How to Plan a Last Minute Brunch

Posted by Andrea Vetter on

Brunch is an amazing meal that combines breakfast and lunch, and is the perfect meal for people that like to sleep in.  Often alcoholic beverages are served, making brunch time festive, a party instead of a mere meal. Brunch is often associated with late Sunday mornings, and elaborate meals at fancy restaurants. It has a formal air about it, and people are often afraid to host a brunch, believing it takes hours of planning, preparation and expertise. While a formal brunch can be enjoyable, a last minute brunch can be just as much fun. 

This informal method is wonderful if it is your first time having a brunch, and helps you ease into party planning, and is helpful even if you are an experienced party planner but would like to host a guilt free, stress free event. We’ve created three easy menus for a service of twelve, recipes, and shopping lists, but feel free to mix and match. The menus, shopping lists, and recipes are at the end of the article.

Some reasons for having a last minute brunch:

  •  Last minute guests stayed the night and everyone will be hungry when they wake up.
  • A family member or close friend is getting to married. To alleviate some of the stress you offer your place as a place to gather instead of everyone trying to cram into a crowded restaurant.
  • It’s the holidays and everyone is being pulled from one household to another, feeling obligated to spend time with all the relatives. Hosting an informal open house lets people gather and visit in a comfortable setting. We suggest having the brunch on a non-holiday day that frees up the guest’s time on the actual holiday.
  • You would like have guests over but don’t want to overstress. An informal brunch is a great way to have friends over and socialize on a day off, without spending hours planning because of a busy schedule.
  • It’s a wonderful excuse for day drinking.

The suggestions we make aren’t about spending hours in the kitchen, or staying up all night preparing while everyone else is having fun. It’s about getting together and socializing over food with friends and family, not a formal affair with the Queen. It is last minute planning, with things you might already have on hand, or can pick up at the local grocery store. While it’s easy to go overboard, especially with the mixing of breakfast and lunch dishes, keeping it simple is key, and the less food preparation you have to do, the easier hosting the brunch will be.

Dinnerware: One of the most important things to think of for party hosting, is what is everyone going to eat off of, and will there be enough for everyone. Gone are the days when people have extensive china sets, with service for 24 or 100 people, it is no longer considered a necessity. If you are fortunate enough to have a large collection and want to use it, feel free to go ahead and show it off. There is also no shame in using paper plates. You will save time and water by not having to spend hours washing dishes.

If you are concerned about the environment, it’s a good idea to keep these environmentally friendly disposable Birchwood plates on hand.

Another thing to question is plate size. Are your guests hearty eaters or are they going to taste a little of everything? Will a luncheon sized plate be large enough or do you need a banquet sized platter? The grocery store usually has dinner sized plates in stock and will work just fine.

If you do have time to preplan a little bit, or would like to have paper plates other than the bland basic kind, we thought these were cute and will brighten up your table.

Silverware: Unless you are planning on serving finger food only, it is a good idea to pick up plastic ware at the store too. Always get more than your expected guest count, especially if more guests show up than originally planned for, or if a guest wants seconds but already disposed of their plate. Again, it is fine to use your silverware if you would like too, but remember you will spend time washing it when you could be spending time with your guests.

Napkins: Napkins are important to have, and help keep guest’s hands and mouths clean. You can spend hours folding cloth napkins, or wrapping paper napkins around silverware, but an easy way to set up is to have the knives, forks, and spoons separated in glasses or plastic cups, and the napkins open for easy access. Paper towels also work in an informal environment.

Glassware: Drinks are a big part of a brunch, and glassware is a necessity. While we do recommend actual tea or coffee cups for the hot beverages, disposable paper cups with lids are a great alternative.

Unless you have a full bar set up, plastic cups are perfect for a last minute brunch. If you want to go all out, stores often have plastic champagne flutes or wine glasses, but a basic plastic cup is suitable for many cold drinks. It is a good idea to get extra, sometimes guests are often prone to losing cups, especially children.

