The Dinner Party on a Budget
Dinner parties are not just for the people who can afford veal and lobster most nights of the
week. And, they are not just for those who have a large grocery budget. One of the easiest
things to do if you are looking to entertain is to throw a dinner party on a budget.
When working on a budget, you will have a smaller list of ingredients to choose from. For
example, you may be forced to choose from steak or chicken, instead of anything under the
sun. Smaller parties are also easier to manage and to plan for.
The first thing to do is to make sure the guest list is complete. Do you have enough space for
everyone? Are the people you invite likely to come? You don’t want to invite ten people and only
have three show up especially when you buy enough food for ten.
When you make your guest
list out, make sure you have enough room to accommodate them as well as the budget to feed
them. It’s true that the less people you have, the better food you can purchase. But at the same
time, you need to consider what is more important to you for your party; a well rounded guest
list or a gourmet meal.
After you have the guest list managed, search for a menu that you can work with. Buying frozen
appetizers can look expensive, but they are usually cheaper than buying the ingredients to
make them yourself. Try to keep the courses set to three as a maximum. An appetizer, main
course and dessert are the only things you really need, and dessert can be as simple as a
sweet cocktail. Look for a main dish that is liked by everyone but still a decent price. This way
you keep everyone pleased as well on budget.
The next thing to consider is that you need to keep the setting as simple as possible. I’ve seen
parties where everything is perfectly matched and the theme is right in your face, and while it
usually looks good, it can cost more than the food if you are not careful. At the same time you
can have a very simple theme where you use color or stuff you already have as a great
jumpstart to the best party you’ve thrown. Just remember that no matter what you do the point is
to have a good time and spend time with friends. If you start getting stressed out then maybe
you should step back and take a break, then try again in a few minutes.
How To Be Ready For Drop-In Entertaining
Even the most gracious host can become frazzled and stressed out when things get hectic and
fast paced, especially when she is on her own with the hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and the
planning. Imagine how she’d be when there is last minute extra guests or out of town friends
stop by because they were “in the neighborhood”!
Despite how much effort you think it takes to put together a planned party or how stressed out
you think you’d be if you tried, it’s always so much simpler if you keep a few items on hand and
always remember that if you want to entertain then almost anything is fixable.
You can get a decent bottle of red wine almost anywhere and they keep well in the bottom of
the pantry. And since red wine is best served room temperature then this would be your best
option for those drop-ins. Another option when it comes to drinks is to have a bottle of cocktail
mix ready in the fridge, and as long as it hasn’t been opened then they keep a long time, and it
will be ready and chilled, so even if your liquor is not, the temperature will still be nice and cold
thanks to the mix.
One other thing to keep in mind is if you think there will be kids. Older ones
like teens may like a sparkling grape juice, or soda, and younger ones will be just as content
with a juice box. These things are easy to keep on hand and are usually in your pantry anyway if
you have kids yourself.
As for hors d’oeuvres they can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like, keeping in mind
that guests who will be staying just a minute may need something quicker than those who are
staying a few hours. Keeping some cream cheese and some crushed red peppers on hand is a
real quick way to have a cheese ball along with some crackers, just use wax paper to roll the
cream cheese into a ball then coat in the crushed pepper and serve on a plate with crackers
and you have an instant dish in less than five minutes. For something a little more extravagant
you could keep a box of frozen stuffed mushrooms or spinach pastries in the freezer and pop
them in when you fix the drinks.
Keeping a few festive paper plates on hand can be a real life saver for after guests leave since
you probably weren’t ready for the mess in the first place so this keeps clean up to a minimum
and prep very quick and simple.
How to Have a Successful Pot-Luck Dinner
One of the most common types of dinner parties now is the pot-luck dinner. Most of the time
these are very easy to plan and usually go off without a hitch, but there is always room for error
with guest serviced parties. One person might show up with a meat dish to a vegan pot luck or
someone won’t show up with anything, or even worse, the person who is supposed to bring a
main dish shows up with a bag of fast food cheese burgers. Now a lot of people will just go with
the flow and try to fix it their selves, but as we all know this will just make a stressed host and a
party that seemed useless.
Most of these problems won’t mean much or bother too many people if it was for a children’s
play date or something casual, but to a more sophisticated party, they can be disasters.
One of the easiest ways to head off any problems is to assign each guest a dish, you can do
this in any extent you’d like really, just understand that some guests may balk at the idea of you
telling them what to bring to a pot-luck so your best approach is to either ask and hope that they
respect your wishes or call it something other than a pot-luck.
One way to assign the guests a
dish is to assign them a specific course, such as two people bring appetizers and three bring the
main course and then two bring dessert. Another way to do it is to give each person a list of
dishes on the invites and let them pick which one they would like to bring.
The next thing to remember with a pot-luck is to always have enough plates and silverware
available. Weather they are paper plates and plastic forks or the best china available, you will
always want to have extra so that you don’t chance running out. Also make sure that each guest
brings serving utensils for their dish unless you have enough yourself.
It’s a good idea to have wide selections of drinks from water and sodas to juice and if it’s an
adult party then cocktails or an open bar. Another option with this is to have a self serve bar set
up away from the food table so that no ones in anyone’s way. This can be stocked with glasses
and mixers or a carafe of a selected cocktail perfect for the theme of the party.
Whatever you do to keep things stress free understand that the guests are partly hosting as well
with pot-luck parties, so don’t stress too much if things go a little wrong, just do what you can to
keep problems to a minimum and enjoy your party.
Christmas Baking With Kids
Christmas is a magical time for people of all ages, especially so for children. And what better
way to get them to enjoy the holidays than by encouraging them to bake with you. You don’t
need to limit your baking to just cookies. You can make cakes as well as edible gifts for family,
friends, and teachers.
Even very young children can help decorate cookies or cut out cookie shapes from the dough.
Try making some spiced ginger star cookies which look great in a tissue lined box. Or you can
cut out the ginger star shapes and make a hole near the top before baking. Once baked, tie a
ribbon through the hole and hang the star cookies on the Christmas tree. Consider a cookie
swap with parents of other children. Have everyone bring a different cookie, with everyone
sharing and taking home cookies in containers. This is a great way to have a variety of cookies
on hand at home without having to bake so many different kinds.
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