With St. Patrick's Day just a week away, now is a good time to review your party planning strategies. The following tips will be useful whether you plan to throw a St. Patty's Day bash or host any type of party this spring.

Make it potluck

Even if you're hosting the party, you don't need to prepare every item on the table. Asking guests to bring a small dish can save you money and time. If each guest brings a side dish, dessert, or beverage, you'll find that hosting is less stressful and more cost efficient.

If you're hesitant to throw a potluck, consider this: The less expensive and time-consuming it is to host a party, the more likely you are to gather with friends and family.

If your main goal is to get together and share friendly conversation, does it really matter who prepares the food?

To avoid duplicates, ask guests to suggest what they might bring, or make a specific request. Most people have a signature dish or favorite food that they enjoy preparing, but it helps to be prepared with ideas for those who want to be "told" what to make. Keep track of what guests offer to bring, or you may run into my family's biggest problem: Too many desserts!

It's best if the host prepares the main dish and a few appetizers. After all, you don't want guests carting in a heavy corned beef dish. I like to serve appetizers as guests arrive, so it just makes sense to have them at the house and ready to go.

If your party is successful, this may also be a great time to suggest a second potluck: "This was fun; we should do it again!"

Families are starting to realize it isn't fair to place the burden of cooking and buying food on one person.

Potlucks work best and offer the most variety when you have several households attending. Because there's less effort involved for the host, it's often easier to host a larger party when everyone brings food to share. Of course, sharing food prep can work whether you're planning a get-together for four or 14. Be sure to let your guests know how many people will attend, so that they can prepare an appropriate amount of food.

Keep it green

When it came time to host our first party in our new home, I knew that I didn't want a lot of waste or expense. If you're willing to spend a small amount of money now, you can reduce the cost and waste of future parties by buying reusable plates, cups, and utensils.

Reusable dishware is great because you don't need to worry about plastic or Styrofoam plates. Over time, you'll spend less on inexpensive reusable plates than you would on disposable goods. If you tend to get together with the same group of people, there's no need for each family to own its own set of dishware share the plates, just as you share the food!

My favorite reusable dishware is picnic-friendly. It's plastic, so you won't have to worry about plates or cups breaking when they are dropped.

But these plates are also sturdy, so you can balance them on laps whether you're indoors or outside. Try balancing the average paper plate, loaded with food, on your lap. Not such a good idea, is it? You can find these types of plates and cups at any retail or discount store.

You can also use your existing dinnerware to serve food. If you won't have enough plates or silverware to go around, ask to borrow a set from friends or family. This works best if you own sturdy plates that are break-resistant.

We use plasticware because we have children in the family. I also happen to be clumsy, and did manage to drop my (plastic) plate halfway through a recent party.

Yes, reusable dishes require cleanup. It's much easier to toss a pile of paper plates into the trash and forget about them. But if you have a dishwasher and use dishwasher-safe plates and utensils, cleanup efforts will be minimal.

Or you could simply ask guests to roll up their sleeves and help with the dishes. Many hands make light work!