A mark of a great host is that effortless, easy attitude which makes you feel relaxed and comfortable. To get ahead on your own hosting game, being prepared is key. It’s even more important for when those last-minute plans come up, be it a surprise visit from the in-laws or happy hour at home with friends. Having a check list of quick tidying tricks, a good vibe playlist at the ready, and a well-stocked pantry will put you at ease and get you ready for anything. Scroll on for a checklist.

Wine: Keep a few bottles of “company wine” on deck that are nice enough that you’re proud to serve, but not so over the top that you’re reluctant to open it. If you don’t already have a favorite, head to your local wine shop and ask them to point you in the direction of a crowd-pleasing bottle under $20.

Hard Cheese and Crackers: A wedge of cheddar or Gouda will keep for a while in the fridge and pairs perfectly with a package of water crackers or crostini. Choose something that you can toss with pasta or whip into a grilled cheese if it doesn’t get used by the expiration date.

Dried Fruit or Jam: Dried plums, apricots, or figs make a pretty accompaniment to your cheese and crackers. A small pot of fig jam or pepper jelly has the same effect.

Roasted Nuts: When friends stop by for a pre-dinner drink, you probably don’t want to lay out a whole spread. A small bowl of nuts (we like some that are roasted with herbs and sea salt) is just enough to nibble on without killing anyone’s appetite.

Olives: Same idea as the nuts. You can find glass jars of imported varieties packed in oil that will keep for months in the pantry.

Cured Meats: If it’s going to be a longer hangout, it’s nice to have something a little more substantial on hand. A whole salami or a package of prosciutto has a decent shelf life and can be set out alongside anything else from the list above.

Coffee or Tea: For a morning, early afternoon, or post-dinner drop-by, offering a cup of hot tea or coffee feels warm and comforting. It’s also a great option if you’re on a tight budget. Don’t forget to offer sugar and some kind of creamer.

Biscotti: You know how the coffee at fancy restaurants and hotels comes with a teeny, perfect cookie on the saucer? Well, you can be that fancy restaurant. Hard cookies like biscotti or ginger snaps keep for a long time in the cupboard.

Sparkling Water: Sometimes your guests don’t want to drink, so be prepared with something a little more special than tap water. Bonus points if you offer a slice of lemon with it.

One Great Pantry Meal: Having a great, inexpensive pantry meal in your back pocket comes with many advantages. You won’t be stressed about extending last-minute dinner invitations, and you’ll be prepared if that glass of wine turns into meal time. Pasta with a pantry sauce is an easy option, and you won’t be stuck defrosting anything or making last-minute grocery runs.

Takeout Menus: When all else fails, it’s nice to have options. Even when everyone splits the cost, you’ll feel like a pro host for pulling out a specific menu rather than making a vague reference to the possibility of takeout.

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(Photos via John Canelis/Unsplash, Whitney Wright/Unsplash, Brooke Lark/Unsplash, Jonathan Pielmayer/Unsplash)