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When you’re short on time before a party at your place, there’s no need to stress: Forgo cooking altogether by strategically ordering from nearby restaurants, and picking up a Bota Box or two on your way home. When done right, the food and wine will take center stage — and no one will realize that you didn’t do the cooking yourself.

  1. Order wisely. There is an art to doing takeout without revealing your secret: Don’t over-order, and don’t order items they’ll know you couldn’t have possibly made yourself.
  2. Order multiples of the same dish. When doing takeout on the down low, variety is not your friend. A surefire way to get busted is to serve too many disparate items that everyone knows you wouldn’t have had time to make! Instead, place multiple orders of the same dish, and your guests will never catch on. For example, get 6-8 orders of lasagna from your local Italian restaurant. When you get home, arrange the slices of lasagna in one baking dish to make it look like one large lasagna that you cut into pieces. You can do this with any main dish, from meatloaf to pasta.
  3. Take food out of their takeout containers. Serve the food in your own dishes – but make sure to toss the takeout containers carefully. The last thing you need is for a guest to accidentally discover your secret when opening the lid of your garbage can or recycling bin!
  4. Get to know your local diner. Diner menus are notorious for offering dishes that your mom would’ve taught you to make such as pot roast, roasted chicken or brisket. Choose a main dish, along with one or two sides, and order multiples of each. Merge the orders together into one baking dish, and heat them up long enough to make your kitchen smell as if you’ve been cooking all day long.
  5. Choose Chinese food carefully. It’s natural to immediately think of Chinese food when doing takeout. Stay away from complicated dishes like General Tso’s chicken or Crab Rangoon and choose items that you actually could’ve made such as chicken teriyaki, sautéed green beans, and white rice.
  6. Create a “make your own” bar as a decoy. If guests are distracted while building their own tacos or loading up their own baked potatoes, they’ll never stop to think about whether you made the ingredients yourself. There are many ways to do this easily: Order a bunch of tacos from your local Mexican joint or food truck, and ask them to pack everything separately so that you can serve the proteins, taco shells and salad in their own dishes. Or, order a dozen baked potatoes from any restaurant, and pick up sour cream, shredded cheese and other accouterments at the grocery store.
  7. For dessert, get cookies from a local bakery. Again, don’t choose anything super complicated or your friends will think you suddenly became a pastry chef in secret. Instead, get some yummy chocolate chip cookies at a bakery, and heat them up to make your kitchen smell of fresh baked cookies — which they are. (Just not by you!)
  8. Never lie. If anyone asks for the recipe of any of your dishes, just tell them it’s a family secret. Change the subject quickly, refill their glass with more Bota Box wine, and turn up the music. No one will ever figure it out!