Tablecloths: To use tablecloths or not? If you have cloth ones available they are a nice way to dress up the folding tables you’ve pulled out for extra seating. A plastic tablecloth works too, but it is time consuming to get them on the tables, sometimes it’s worse than folding a fitted sheet. If the tables are outside and there is a breeze, it is hard to keep them from blowing away unless they are weighted down and it’s a pain to chase after them. Depending on the condition of your tables, it’s your choice whether or not to use them.

Serving ware: Tongs, trays and bowls, oh my. I have all this food, how am I going to serve it? How important is presentation? It depends on how last minute the brunch is, and how much time you want to spend cleaning up. In today’s busy world we don’t always have time for an elaborate set up, and if you are using prepackaged food, it is fine to serve them in the packages they come in. If you do want to bling up presentation, but don’t have a cupboard full of bowls and trays, or a drawer full of serving spoons and tongs, an easy and inexpensive alternative is serving ware from a local dollar type of store. They often have plastic trays that still look attractive, are unbreakable, and can be washed or disposed of for a quick and easy clean up. They also offer inexpensive serving spoons and tongs which will come in handy for serving the brunch.

Foil roasting and baking pans also make storage and serving much easier, it’s why caterers often use them. Cold food like salad and fruit can be premade and chilled in the refrigerator, and hot foods can be prepared in them and kept warm until everything is ready to be served. The rectangular shapes keeps uniformity on the serving counter, are a space saver, and cleanup is easy. Using this method has made hosting parties much easier, especially for larger groups.

Ok, we have enough tableware for everyone, but what are we going to serve?

Brunch is a mixing of breakfast and lunch, sweet and savory dishes are the expected norm, but this is last minute and you don’t have hours to spend preparing and cooking food. This is where prepackaged and prepared foods at the grocery store are your friend, but we all also include some easy dishes and recipes to make it easy, and a couple that require little preplanning and can be made the night before.

                                            The Food

 We’ve included three easy menus to choose from. Menus, shopping lists and recipes are included at the end of the article.

Three menus for easy brunch planning, french market, farmhouse brunch and bagel brunch 


Breakfast Bread and Sweets: Choose one to keep it simple

A tray of muffins pastries and cookies perfect for serving for brunch or continental breakfast 

A muffin and bread tray. An easy way to add sweets to the brunch buffet is with premade muffins, pastries, and cookies from a local bakery or grocery store. Arranging them on a tray only takes a few moments, and no baking is required. You’re going to need the oven for other dishes.

tray of sliced bagels with cream cheese lox and chives

An Easy Bagel Brunch Bar Bagel brunch bars can be elaborate, but we’ve honed it down to the basics for an easy setup. Use three types of bagels, a plain, a sweet, and a savory, blueberry and onion bagels are the most popular and easy to find at the bakery or grocery store. Whipped cream cheese is easy to spread and there are several to choose from, but plain cream cheese is always a good bet. Some additional toppings could be sliced cucumbers, sliced strawberries, and smoked salmon or lox. Have a toaster handy for guests that prefer their bagels toasted.

Croissants with jelly

Tray of Croissants This is also an easy setup. The croissants can be placed in a bowl or on a tray. Recommended condiments are softened butter, jams, jellies and honey.

Eggs:  Eggs are an essential part of any brunch, but it can be time consuming to cook them individually. We have two easy recipes to try, depending on the size of the crowd.

Baked eggs in a muffin tin an easy brunch and breakfast dish

Individually Baked Eggs: This is one of the easiest ways to prepare eggs without having to fry or flip them, or worry about breaking the yolks. You can bake two muffin tins at once too.

  • Heat oven to 350F
  • Grease 12 muffin tins with nonstick spray
  • Crack eggs individually into each muffin tin
  • Add a dash of salt and pepper
  • Bake for 17 minutes.

easy bake d scrambled eggs for a crowd

Oven Scrambled Eggs: Another easy way to prepare eggs. This recipe serves twelve.

