Hosting get-togethers in the holidays is something most of us can’t avoid.And often you find yourself running around the kitchen working instead of enjoying your own party. It doesn’t have to be that way!

Here are a few time-saving tips for your next festive gathering.

HERE’S THE SCOOP

Planning to serve ice cream? Scoop servings into a muffin baking tin beforehand and pop it in the freezer. That way you’ll minimise mess and save time. Also, placing the ice-cream container in a plastic bag before putting it in the freezer stops the ice cream from freezing rock-hard and making it difficult to scoop.

FAST FREEZE

Forgot to put something in the fridge and need to chill it super- fast? Wrap it in a wet paper towel and put it in the freezer – it should cool in 15 minutes or less.

COOL BALLOONS

Fill balloons with water, put them in the freezer then add them to a tub for keeping drinks cold and looking festive. This way you keep your fridge clear and cut down on having to buy bags of ice.

PUNCH UP

One large block of ice in your party punch will melt more slowly on a hot day and won’t water down the punch as fast as ice cubes. To make an ice block, fill a container with water and freeze it overnight – you can use a loaf tin, cake tin or plastic container.

To unmould the ice, turn the container upside down over the sink and run hot water over the base until the block pops out.

QUICK CREAM

Whipping cream can be time-consuming, energy-sapping and messy! Ditch the whisk and reach for a glass jar. Pour in the cream, add a teaspoon of sugar (preferably castor but regular sugar will do) and a drop of vanilla extract, screw on the lid and pop in the freezer for 15 minutes. This helps to firm up the walls of the butterfat cells in the cream so they can trap and hold air bubbles. Shake the jar for about three minutes. Job done!

NO MORE LEAKS

Serving ice-cream cones? Drop a few mini marshmallows in the bottom of each cone to keep the ice-cream from leaking out.

ANTS AWAY

 Rid your summer party of pesky ants with this nontoxic repellent. Pour equal amounts of water and white vinegar into a spray bottle and give it a shake. Spritz the solution in areas where ants are common, such as kitchen floors and picnic tables, before family and friends gather.

INSTANT COOLER

 Out of space to keep drinks chilled? Turn your washing machine into a cooler. Add lots of ice – it will melt and simply drain away. When the party’s over, run a quick rinse cycle to clean the machine.