Entertaining friends at your home is a wonderful way to stay in touch, have a good time, and show off your hosting prowess. You undoubtedly want to impress your company by offering a lavish spread, but you don’t need to break the bank to do it. If you want to plan a dinner party on a budget, you’ll need to embrace your creative side. Don’t fight it: enjoy the challenge of coming up with the different strategies and cost cutting measures you’ll plan to take. Here are a few suggestions how:
Brainstorming. Begin by determining how many guests to plan for and what your overall budget will be. What are you planning to serve, and are there cheaper alternatives to more costly ingredients? As you brainstorm, you can think about ways to cut corners that will allow you splurge in other areas, like the main course. You can help yourself out in little ways by cutting down on necessities like store-bought ice, which you can make yourself for free by freezing a few trays a day starting a week before the party.
Invitations. Handwritten invites lend your party a personal touch. Plan ahead by saving cards you’ve received over time that are not recognizably birthday or holiday related, then cut away the inscription and use the back of the image to write your invitation. It is also becoming increasingly acceptable to use Facebook or other social media to send invitations, which is absolutely free.
Decorations. Use what you’ve already got! Candles you have on hand are an especially easy, inexpensive, and effective way to provide atmosphere for your dinner party. Save money on flowers by buying them in bulk or in season, then place them in vessels that you already own. You can even decorate old coffee cans or glass jars with decorative paper to creative beautiful receptacles and centerpieces.
The food. Homemade Italian food is considerably less expensive than its restaurant-purchased counterparts. You can prepare a relatively enormous amount of food using only noodles, sauces, and cheeses that will feed bigger amounts of people. The heavier the better, as your guests will be satisfied with a smaller amount. If you’ve budgeted properly, and by cutting down costs in other areas, you can splurge a bit more with the food, which will allow you to serve a turkey or a roast. Shopping at membership warehouse stores such as Costco will usually allow you to purchase a larger amount of food for less money.
Wine. While planning your party, do a little recon by visiting local grocery stores and price compare various wines. A bit of online research will tell you which varieties don’t taste cheap but are still affordable. You can also mix up a lovely sangria using inexpensive wine, ginger ale or a lemon-flavored soda, and fruit that makes up a large batch of tasty drinks to serve that costs under thirty dollars.
With all the money you’ve saved, you could really splurge on entertainment and place an ad that calls for “Belly dancers Las Vegas”!
Evan Fischer is a freelance writer and part-time student at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California.