  • Heat oven to 350F
  • Spray 9 X 13 baking dish with nonstick spray
  • Whisk together
  • 24 large eggs
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 2 ½ cup milk (whole fat works best)
  • Pour into the baking dish
  • Bake for ten minutes uncovered
  • Cover and bake another ten minutes or until set.


baked bacon slices

Bacon is considered by many a necessity of any breakfast or brunch, but it’s messy and is hard to cook for a crowd while frying it. An easier way to cook it is to bake it. It can be cooked all at once.
  • Line a cookie sheet or foil roasting pan with foil for easier clean up.
  • Place cooling rack on top of foil. It is fine to overlap racks.
  • Spray racks with nonstick spray (This will make the racks easier to clean)
  • Place bacon slices on the cooling rack. Be careful not to overlap the slices.
  • Place in the oven and heat to 400F.
  • Bake for 15 minutes and carefully remove from oven.
  • Flip bacon over with tongs or a fork.
  • Bake for ten more minutes. It is wise to check every 5 minutes to ensure the bacon isn’t burning. Ovens vary in temperature.
  • Remove from oven when done, drain on paper towels.
  • You can cook on two racks at a time in the oven. Just switch positions at the 15 minute point, top cookie sheet goes on the bottom and vice versa.

Small sliced ham

Ham Sliced ham is easy to prepare and serve, and the grocery store often offers several sizes. Bake the ham according to the package directions and serve hot. 

 Baked breakfast sausage links

Precooked Sausage Links Precooked frozen sausage links are a time saver, and a bunch can be baked at once.

  • Preheat oven to 375F
  • Line cookie sheet with foil
  • Place the amount of links you want to cook on the cookie sheet in a single layer
  • Bake on center rack for 10-12 minutes
  • Drain on paper towels


A fruit dish is an important component of brunch. It adds a taste of sweetness and helps balance the flavors of the dishes. A precut fruit tray is the easiest to serve, but we’ve added a couple of other easy recipes too.

Fruit tray premade with watermelon cantaloupe pineapple and grapes

Fruit Tray Arrange a mix of precut fruit on a tray, usually watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe melon mix, add precut pineapple, and a bunch of green seedless grapes and red seedless grapes. Super easy to prepare and adds enough variety for everyone to enjoy a fruit they like.

Bowl of fruit cocktail fluff ambrosia marshmallow salad

Fruit Cocktail Fluff Fresh fruit isn’t always in season, and this makes a great substitute. Kids love this recipe, and people with a sweet tooth.

  • 2 15oz cans Fruit Cocktail, drained
  • 1 8oz container Cool Whip Thawed
  • 1 Cup mini marshmallows
  • Mix ingredients in a large bowl
  • Chill until serving

Berry cheesecake fluff salad

Cheesecake Berry Salad Fresh or frozen berries can be used in this fruit salad. The addition of cream cheese makes the dish taste almost heavenly.

  • 1 8oz softened cream cheese
  • ½ Cup sugar
  • 1 8oz Cool Whip thawed
  • 6 cups berries, fresh or frozen and thawed out
  • A yummy mix is 3 cups strawberries, one cup blackberries, one cup raspberries and 1 cup blueberries
  • A nice alternative is 5 cups sliced peaches and one cup blueberries, especially for people that don’t like the tiny seeds
  • Whip together the cream cheese and sugar
  • Fold in the thawed Cool Whip
  • Fold in the fruit
  • Chill until serving

 Veggies and Greens

A vegetable tray or salad helps make the last minute brunch feel more like a brunch than a basic continental breakfast, and adds a touch of salty, and helps lighten up the heavier dishes.

easy store bought veggie tray for easy party planning

Vegetable Tray Precut vegetables saves time and the need for peeling and slicing. Precut Vegetables often come ready on a tray or loose in bags, which can easily be arranged on a tray. An easy mix is precut broccoli, cauliflower, celery, baby carrots, and cherry tomatoes, but you can add any vegetable you like. Serve with a premade vegetable dip.

