Passionate About San Diego
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Quick and Easy Trader Joe’s Party Spread for a Small Crowd

Before I was a busy mom, I loved to cook and entertain even though I was not that skilled at it.  I enjoyed the creativity and the challenge of laying out a party spread or meal that people would gobble up.

Now that my kids are adults, I am spending more time volunteering in my community and that keeps me busy.  One of my greatest pleasures from my volunteering is cooking for crowds, both small and large.

Recently, I found myself at Trader Joe’s with the task of laying out a party spread for our valued volunteer staff of about 10 people.  So, of course I did what any multi-tasking mom would do.  I decided to make it into a blog post to meet a fast-approaching deadline.

Our volunteer staff is awesome and our monthly meeting is for them to enjoy without having to do a thing.  Which basically means that I am doing it all myself and happily so.

Trader Joe’s For the WIN!!!

Last meeting to make it ultra-easy on myself, I threw a pizza party with assorted slices from our favorite neighborhood pizza place.  This time, the volunteers thought I had our meeting catered!!!

With a $40 budget, 20 minutes of shopping time, and 30 minutes of prep time I put on a spread that looked like a catered affair!

Menu Planning and Shopping

Because we have eaters of all types including paleos, gluten-frees, dairy-frees, and vegetarians I shopped with the goal of providing a diverse spread that could offer each of them something they could eat as a small meal or snack.


Being a health-conscious eater myself, I know how much I HATE it when there is NOTHING I can or want to eat at a party.


On the Menu:

  • Pesto and Chicken on Baguette Slices
  • Carrots with assorted Hummus
  • Brie Cheese with Brioche Toasts*
  • Mixed Lightly-salted Nuts*
  • Kalamata Olives and Sliced Salami
  • Sweetened Dried Orange Pieces
  • Gluten-free Chocolate Chunk Cookies*

* Note: see below for additions, substitutions and money savers.

Prepping and Presentation


COOL TIP ALERT!!!!! One of my friends gave me this great tip, which I learned after trying to return a tray to her after a party at my house.

She told me that she buys serving trays, for about $1 each at thrift stores and dollar stores, and just plans to leave them at the parties she brings a dish to.

Kind of as a hostess gift, but really more for the convenience of not having to collect her things if she wants to leave before the party ends or the food is gone.

After I matched the food items to the trays, the only prepping I did at home before taking it all to the meeting place was cut the bread into thin little slices and the orange slices into quarters.

Once at the meeting place, I cut opened packages and arranged food.  The most time consuming thing was topping the baguette with pesto and chicken.

The Final Party Spread… by a Caterer or Busy Mom?


Yeah, I’m a busy mom who can throw down a spread like a caterer…. and now you can too!!!

*Additions, Substitutions, and Money Savers to the Original Plan

caramelsubcookiesAfter tasting the Chocolate Chunk Cookies, I decided they were not for the crowd I was serving.  I substituted with Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels I had previously purchased at Costco.

The salted caramels ended up being the perfect complement to the Sugar-coated Dried Orange Slices.  Trader Joe’s does have some yummy candy and cookie choices to substitute instead to keep it to one-stop shopping.

The Brioche Toasts got nixed because they were too crumbly to spread the Brie on.  So, I plated all the cut up bread for use with the cheese and salami instead. You may want to buy a box of crackers, of which Trader Joe’s has many choices.

I also saved and plated chicken and pesto separately, so that my ‘gluten-frees’ (including myself) could simply spread pesto on the chicken slices, maybe add an olive, and enjoy.

Because I knew I had leftover fruit salad from a prior event, I added that to my spread.  If I did not have the fruit salad, I would have bought a big bunch of grapes instead.  To save money, you could buy less expensive nuts.  The nuts were the most expensive thing I purchased!!!

OOPSIE!!! Busy Mom Problems 🙁

I forgot my bag with my computer, meeting notes, and volunteer sign-in/sign-up sheets.


You know that feeling…. like you don’t have everything you are supposed to?

But, I did have what our volunteers would say are the most important things…. the food and door prizes!!!!

What are your favorite Trader Joe’s items for a party spread?  Share in the comments!

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One Response to Quick and Easy Trader Joe’s Party Spread for a Small Crowd

  1. Christelle
    Christelle November 3, 2016 at 9:34 am #

    This is awesome! I need to remember for the holiday season

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