Entertaining Essentials: What you need in your refrigerator

Of course, your party or dinner menu will dictate what's in your fridge, but we've compiled a list of staples that will come in handy as you're prepping for the holidays.

 Cheese. It's hard to resist a plate of cheese for nibbling on at a party; serve just two or three kinds and make sure to vary the textures and flavors.

 Butter. If you're not going to use it right away, you can also store butter in the freezer.

 Eggs. Don't store these in your refrigerator door, as they'll get too warm each time you open and close your fridge.

 Milk. Keep whole milk on hand for cooking and baking, and low- or non-fat for guests.

 Heavy cream. You can quickly whip this with a little sugar for instant whipped cream; it's much tastier than the kind you spray from a can.

 Olives. Serve with martinis or in a bowl for your guests to munch on.

 An assortment of fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, rosemary and sage. You'll need these for many dishes during the holidays; they add instant flavor to turkey, roasted meats, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables and more.

 Assorted vegetables, such as carrots, celery and broccoli. These staples can be cut up and served with dip for an appetizer; they can also be cooked and incorporated into side dishes and stuffings.

 Ready-made cookie dough. There's nothing like freshly-baked cookies straight from the oven, so keep this on hand for a quick dessert when you don't have time to bake from scratch.

 Ready-made pie crust. If you don't have time to make your own, a store-bought crust will do in a pinch.

 Apples and pears. You'll find these called for in many holiday dishes, both sweet and savory. Or, you can slice them and serve with a hunk of cheddar cheese for a simple dessert.

 Fresh cranberries. Besides cooking them for your cranberry sauce, you can pour them into glass containers for displaying flowers or candles for an easy, festive touch.

You'll also want to keep these items in your freezer for easy holiday entertaining.

 Ice. If you're serving cocktails or punch, make sure you have plenty of ice to keep those drinks cold.

 Ready-to-eat shrimp. Just thaw and serve with cocktail sauce for a quick, upscale party appetizer.

 Vanilla ice cream. Top slices of cake and pie with a scoop to make dessert extra special; or, serve ice cream with some of the cookies in your pantry for an instant dessert.

More holiday entertaining essentials:
Decorations for your holiday party
What you need in your linen closet
What you need in your cabinets
What you need in your pantry
What you need in your liquor cabinet

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