recipes are simple to make when you’re hosting overnight guests, relatives, or friends. 

table setting with orange print table cloth and green glassware.

Easy Entertaining Meals

Now is the time to think about dinner party ideas and entertaining. To me that means hosting out of town family, friends and overnight guests who come for holidays or just because.

So the focus here isn’t on preparing formal or fancy dinners. It’s about creating easy meals and casual menus. It’s about preparing comfort food for the people we know best and don’t have to impress.

white tray with 2 orange drinks garnished with dried orange slices.

Welcome Guests With A Drink

No matter how casual it is, a welcome drink is always necessary. Set up a tray on the kitchen island and let guests make their own mocktail or cocktail. Or set have a premade pitcher drink that’s easy to pour.

  • Prepare a sparkling fruit punch with just 3 ingredients. Make it a mocktail or a cocktail.
  • This sunshine punch can also be made with or without champagne. Make it non-alcoholic to serve all ages.
  • Classic red sangria is always a welcome party drink.
  • As an alternative, make a batch of white wine peach sangria
photo collage with cowboy caviar and pimento cheese.

Serve Light Appetizers

Offer a light snack to nibble on while dinner finishes cooking. Make room temperature appetizers so there’s no need to keep them chilled or hot.

  • Two-ingredient cheese hors d’oeuvres are bite-size and flavorful.
  • Make-ahead deviled eggs are easy to make ahead and taste elevated.
  • Set out a bowl of homemade hummus with pretzel chips, pita chips and veggie sticks.
  • Make cowboy caviar a day ahead so it’s ready to serve when you are.
  • You can also prepare pimento cheese spread a day ahead, and serve with a variety of crackers and vegetables.
photo collage with casserole and salad.

Easy Dinner

When it comes to dinner, you want things to be quick and hassle free to prepare. Using the slow cooker to make the best spaghetti meat sauce is one of my go-to plans. Or, use it to make southwestern chili.

My second choice is to make a casserole that can be assembled early and put in the oven just before guests arrive.

  • Make classic chicken tetrazzini.
  • This Mexican pasta casserole never disappoints with its unique blend of Mexican and Italian ingredients.
  • Nothing is quite as easy as baked spaghetti.
  • A layered pasta bake is similar to lasagna but much easier to prepare.
  • Choose a soup recipe and keep it warm in a crock pot. Add bread, salads or sandwiches to round out the menu.


A green salad can be made ahead, covered, and refrigerated until ready to serve. It’s a fabulous side dish or appetizer that goes well with the main dishes above.

My make-ahead kale and apple salad with walnuts is delicious with perfectly balanced flavor.

table setting with orange print table cloth and green napkins and glassware.

Set a Casual Table

Just because you’re hosting a casual dinner doesn’t mean you can’t create an attractive table. There are some simple tips to follow to create a lovely table without the hassle.

  • Start with using complimentary colors like orange and green. Layer a printed fabric topper over a solid color tablecloth.  
  • Rattan chargers frame the simple setting, and colorful napkins break up the plain white visual of the dish.
  • Match the color of the napkins to the color of the glassware. 
centerpiece tray with gold candlesticks topped with wine corks.

Easy Centerpiece

No Flowers? No Problem! I love a floral centerpiece as much as anyone, but sometimes you run out of time, you’re on a budget, or the available flower selection just isn’t going to work with your decor.

Pull out some candle sticks, a tray, and some votive candles to make a last minute centerpiece. 

gold candlesticks with wine corks inserted, on mirror tray.

Create an unexpected twist by placing wine corks in the candle sticks instead of taper candles. 

dinner plate with vintage floral frog holding conversation cards.

Provide Endless Conversation

There’s never a dull moment when you put conversation cards at each place setting. Grab our 36 conversation starters free download and print them out on to decorative paper or card stock. 

Add a few to each place setting. I love using these vintage floral frogs as holders. And you can spray paint them any color to coordinate with your party table.

If you want to put a little extra effort into this, make these layered diy 3-piece menu & place card sets.

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