5 Tips for Entertaining on a Budget!
One of my favorite things to do is throw a dinner party.
Maybe it’s because I’m a food-lover, but I think there’s NO better way to celebrate a special occasion than for someone to cook up all your most favorite foods and to enjoy them with the ones you love!
This past week, I served up not one, but TWO Birthday dinners!
The first was a Big Brunch Blowout for my sweet sister, Mallory.
And the second was an Italian-Style Birthday dinner for my husband!
I thought it would be helpful to share with you how I go about throwing a fantastic dinner party with a killer food spread… all while adhering to my oh-so-reasonable food budget. I think we all have the best of intentions when it comes to lowering our family’s monthly food costs… but even the best of us can be derailed when unexpected “special” occasions arise.
Here are a few of my tips!
1) For company of any kind, plan ahead and prepare a meal you have lots of ingredients for already! And don’t feel pressured to serve a slab of meat to each person. (I often use less meat by utilizing pepperoni, eggs, sausage, or shredded chicken.) This week (on top of the two birthday dinners) we also had company for a simple Friday night dinner, and I served this Tomatillo Chicken & Spinach Pie along with Mexican Rice and Brownies! My sweet guest brought a fruit salad to accompany it, and everything was delicious!
Photo credit to the lovely Nicole, of The Galley Gourmet
2) Take the time to research the sales in your area before making your menu and shopping list.
Safe to say the majority of people in my area do their main grocery shopping at Kroger or Wal-Mart. But be sure to check out stores like Walgreen’s, Food Giant, Cash Saver, and Aldi. Walgreens runs pretty great discounts (this week a dozen large eggs were $.99!) And discount stores like Cash Saver and Aldi often carry everything on your list for significantly less moolah! And even in your main grocery-marts like Kroger and Wal-Mart, if you know what’s on sale before you make up your menu, you can tailor-make it to take advantage of the low prices. For instance, for Mallory’s birthday brunch, I selected menu items based on my local sales… potatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, & yogurt all made an appearance since they were cheap that week!
3) Make a grocery list of the ingredients you need to make your meal, then go through it and mark off everything you possibly can! Can you make the bread from scratch? Can you substitute one kind of cheese for something you already have in your fridge? Can you borrow the fresh basil from a friend? Can you ask one of your guests to bring a beverage, dessert, or side dish? (Most people are delighted to contribute!) Here’s a screen shot of what one of my recent birthday meal lists looked like.
4) Hunt for coupons for the items on this list.
I am not an extreme coupon-er. I think they can be very beneficial, but I don’t like the way they can compel some people to buy things they don’t need and aren’t likely to use. Also, they are usually for name-brand items and they don’t always save you more money than just buying a generic brand would. That said, I can usually always find at least a few coupons for the items I am looking for, and that extra dollar or two of savings helps keep me within my budget and sometimes allows me to splurge on nicer ingredients like organic butter!
5) Avoid stress by making an outline/schedule for yourself.
When you take on a large meal for company AND you attempt to save money by making things from scratch that you would normally buy… it can be a recipe for a nervous breakdown! But it doesn’t have to be. 🙂 For Chris’s Birthday dinner, I decided to save money by making my own pizza dough and my own mozzarella. I did NOT do these things the day of the meal (because I can only handle so much time in the kitchen during one cooking-session before I start getting all huffy!) Instead, I made the mozzarella, the pizza dough, and the birthday cake 1 or 2 days ahead to store in the fridge. This allowed me to keep the whole experience leisurely and fun instead of overwhelming.