50 Make-Ahead Luncheon Ideas For The Garden Club

Egg Salad Sandwiches
Photo: Jen Causey

When it comes to a luncheon for the Garden Club, you obviously want everything to be just perfect. While the flowers in your garden might be beautiful and your container plants perfectly arranged, the food is just as important. In the past, we’ve given you recommendations for what to serve and what not to serve for a luncheon, but it’s no secret that sometimes the food served at these parties doesn’t always keep as well as your traditional casserole . For this luncheon round-up, we’ve tried to take a little off your day-of party planning by sharing recipes that you can make ahead of time. Some of these can be frozen days or even weeks in advance and all you have to do is bake the day of, while others can be made the night before. From the tried-and-true potato salad to a fun icebox cake, we’ve tried to keep all of the fun elements of a luncheon feast in mind.

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Homemade Chicken Salad

Homemade Chicken Salad
Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Is it really a luncheon if you don't have chicken salad? Our homemade version is a real classic, and is a great recipe to have on hand. Everyone will appreciate the time you took to make this recipe and will taste the difference.

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Million Dollar Pound Cake

Million Dollar Pound Cake
Photography: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Who doesn't love a slice of pound cake to enjoy with company? The thing that makes pound cake such a staple is that it freezes like a dream.

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Three-Layer Mold

Three-Layer Mold
Jennifer Causey

A Three-Layer Mold has been a staple in Southern kitchens for generations, but perhaps the most wonderful part of this side staple is that it can be made ahead. After all, you have to make sure that each of the layers are perfectly set!

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Watergate Salad

Watergate Salad

Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

Whatever you call this salad, this recipe–which starts with pistachio instant pudding mix–is always going to be a favorite for any type of celebration. To make sure this recipe doesn't deflate, you can make this recipe up to two days ahead.

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Fudgy Pecan Bourbon Balls

Fudgy Pecan Bourbon Balls Recipe
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Prop Styling: Karin Olsen; Food Styling: Kellie Gerber Kelley

Always a holiday favorite, Fudgy Pecan Bourbon Balls are worthy of having a place on your luncheon table. These treats also last for a week in the fridge.

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Southern Shrimp Pasta Salad

Southern Living Southern Shrimp Pasta Salad in serving bowl with a serving beside

Antonis Achilleos; Prop Stylist: Clair Spollen; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

If you are a fan of pickled shrimp, this is just the recipe you. This recipe can keep for up to 24 hours in the fridge, and its bright, fresh flavor is just what you want for a garden party.

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Lime Gelatin And Cottage Cheese Salad

Lime Gelatin and Cottage Cheese Salad

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

You just can't beat a congealed salad, and this version is just about as classic as you can get. Make the recipe the night before, let it chill overnight and then it's ready to go.

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Pecan Pralines

Pecan Pralines

Caitlin Bensel, Food Styling: Torie Cox

Pecan Pralines are a Texas mainstay for a reason. These, like most pralines, can keep in an airtight container for about a week.

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Ham Salad

Cheese Puffs with Ham Salad
Alison Miksch; Prop Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller; Food Styling: Torie Cox

This recipe takes just 10 minutes to make, but you can whip up the ham salad ahead of time, too. It's just as versatile as chicken salad, but it might just be even more Southern, if that's possible.

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Cheddar Cheese Shortbread Crackers

Cheddar Shortbread Crackers
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas; Food Styling: Torie Cox

You need something to use as a vessel for all of these salads, and these shortbread crackers are just the thing to have on hand. From variations like Pimiento Cheese Shortbread Crackers and Bacon, Bourbon, and Benne Seed Shortbread Crackers, you can alter these crackers to suit the tastes of the company you keep.

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Strawberry-Pretzel Icebox Pie

Strawberry-Pretzel Icebox Pie
Jennifer Davick

We're all about frozen desserts, especially on those warm days. There is something that feels so delicate about this recipe even though the only fussy thing about it is homemade whipped cream.

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Cheese Dreams

Cheese Dreams

Antonis Achilleos; Food Stylist: Ruth Blackburn

These little squares, which are made with grocery store white bread and a delightful cheese spread, are utterly divine. Freeze these after step 2 and just pop a few in the oven before company arrives.

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Tomato Aspic

Tomato Aspic
Southern Living

This timeless tomato aspic is the perfect centerpiece for your party. It is also just the thing to serve with your beloved Ham and Chicken Salad.