Italian tossed salad

Italian Tossed Salad Premade salad is the way to go for a last minute brunch, and adds a bit of pizazz to the plate and only takes a few minutes to put together. This is a simple salad that our guests always enjoy. Adding the dressing beforehand saves space on the countertop.

  • 2 10oz premade salad, any blend of choice
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Small can sliced olives, drained (A large can is fine if you want more olives)
  • 1 jar pickled peppers (yellow, wax, or pepperoncini) drained
  • ½ cup Italian salad dressing
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • Bag of croutons
  • Mix the salad mix and add in vegetables together in a bowl or serving container. Chill until almost ready to serve.
  • Just before serving toss the salad with the Italian dressing and parmesan cheese. Serve the croutons on the side to keep them from getting soggy.

easy caprese salad with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella slices

Caprese Salad (Sliced Tomatoes and Mozzarella Cheese) This recipe looks elegant but only takes a moment to put together.

  • 5 ripe tomatoes, thickly sliced
  • 16 oz. pre-sliced fresh mozzarella
  • Fresh basil leaves for decoration (optional)
  • Balsamic vinegar Glaze
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Alternate tomato slices and mozzarella slices on a tray or serving platter
  • Decorate with fresh basil leaves (optional especially if not in season. Oregano sprigs are a nice alternative)
  • Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar glaze
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

The Drinks

Drinks are an integral part of a brunch, even a last minute one. A coffee station is important because people like caffeine when they wake up, but a brunch is also a reason for early day drinking, so a bar station is also important.

Assorted coffee and tea hot drinks

The Coffee Station Not everyone has a large coffee maker or a coffee maker for individual servings of pods. One of the easiest ways to have coffee for a crowd is to order a traveler of brewed coffee from a local coffee or donut shop. Each container usually has twelve servings, and some coffee shops include cups, cream and sweeteners. It’s easy to call an order in ahead of time, and ask what is included. Depending on the size of the crowd, we usually order a regular and a decaf. For a larger crowd we will order two different brews of regular coffee to give our guests a choice.

If you are planning on hosting multiple brunches it is a good idea to brew the coffee before the guests arrive and place the coffee in a serving thermos to keep it warm.  We recommend three serving thermoses, one for regular, decaf, and hot water for the tea drinkers.

  • It is fine to brew coffee the old fashioned way too if you have a regular coffee pot.
  • The easiest way to serve tea is to either have a thermos of hot water, or a kettle on the stove. Offer regular tea bags and a variety pack of herbal teas for guests that don’t want caffeine.
  • Everyone likes to fix their coffee and teas differently, but some coffee fixings to include are:
  • sugar, either in a bowl, cubes or in packets.
  • Artificial sweeteners for those that can’t have sugar. The packets are easy to find in the coffee section of the grocery store.
  • A honey bear or squeezable honey jar. It’s less messy and can be used to sweeten coffee or tea.
  • Lemon slices for the tea drinkers.
  • A small pitcher of cream, milk, or half and half
  • Flavored coffee creamer, either the liquid creamer found in the refrigerator section at the store, or a variety pack of individual servings found in the coffee section.

If you are looking for coffee that you and your guests will enjoy, try our breakfast blend:

Mimosas and bloody marys premade and in serving pitchers

The Drink Bar Go to any restaurant serving brunch, and the two drinks that are always on the menu are Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s.  A basic mimosa only requires two ingredients, chilled orange juice and sparkling wine. Bloody Mary’s aren’t complicated either, especially if you use a premix, just add vodka, and add a celery stick for stirring, and voilà, you have two easy drinks that your guests can self-serve right from the pitcher.

It’s also important to remember the guests that don’t drink and to include bottled water and soft drinks if you have room.

