The $20 Dinner Party: Entertaining on a Budget
There’s no doubt about it. Warm summer weather is perfect for outdoor entertaining, especially if you have a deck, patio, balcony, or other outdoor area that’s just crying out for moonlit revelries. But the price of throwing a dinner party can add up. If you’re not smart about how you spend, you’ll find yourself hundreds of dollars in the whole after shelling out for plasticware, decorations, appetizers, wine, and a full meal spread.
But there’s no reason to let money stand in the way of you and memorable evenings spent with your loved ones. These dirt-cheap tips will make your next dinner party a night to remember, while barely making a dent on your pocketbook!
Serve Dinner on Your Existing Cookware
Sure, plastic and paper is nice if you want to avoid extra dishes, but it also adds unnecessary bucks to your dinner party expenses. Plus, all that trash creates needless waste, so it’s not all that environmentally-friendly. Your own dishware will manage just fine for the main courses. A wooden cutting board, meanwhile, makes an appealing locale for an affordable charcuterie spread. Rub a little cooking oil into the wood to hide wear-and-tear so it shines like new. Other creative ideas for serving vessels? Slate or ceramic tiles, if you have some on hand, are a super-inventive spot for hors d’oeuvres that brings on the family-style rustic ambience like nothing else!
Keep the Guest List Intimate
This isn’t just practical for your budget; it’s also recommended for smooth dinner party hosting. Experienced hosts say you should keep the guest list short if you want a hitch-free, relaxed fête, so cut it off at about six to eight names at most. A manageable number of guests means conversation can flow smoothly—and it guarantees that everyone can fit comfortably at the table!
Dress Up Inexpensive Ingredients for Appetizers
Forget the expensive cheeses. A little fixed-up baked feta with honey has class to spare and fulfills the cheese quotient without breaking your budget. For an elegant DIY solution to crackers, make your own crostinis—it’s as simple as cutting up a $2 baguette or loaf of French bread and toasting it with some butter. Topped with cream cheese and berries, or loaded with a savory tomato-garlic spread, these look fancy, but cost very little.
Use What You Already Have in the Fridge
If you already have a bunch of groceries in the pantry, this is a no-brainer. Here’s your chance to get rid of all those extra cans of garbanzo beans! Online apps like Allrecipes and Supercook can help you locate entrees and appetizers that will make your existing ingredients sing. Plus, that means less food waste coming out of your kitchen, too! That’s a win for your budget and for the Earth!
Or Try Out a Few “Make Your Life Easier” Recipes
If you don’t have a lot of extra money in the coffer, chances are you don’t have a lot of free time, either. But often, opting for convenience means totally blowing your budget. Luckily, there are a couple of ways to get around this. For instance, a pulled rotisserie chicken breast served with an inexpensive elevated barbeque sauce and a few sweet rolls makes for a buffet-style main course in seconds. Steak is another elegant, simple meal choice. Pick a cut that you can display on a cutting board and let people serve themselves. They’ll actually take smaller portions that way!
When Friends Ask What They Can Bring, Tell Them to Get Wine
Wine and drinks are expensive, and if you’re not careful, you can totally outspend your budget by making sure everyone has enough in their cups. Your friends will probably ask if they can lend you a hand and bring something to the party, so let them be responsible for the wine for the evening. It’s a win for everyone, since wine is easy to tote around and doesn’t require time in the kitchen. Meanwhile, you can stretch your budget for fancier food and fixings!
Stick to a Laid-Back Atmosphere
Table decorations don’t have to be limited to fresh flowers, which not only cost a pretty penny, but can also overwhelm the aromas of your freshly-cooked meal. If you’re doing your entertaining indoors, some soft lighting is all you need. Ditch the AC in favor of some soothing night breezes—open your home windows instead. If you’re taking your party outside, all you need is a little fairy light to make the evening truly magical. Votive candles floating in mason jars make a minimalist, refined impression on any guest, and keep the party lit for hours. Well-fed and warmed by candle light, your guests are sure to propose a toast to you at the end of the evening. Now that’s what we call dinner party bliss!