“But I can’t afford to host a dinner party at home!”
If you can afford to buy lunch out during the week, and perhaps a dinner out on the weekend, of course you can afford to entertain a small group of friends, say five (plus yourself), over the weekend. If you decide to host friends or family, that doesn't mean you are forced to prepare an entire three-course meal, plus drinks and appetizers. People so often forget the power of “delegation.” Sometimes it’s just so much easier to simply ask your guests to bring a dish. It saves money, and people are usually willing to help out and to “be a part of the party,” whichever type you choose to host.
To start off the new year on the right foot, we’ve given you tips for making healthier decisions when it comes to party foods and drinks. Now it’s time to examine your hosting style and be sure that you’re making smart, “healthy” choices for your wallet, too.
From stocking up on shelf-stable party foods when the price is right to knowing when to ask for help, here are some simple strategies to keep in mind when throwing a party. If you choose even three of these suggestions and incorporate them into your next get-together, you’ll be guaranteed to save money.
1. Plan Ahead: Get your journal out or use WorkFlowy. This site sends daily summary emails of the lists made on your computer (so nifty), which allow you to document what you’ll need for the menu, and any other party supplies or things that you will be responsible for.
2. Delegate: Plan out your menus in advance and ask for help. Leave room by each entrée for you to fill in a name of who will be bringing what.
3. Be Prepared: Think ahead and always have a couple of easy-to-prepare menu ideas for unexpected guests, perhaps extra soup or Bolognese stored in the freezer (make a double batch and save the extra). If you always have some canned tuna, pasta, and olive oil in the pantry, preparing a hearty pasta dish will be a breeze. You’ll spend less money when you are prepared, rather than constantly running to the store for last-minute groceries.
4. Think Easy: Keep it casual — less work and less cost. Plan a buffet-style meal, an appetizer “open house,” or a potluck brunch where your guests each bring a dish.
5. Use Leftovers: For a casual event, use paper products from the prior year. Don’t get sucked into buying all-new supplies when you already have a stash. Better yet, stay “green” and use cloth napkins.
6. Go Natural: Use greenery of all sorts for decoration, and skip purchased flowers from the store. Take a walk through the woods and pick up some branches for a unique display, or opt for fruits and vegetables from your produce drawer that can double as dinner the next day.
7. Do It Together: If you want to host an elaborate dinner party, go in with another couple and share the cost and work.
8. Opt for a Progressive Dinner: Plan a dinner that involves four couples (all within a close proximity). Then have each duo prepare a course (with drinks) and travel from home to home, with each responsible for just one course.
9. Put Perfectionism Aside: Entertaining is about gathering together with friends, celebrating the moment, and sharing a delicious meal. Don’t let your cooking, the cost, dining space, how your house is decorated, or busyness steal away the joy and memories that you’ll create.