Things to include at the drink bar are;

  • Glassware or plastic cups
  • Bowl of ice
  • Pitcher of Mimosas
  • Pitcher of Bloody Mary’s
  • Celery sticks for the Bloody Mary’s
  • Green pimento stuffed olives and toothpicks
  • Bottled Water
  • Soft Drinks (2 liter bottles take up less room that cans)

Mimosa orange juice and sparkling wine in a champagne glass

 Mimosas Mimosas are super easy to make and only require two ingredients, orange juice, and sparkling wine. Make as close to serving time as possible, so the sparkling wine doesn’t go flat.

  • 1 bottle chilled sparkling wine, prosecco or champagne.
  • 24oz chilled orange juice.
  • Pour chilled orange juice in serving pitcher.
  • Add chilled sparkling wine.
  • Do not stir or you will lose bubbles.
  • Chill until serving.

bloody mary cocktail with celery

Bloody Mary’s Bloody Mary’s are just as easy to make ahead of time when using a premix. The mix can be made ahead of time.

  • 32oz Chilled Bloody Mary mix
  • 1 cup Vodka
  • Celery stick
  • Pour Bloody Mary mix into serving pitcher.
  • Add one cup vodka
  • Stir until well mixed
  • Chill until serving
  • Serve over ice
  • Garnish with a celery stick

There you go, now you have a better idea of how to throw together a last minute brunch! It looks like a lot of work, but it really isn’t that bad. Having the party is more about getting together, socializing and having fun. We realize this is a very informal way of setting up a party, but there is also very little prepping and cooking

The Menus

While it is fine to mix and match off each menu, we included three menus to plan from, the easiest to set up to one that takes a little bit more work.

Menu One: French Market

This is the easiest menu to set up, and requires almost no pre-planning other than a quick trip to the grocery store and bakery.

  • Tray of Croissants with butter and jam
  • Oven Scrambled Eggs
  • Baked Sausage Links
  • Fruit Tray
  • Vegetable Tray
  • Coffee Station
  • Drink Bar with Mimosas, Bloody Mary’s and Bottled water

Menu Two: Farmhouse Brunch

This menu is almost as easy to set up as menu one. The bacon requires the most cooking time, but while it is baking, it doesn't take long to mix up the fruit cocktail fluff and tossed salad.

  • Muffin, Sweet Breads, and cookie tray
  • Oven Scrambled Eggs
  • Oven baked bacon
  • Fruit Cocktail Fluff
  • Tossed Salad
  • Coffee Station
  • Drink Bar with Mimosas, Bloody Mary’s and Bottled water

 Menu Three: Bagel Brunch

A simple menu with an added touch of formality.

  • Tray of Bagels
  • Individually baked eggs
  • Baked ham slices
  • Cheesecake Berry Salad
  • Caprese Salad
  • Coffee Station
  • Drink Bar with Mimosas, Bloody Mary’s and Bottled water

Shopping Lists:

Menu One


  • 2 dozen croissants
  • 2 dozen large eggs
  • 2 ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 dozen frozen precooked sausage links
  • Premade fruit tray or a mix of precut fruit
  • Red seedless grapes
  • Green seedless grapes
  • Premade Vegetable tray or
  • Bags of precut
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Baby Carrots
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • 2 lemons
  • Celery sticks (for tray and Bloody Mary’s
  • Vegetable dip
  • Pimento stuffed green olives
  • Jams and jellies (we suggest at least two choices)
  • Butter or butter spread
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Coffee Station

  • Coffee
  • Decaf Coffee
  • Tea
  • Herbal tea sampler
  • Honey bear or jar
  • Sugar (bag, cubes or packets)
  • Artificial Sweetener packets
  • Pint of half and half, cream or creamer cups
  • Flavored coffee creamer
  • Drink Bar
  • 24oz. Orange Juice
  • 1 bottle sparkling wine (prosecco or champagne)
  • 32oz. Bloody Mary mix
  • 1 bottle Vodka
  • Case of 24 bottled waters
  • Soft drinks
  • Toothpicks
  • Bag of ice

