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You love hosting guests at home, but the preparations can stress you out and strain your budget. Knowing how to stock a pantry with a few go-to food items and supplies makes home entertaining easier and more affordable.

Keeping a stash of versatile ingredients, dishware, decorations and other party essentials on hand means you'll spend less time scurrying around to get ready right before company arrives. And by purchasing these items well in advance of party time, you can take advantage of sales and bulk discounts to save money.

Here's how to stock a pantry so you're always prepared to welcome friends and family into your home.

Shelf Staples

Items that keep well on the shelves until they're opened – like jarred or canned olives, roasted red peppers, chickpeas and dried fruit – can be used to make a simple snack tray or mixed with other ingredients to create more complex appetizers. Flavor makers like capers, balsamic vinegar, hot sauces and broths can quickly turn a plain dish into something party-fancy.

Save money by buying rice, dry pasta and dry beans in bulk. Add some canned tomatoes, jarred pasta sauces and other sauce mixes to the shelves, and you'll always have the basics for a cheap and easy entree or side dish at the ready.

Frozen Food

Boneless and skinless chicken breasts, chicken wings, ground beef and shrimp are great main dish staples to stock in your freezer. And plenty of party favorites can be concocted with pizza dough, rolls, baguettes, pita and flour tortillas – all of which freeze well. For dessert, keep ice cream, nuts and frozen fruit on hand to dress up a pound cake or make into a parfait.

March, which the National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association promotes as Frozen Food Month, is good time to catch a sale on frozen grocery items. If you have enough freezer space, you can save even more by purchasing frozen fruits, veggies and meats in bulk.

Dishes and Decorations

Watch for deals on dishes, flatware, glassware, serving bowls, trays, tablecloths and napkins. Stick to solid colors and simple patterns, so you can use them any time of year. This way, you'll be able to set a fine table in no time.

Your party decoration supply closet might include candles, centerpieces, silk flowers, vases, holiday decorations and accessories in your favorite sports team's colors.

Speaking of sports-themed parties, January is the best time to buy a new big-screen TV for watching the championship game, according to Consumer Reports. To get ready for next summer's cookout, look for sales on outdoor furniture in August and gas grills from October through December.

Whether you're inviting friends to a grand dinner party, hosting an impromptu game night or welcoming out-of-town guests for the weekend, entertaining at home is easier when you don't have to start from scratch. Learning how to stock a pantry in advance means being able to spend less time and money preparing for the event, so you can better enjoy your guests when they arrive.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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