I’m a 23 year old student living in downtown Seattle on a very tight budget. I make big casseroles to last me a week, drink cheap wine, and never turn down free food. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a good dinner party. In fact, I love to host. After a little practice and a lot of research, I have figured out ways in which one can have their cake and serve it to ten friends too.
1) Make large portions of a few items
The more variety there is, the more expensive it is going to be because you will need to buy much more at the store. When you stick to fewer ingredients, nothing goes to waste. Start with two or three easy finger-food appetizers a la Rule #4. Then serve one or two hearty dishes like lasagna along with a big but simple salad.
2) Ask for help
This piece of advice is often the hardest for people. As a host, we want to be able to do it all. But there is no shame in asking a couple close friends if they want to help cook. I ask in a way that makes them feel included, saying something like, “I love that bruschetta you always make. Would you mind making it for my party?” If they are good friends and enjoy cooking, then your request shouldn’t be a burden on them. In fact, it is usually fun to have company while you get ready for the party. To make them feel appreciated, have a bottle of wine waiting for the preparation party. That brings me to my next point…
3) Stick to beer and wine
This aspect often takes a little planning. There are some really amazing websites out there that will send you extremely discounted wine by the case or the bottle. Barclay’s Wine is one example of a website that has great deals often. If you plan ahead, you can have nice bottles of wine for less than $15 each. If you don’t want your guests to see what brand you are buying, invest in an inexpensive carafe. On top of making the type of wine a mystery, it looks classy and you can re-use the carafe at your next party.
4) Don’t be afraid of frozen foods
I recently threw a little get-together where I served only appetizers and alcoholic beverages. Right away, I broke Rule #1 because I did not serve any large dishes at all. What can I say? I love appetizers! But I did ask some of my friends to help (Rule #2) and one of them brought over a bag of frozen cheeseballs. I was skeptical, at first, because I wanted the food to be homemade. But, the cheeseballs turned out to be a huge hit! It also decreased cooking time because all we had to do was throw them in the oven. Serving one or two premade foods will still allow you to pull off the homemade style of your other dishes while also adding more variety to your party.
5) Bargain hunt with grocery store ads
Instead of writing an entire menu ahead of time, scan the weekly grocery store ads to identify the sale items. Savvy shoppers will find great deals at the grocery store, especially in the meat and produce sections. Some weeks you can find beef tenderloin for $15 while other weeks its $30. Using a combination of sale items and ingredients you already have on hand, you can get creative with a delicious menu that won’t break the bank.
Using these 5 easy tips, you’ll be the hostess with the most-ess who entertains a small crowd for $100 or less. Save your money and your friendships with fun and style!