Things to Bring to a Party When You Don't Have Time to Cook

camille styles
Courtesy of Camile Styles

Prepping for a party or figuring out what to bring to a party when you don't have time can be stressful. If you've been working late, shopping for holiday gifts, or just haven't found the time to cook a dish, Camille Styles has a simple platter that takes minutes to make (but still looks seriously impressive). "I'm a big fan of appetizers that are assembled using high-quality store-bought ingredients. When you're juggling a main course and side dishes, who has time to cook some fancy hors-d'oeuvres?" she tells MyDomaine.

Meet the Expert

Camille Styles is the founder and creative director of lifestyle site where she shares entertainment ideas that inspire her. Camille is a regular contributor to and she acts as the host of HGTV's mobile party planning app.

Her go-to quick dish is a "seasonal platter" that makes predictable cheese boards pale in comparison. "Like a cheese plate, this platter is a crowd-pleaser with something for everyone, but I love that it brings a fresh twist to the table," she says. Oh, and it's just as Instagrammable. "The key to making this feel thoughtful is to focus on a beautiful presentation—a mix of brilliant colors, varied textures, and of course, great serving pieces."

Styles, who is Target's entertaining editor, recommends keeping these ingredients in your pantry ahead of time so you can assemble it in minutes. Forget cheese platters—this seasonal spread is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

Step 1: The Ingredients

party food
Courtesy of Camile Styles

Granted, there are a lot of ingredients in Styles' go-to platter, but they're all pre-packaged and can be bought in advance. "All of the ingredients can be purchased ready-made, so all that's left to do is arrange it with a little style!" she says. Include a mixture of food in different colors and textures. Take your pick from the ingredient list below, and keep them on hand before the holidays.

Shopping List:

  • Fresh vegetables like endive leaves and rainbow carrots
  • Marinated vegetables like artichoke hearts and sweet peppers
  • Mixed spiced nuts
  • Candied cashews
  • Roasted hazelnuts
  • Marinated Feta cheese
  • Wedge of stilton
  • Assorted pitted olives
  • Tapenade
  • Wildflower honey
  • Bread and seeded crackers

Step 2: The Platter

party food
Courtesy of Camile Styles

All good-looking platters have one thing in common: They're assembled in dishes and bowls of varying height. "Varied heights are great when creating a spread, so think about using flat plates, medium-size bowls, footed compote dishes, and taller jars," says Styles. "For the ultimate height variation, pair a flat cutting board with a taller cake stand."

If you're a guest, go a step further and buy a new board or platter that doubles as a gift for the host.

Step 3: The Presentation

party food
Courtesy of Camile Styles

Now for the creative part: the assembly. "I start by setting down the largest items on the platter so they're evenly distributed—the wedge of stilton in one corner, a bowl of olives in another, and a jar of tapenade in the third corner," she says. "Then I fill in spaces with the loose items like crackers fanned out on the serving board and nuts scattered in a corner. I aim to fill in most of the surface of the serving board, so small items like berries, nuts, and edible flowers can be easily tucked into bare spots."

If you're hosting, display the platter on a buffet tablet with fall flowers and foliage. "The flowers took this display to the next level. I love to incorporate unexpected natural items like fall leaves, acorns, and berries into flower arrangements for a fun, seasonal look," says Styles. "Tucked into an earthenware vase, it's a cozy look that feels chic and effortless." It's that easy. 

cutting board
Hearth & Hand with Magnolia Acacia Cutting Board $12
Target Marble & Acacia Cake Stand $25
Target Stoneware Mini Bowl $4
Hearth & Hand with Magnolia Striped Table Runner $18

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