Photo: Jennifer Causey; Styling: Claire Spollen

There’s no reason to wait until the morning of.

Arielle Weg
June 28, 2018

I’m someone who loves to host—especially during holidays. But, I tend to get a little overwhelmed and stressed the hours before company arrives. Did I remember everything? Will there be enough food? Let’s hope so.

I know you’ve heard it before, but look… it’s still true: One of the smartest moves you can make when hosting company is to prep in advance. You’ll have more than enough time to pick up that one ingredient you forgot or add another side dish to bulk out the meal. So, instead of spending your Independence Day stressed, spend your weekend leisurely prepping a few dishes. You’ll thank yourself later.

Simply Sliced Veggies

Go ahead and start slicing up veggies for grilling the weekend before—it’s totally okay. This herb-grilled summer squash is the ultimate Independence Day side dish. Slice the squash over the weekend, and all you’ll have left to do is sprinkle over the herb mixture and hit the grill.

Coleslaw

Like many great summer side dishes, coleslaw is a refreshing salad oozing with creamy, herby goodness. Prep the creamiest, crunchiest coleslaw you’ve ever tasted a few days in advance for the perfect effortless addition to a summer spread. Slice your veggies, mix up the dressing, and store in separate airtight containers. Then, about an hour before guests arrive, combine the two for a coleslaw that will truly get the party started.

Corn Salad

Skip sweating over a hot grill trying to cook a dozen ears of corn. Instead, broil (or grill if you please) corn in advance, and once cooled toss into a dreamy sauce packed with citrusy, cheesy personality. Chill for the next couple of days, allowing the flavors to blend, and you’ve got an award winning side dish of corn salad.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Bottled barbecue sauce simply can’t compete with the joy a perfectly grilled chicken wing drowning in a sweet and spicy homemade sauce can deliver. These grilled chicken wings with tamarind chipotle barbecue sauce are super simple showstopper—if the sauce is prepared in advance. For the perfect sauce to pair with the grilled protein you have in mind, check out this collection of our best homemade BBQ sauces.

Pasta Salad

Every good cookout has a bowl of hearty, veggie-loaded pasta salad. This grilled corn pasta salad takes all of our favorite summer flavors and packs them into one dish. Afterall, pasta salads taste even better after a few days of relaxing in the fridge. That said, you’ll probably want to wait on adding the avocado until the day of to avoid browning; just leave yourself a reminder to slice it up before it’s time to chow down.

Appetizers

The easiest app to prepare in advance is a nice veggie + dip(s) spread. Slice up a tray full of fresh veggies, then prep a perfect salsa, Ranch dip, and hummus to have guests nosh on while you’re grilling. Save the guacamole to make the day of.

Drinks

Sure, a beer is the perfect burger duo, but a real July 4th party features some fruity, summery cocktails. Choose any of these party-perfect batch cocktails and let them chill in the fridge. The longer fruits sit in liquor, the tastier your finished product will be. Keep in mind, any frozen drinks will need to be defrosted and re-blended before serving, and all garnishes (orange peel or mint) or sparkling additions should wait until you’re ready to serve.

Desserts

Go ahead and prep that fruit platter before guests arrive (nobody likes soggy, brown fruit), but plenty of summer desserts can easily be prepped and frozen days in advance. Prepare the cake of our red, white, and blue cupcakes or red, white, and blue layer cake and store once completely cooled in the fridge. Then, before guests arrive, prepare frosting, and decorate. And, of course, you can prepare frozen treats and cakes that are served from the fridge or freezer in advance, like lemonade blueberry pops, Blueberry Sorbet Cupcakes, and American Flag Cheesecake Bars. For more cool and creamy make-ahead treats, check out our favorite icebox pies and cakes or our collection or try your hand at making homemade ice cream.

Baked Beans

Cut down a few-hour-process to just bake time by prepping a pan of beans in advance. Mix all the ingredients together (we’re big fans of this recipe for rum baked beans) and keep the ready-to-go dish stashed away in the fridge. When party time is coming up, pop it into the oven.

Veggie Burgers

This meat-free option is worth making homemade for any vegetarian guests, but can get a bit time intensive. Good news is, patties like black bean and mushroom burgers can definitely be made a few days in advance. Blend the plant-protein ingredients and form into your burger patties, then refrigerate on a sheet pan until ready to cook. As a bonus, plant-based burgers tend to hold their shape better after refrigeration.

Potato Salad

The longer you let potato salad sit in the fridge, the better the flavors combine (there’s a limit, of course). Toss these new potatoes with shaved celery, buttermilk, and dill, then let the salad chill in the fridge or a couple of nights for a delightfully creamy and flavorful side dish.

Ribs

Many rib recipes call for the meat to chill with some sort of dry rub mixture on—but for no more than eight hours. However, you can begin to prep the ribs even further ahead of time. Head to the store to buy your perfect slabs, remove the membrane, and prep your dry rub  over the weekend.The night before the holiday rolls around, apply your spice rub and get grilling in the morning. Our recipe for the best grilled ribs are truly the best you’ll ever have.

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