Hosting a dinner party is always fun, but right now I need my get-togethers to be budget-friendly as well. Remember when I made crab cakes? That was for a group of 5 or 6 friends. The crab cakes were delicious and everyone loved them, but, crabs are expensive! Two pounds of crabs cost $20 out the door. Add in the other food and ingredients and I’m looking at $40 that night. I love to entertain and I want to do it often, but I can’t spend $20 on one dish more than once in a while.
That’s where a budget dinner party comes in. When I decided to host another dinner last night, I decided to look to a humble ingredient – the potato. I also had a few pescatarians and vegetarians in my party, so I decided to serve a scalloped potatoes (without bacon bits) as the main dish. It’s perfect for a chilly night: filling, tasty, and easy on the wallet.
Here’s how you can host dinner parties on a budget, and keep your stress level low:
1. Serve a main dish that uses low-cost ingredients (eggs, potatoes, flour, etc.). This strategy will help keep costs down. After all, if you are serving lobster tails with truffle butter, your costs will not be low no matter what you do (but oh, will your dinner be scrumptious!). Using inexpensive ingredients also mean that if you somehow mess up during the course of cooking and have to use more material, it’ll be okay. Even if you drop a whole carton of eggs, you’ll only be out $2 or $3. Unlike, say, if you drop a bowl of crab on the floor. That will be $10 down the drain.
2. Skip the decorations but fire up the ambiance with candles or mood lighting. A dinner party doesn’t need fancy decorations to be fun. After all, laughter is free! Most of the time, I don’t bother with theme or decor or all that jazz! Some candles (tea lights are $1.99 a package at IKEA) will do the trick nicely.
3. Ask your guests to bring wine / dessert / side dish. If your guests are as great as mine, they will ask you what they can bring. Don’t be shy to let them know that beverages or side dishes would be appreciated. I always say, “if you can bring something, wine or dessert would be great!” And my guests usually all bring a little something to share with the group. This cuts down on your costs, but most importantly it minimizes the time you spend preparing and cooking so you have more time to spend with your guests.