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Basic Pimiento Cheese

Basic Pimiento Cheese

Jennifer Causey; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Pass the pimiento cheese, please! This beloved Southern spread is a staple of the Master's Tournament as well as our hearts. It can be stored in your fridge for up a week.

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Banana Pudding Cheesecake

Banana Pudding Cheesecake
Southern Living

You can find Banana Pudding at nearly every BBQ joint or fine restaurant in the South, but you've probably never had something as wonderful as a Banana Pudding Cheesecake. This recipe takes two Southern favorites and transforms them into something that is the ultimate indulgence.

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Benedictine Spread

Benedictine Spread - Southern Living

Antonis Achilleos; Prop Stylist:Christine Keely; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer

A delicious spread that will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can serve with a side or carrots and cucumbers.

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Bacon-and-Cheddar Grits Quiche

Bacon-and-Cheddar Grits Quiche

Alison Miksch

This quiche can be baked up to two days ahead of time so you will have plenty of time to make other arrangements for your garden party.

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Éclair Cake

Eclair Cake
Molly Bolton/Southern Living

You would never think that graham crackers could make such an elegant dessert, but it sure does. This dessert with a lovely, glossy layer of chocolate will become an instant hit.

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Rice Pudding

Rice Pudding

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Yes, you can make Rice Pudding in advance! Just make sure to allow for the pudding to cool to room temperature and then it will keep in your fridge for 5 days.

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Pimiento Cheese Sausage Balls

Pimento Cheese Sausage Balls
Southern Living

If you want a bake what you need type of recipe for a gathering of just a few garden growers, this recipe is just the thing! Make a double batch, freeze these Sausage Balls raw, and then just bake when it comes to the time. Just make sure that you add a few extra minutes to your oven timer to make sure they are cooked through.

21 of 50

Our Favorite Buttermilk Biscuit

Our Favorite Buttermilk Biscuits on a plate with butter and jam
Will Dickey

There isn't anything better than a just baked biscuit, but did you know that you can freeze biscuit dough for up to 90 days? Well, now you know, and you can make your biscuit dough early without thinking twice about it. Of course, make sure you have plenty of butter and jam for your guests.

22 of 50

Strawberry-Pretzel Jello Salad

Strawberry-Pretzel Jello Salad

CAITLIN BENSEL; FOOD STYLING: TORIE COX

This potluck staple needs some time to set, and we think that it's good enough to be a part of your garden party spread. Don't forget that sprinkle of pecans!

23 of 50

Creamy Peach Icebox Cake

Creamy Peach Icebox Cake
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling; Kathleen Varner; Food Styling: Torie Cox

This beautiful cake has a secret: It's mostly made of a combination of store-bought items. Pick up frozen pound cakes, a jar of peach preserves, and vanilla ice cream at the market.

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Marinated Feta With Cherry Tomatoes

Marinated Feta with Cherry Tomatoes
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Half of this recipe (the feta part) should be made the night before. A finishing touch of tomatoes and a toasting of the baguette are all you need.

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Spinach-and-Vidalia Dip

Spinach and Vidalia Dip
Greg Dupree Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

Sweet Vidalia Onions are savored in the South, and adding them to a spinach dip is just the thing! You can make this dip up to two days ahead of time, and you can serve it with almost anything from pita to potato chips.

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Nuts And Bolts

Nuts And Bolts

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Most everyone has their own version of a Nuts And Bolts Mix, but this version might just be the best. You can customize this to your tastes, but we know whatever you do will be delicious.

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Ice Cream Sandwich Cake

Ice Cream Sandwich Cake
Caitlin Bensel

The everyday, classic ice cream sandwich gets a delicious transformation in this recipe. In our chef's notes we guide you through the whole process of how to freeze this dessert ahead of time.

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Make-Ahead Yeast Rolls

Make-Ahead Yeast Rolls
Laurey W. Glenn

Serve these delicious rolls with thinly sliced ham and a little butter to make this dish truly delicious.

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Rum Balls

Rum Balls Recipe
Hector Manuel Sanchez

These little Rum Balls seem to make their way into every gathering, but you might not know that they can keep for up to a month in your fridge. This recipe makes six dozen Rum Balls which makes them even better!

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Orange-Basil Yogurt Dip

Orange-Basil Yogurt Dip
Iain Bagwell

A dip perfect for everything from crudités to breadsticks. It keeps for three days in an airtight container.

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Zucchini Pie

Zucchini Pie
Will Dickey

A pie that looks impressive and tastes delicious.