Paper and Serving Products

  • Paper plates
  • Plastic forks, spoons and knives
  • Napkins
  • Plastic cups
  • Coffee cups with lids
  • Tablecloths
  • 3 plastic trays for Croissants, veggies, and fruit (unless leaving in store packaging)
  • 2 9 x 13 foil roaster for oven scrambled eggs and sausage
  • 4 Serving tongs for Croissant, fruit, vegetable and sausage trays
  • Serving spoon for eggs
  • 2 Pitchers

Menu Two:

  • 2 Dozen muffins or sliced sweet bread
  • Tray of cookies
  • 2 dozen large eggs
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 2 packages of sliced bacon
  • 2 10oz premixed salad
  • Pint cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 4oz Shredded parmesan cheese
  • Bag of croutons
  • Small can sliced olives
  • Jar pickled peppers (yellow, wax or pepperoncini)
  • Bottle Italian Dressing
  • 2 15oz cans fruit cocktail
  • Package of mini marshmallows
  • 8oz container of Cool Whip
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Coffee Station

  • Coffee
  • Decaf Coffee
  • Tea
  • Herbal tea sampler
  • Honey bear or jar
  • Sugar (bag, cubes or packets)
  • Artificial Sweetener packets
  • Pint of half and half, cream or creamer cups
  • Flavored coffee creamer

Drink Bar

  • 24oz. Orange Juice
  • 1 bottle sparkling wine (prosecco or champagne)
  • 32oz. Bloody Mary mix
  • 1 bottle Vodka
  • Case of 24 bottled waters
  • Soft drinks
  • Toothpicks
  • Bag of ice

Paper and Serving Products

  • Paper plates
  • Plastic forks, spoons and knives
  • Napkins
  • Plastic cups
  • Coffee cups with lids
  • Tablecloths
  • Plastic tray for Muffins and cookies (unless leaving in store packaging)
  • 2 9 x 13 foil roasting pans for oven scrambled eggs and Bacon
  • Bowl or foil roasting pan for salad
  • 3 serving tongs (for muffins, bacon and salad)
  • 2 serving spoons (Fruit cocktail fluff and scrambled eggs)
  • 2 Pitchers

Menu Three:


  • 3 types of bagels (plain, sweet and savory)
  • Whipped cream cheese, 2 plain, 2 flavored (for bagels)
  • 8oz regular cream cheese (for Cheesecake berry salad)
  • 2 dozen eggs
  • Small sliced ham (at least 12 – 24 slices)
  • Thin sliced smoked salmon or lox
  • 6 cups fresh or frozen berries
  •  Or 5 cups sliced peaches, 1 cup blueberries
  • 8oz Cool Whip
  • Sugar
  • 5 ripe tomatoes
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • 16oz Sliced Fresh Mozzarella
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Coffee Station

  • Coffee
  • Decaf Coffee
  • Tea
  • Herbal tea sampler
  • Honey bear or jar
  • Sugar (bag, cubes or packets)
  • Artificial Sweetener packets
  • Pint of half and half, cream or creamer cups
  • Flavored coffee creamer

Drink Bar

  • 24oz. Orange Juice
  • 1 bottle sparkling wine (prosecco or champagne)
  • 32oz. Bloody Mary mix
  • 1 bottle Vodka
  • Case of 24 bottled waters
  • Soft drinks
  • Toothpicks
  • Bag of ice

Paper and Serving Products

  • Paper plates
  • Plastic forks, spoons and knives
  • Napkins
  • Plastic cups
  • Coffee cups with lids
  • Tablecloths
  • Plastic tray for bagels (unless leaving in store packaging)
  • 2 foil muffin pans (for baked eggs)
  • 2 foil roasting pans (for ham and Cheesecake berry salad)
  • 1 tray for Caprese salad
  • 3 serving tongs (Bagels, ham, and Caprese salad)
  • 2 serving spoons (Eggs and berry salad)
  • 2 pitchers

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