Our summer schedule is all but forgotten as we get back to the regular programming of school days, but the summer weather still lingers, along with the gorgeous late summer light. Which makes the end of August and early September a pretty lovely time to gather friends around an outdoor table and enjoy an evening meal together.
The tricky thing for me is, once school is back in session, it’s hard to make time to prep a meal for guests. So I thought it would be fun to come up with a few menus that are entirely store bought, requiring no prep, plus totally gorgeous and majorly delicious.
The idea is that you can swing by the grocery store on the way home from work, or after school (or you could even use a grocery delivery service), and pick up an instant meal that tastes amazing, is fun to eat and serve, and requires no apology.
Does a no-prep, grocery store menu sound right up your alley? Then you’re in luck! I’ve got 3 for you today. One French-themed, one Scandinavian themed, and one filled with All-American flavors. A stop at the store, a few minutes opening bottles and packages, and boom, you’re hosting a stress-free dinner party.
MENU ONE: Paris Picnic
The first menu loosely follows a French theme featuring some favorite, easy-to-find classics. The great thing about this menu is that it’s really satisfying to your tastebuds and it’s filling too. Bon Appetit!
Menu One Grocery List:
Cured Black Olives with Herbs
Lightly Salted Almonds + Honey Roasted Almonds
Soft Cheese (such as Brie, Camembert, or similar ripened soft cheese)
Herbed Goat Cheese
To drink: Sparkling French Lemonade
Doesn’t that look amazing? Sophisticated but simple and full of satisfying flavor combinations. The perfect mix of savory and sweet.
MENU TWO: Summer Smorgasbord
The second menu is based on several classic flavors and items from Scandinavia. Think of it as a lighter version of the beloved smorgasbord. It’s something you could imagine yourself eating on a warm night in the Swedish countryside as you enjoy the late sunset. This menu includes a few types of pickles in addition to salt n’ vinegar almonds, which help cut the richness of the cheeses and salmon.
Menu Two Grocery List:
Flatbread Crackers (these are whole grain rye)
Capers (rinsed well and drained)
Whole Grain Mustard
Salt n’ Vinegar Almonds
Hot Smoked Salmon
Soft, Spreadable Fresh Cheese (such as cream cheese)
Assorted Fresh Berries
(And if you don’t mind a little prep, add these Quick Pickled Cucumbers to the menu.)
To drink: Cherry juice + Sparkling water + Sparkling apple cider
Oh my. This one tastes as fresh as it looks. Yes to picked everything!
MENU THREE: All-American Flavor
The third menu is based on American BBQ or picnic flavors. Blue Diamond Smokehouse almonds are so addictive! They go splendidly with the cheeses, ham and turkey, apples, pears, and cherries, and other items. This is totally a meal to put together when you’re in the mood for something a little spicy — like pickled jalapenos and habanero cheddar — to go along with sandwich fixings.
Menu Three Grocery List:
Whole Wheat Crackers
Black and Green Olives
Aged Cheddar Cheese
Sliced Maple Ham
Muenster Cheese Slices
To drink: rootbeer
Is this one my favorite? I’m not sure, but I LOVE these flavors. In fact I might have to serve this combo for dinner tonight. Doesn’t it look festive?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these no-prep dinner party menu ideas. Have you ever served a casual meal like this to guests? Or prepared something like this for your own family? I’m a big fan, because it comes together so quickly and there’s something for every kind of taste bud. Do you have a favorite among the 3 options featured here? And one last question: If there was a future post with more of these no-prep dinner menus, what sort of themes would you want to see?
Photos by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.