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Bloody Mary Poached Shrimp

Bloody Mary Poached Shrimp

Victor Protasio; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely

You're probably already serving Bloody Mary's at your luncheon so why not go all out with Bloody Mary Poached Shrimp too? Make up to three days ahead of time.

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Bacon-Cheese Gougères

Bacon-Cheese Gougères
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Light and fluffy but also rich in flavor, these are a must for every gathering.

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Chocolate Delight

Ouida’s Chocolate Delight

Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Christine Keely

This dessert has many names, but Chocolate Delight is the best to describe this wonderful treat. This recipe comes from the one and only Erin Napier's family, which makes it even sweeter.

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Classic Potato Salad

Classic Potato Salad Southern Living

Fred Hardy; Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey; Prop Stylist: Hannah Greenwood

That's right, the best kind of Potato Salad should have a hard boiled egg. Trust us on this one.

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Lemon Tiramisu

Lemon Tiramisu
Photographer Victor Protasio, Food Stylist Ruth Blackburn, Prop Stylist Heather Chadduck

A bright, lemon-filled dessert that will be the talk of your garden party. This recipe comes together fairly quickly, but you can make up to 24 hours in advance.

37 of 50

Egg Salad Sandwiches

Egg Salad Sandwiches
Jen Causey

Make the egg salad a day in advance and then assemble the sandwiches the day of! With sweet pickle relish and onion, this is the ultimate egg salad.

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Cracker Toffee

Cracker Toffee
Abbi Wilt

This is a true treat that fits perfectly on a cocktail napkin, making it a lovely dessert to serve at a gathering. Just be sure to store it in the fridge!

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Broccoli, Grape, and Pasta Salad

Broccoli, Grape, and Pasta Salad

Jennifer Davick

One of Southern Living's most requested recipes of all time. You can make it a few hours ahead of time, and everyone at the party will want the recipe.

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Bacon-Ranch Pasta Salad

Bacon-Ranch Pasta Saladba
Micah A. Leal

One package of ranch seasoning goes a long way to make this dish a crowd-pleaser.

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Classic Coleslaw

Classic Coleslaw
Photography: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Coleslaw is one of those things that a true Southerner always has on hand. This versatile side can keep for up to five days in the fridge.

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Roasted Carrot Soup

Roasted Carrot Soup

Morgan Hunt Glaze; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely

If you are looking to use some veggies from your own garden, look no further than this soup. If you are making ahead, make sure to keep the sour cream and the soup separate.

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Whipped-Cream Corn Salad

Whipped-Cream Corn Salad
Southern Living

There is nothing quite like the sweetness of fresh corn, but corn dressed in whipped cream might be even better. Make this recipe through step one up to 24 hours in advance and then combine with the whipped cream right before serving.

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Broccoli-Spinach Soup with Parmesan Croutons

Broccoli-Spinach Soup with Parmesan Croutons
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling; Heather Chadduck Hillegas; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

This vibrant soup is just the thing to serve. If you are making ahead, freeze the soup without the croutons.

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Summer Orzo Salad

summer orzo salad in a dark blue bowl
Photographer and Prop stylist: Jennifer Causey Food Stylist: Melissa Gray

This bright colorful salad lasts for up to a week in the fridge. It's just the thing to serve to a hungry crowd.

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Cappuccino Swirl Bars

Cappuccino Swirl Bars
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

If you plan to move your party to the parlor for coffee and dessert, this treat is just the thing. You can make these up to three days ahead of time and serve them straight from the fridge.

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Creamy Overnight Fruit Salad

Creamy Overnight Fruit Salad
Abigail Wilt

Some dishes need to sit overnight to let all of the wonderful flavors meld, and this recipe is the ultimate make-ahead salad. Every member of your garden club will be coming back for seconds.

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Permanent Slaw

Permanent Slaw
Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Prop Styling: Lydia Pursell; Food Styling: Toni Brogan

The staying power of this recipe is in the name of this dish. The longer you keep this side around, the more delicious it becomes.

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Key Lime Icebox Cake

Key Lime Icebox Cake

This bright, refreshing cake needs at least eight hours to freeze, and then it is topped with a cloud of whipped cream.

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Escabèche-Style Marinated Tomatoes

Escabèche-Style Marinated Tomatoes
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

This beautiful dish takes full advantage of Southern tomatoes. This marinated dish can be stored overnight in the fridge.

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