Be the Hostess With the Most Money in the Bank: Entertaining for Less
Being the “hostess with the mostest” does not require spending the most money. The key to entertaining is creating an environment that makes your guests feel comfortable and helps everyone have a wonderful time.
Here are seven ways to throw a memorable event without spending big bucks.
1. Focus your menu. Rather than providing a four-course dinner with a wide range of beverages, serve a specific type of food or drink. Dessert buffets and wine and cheese tastings are classic examples of soirees that provide a snack rather than a full meal. Rather than buying sliced fruits, veggies and cheese, do it yourself to save a bit of cheddar.
Hosting a brunch of quiche or breakfast casserole and a salad can stretch your entertaining dollars by minimizing the ingredients you need. Serving a signature cocktail or mixing pitchers of lemonade will keep you from ending the night with too many half-full bottles.
2. Feed an army. Choose entrées that feed a lot of people for a little money. Large pans of lasagna with salad and garlic bread are always crowd pleasers. Pizza, pasta, baked potato or nacho bars can also save you time and money while offering your guests a variety of options. Often, making your own food will save you money, so compare costs before grabbing a jar of queso or a box of frozen appetizers.
3. Plan in advance. By planning ahead, you can set your menu based on ingredients you already have or items that are on sale. If you belong to a wholesale club, stock up on paper products and beverages that will keep. Watch the sales at discount and craft stores, also, for basic décor and serving items at low prices.
4. BYO. Asking your guests to bring an item to share can be a fun—and inexpensive—way to try a variety of dishes. Let guests bring whatever they’d like to a potluck dinner, cookie exchange, international food tasting or chili cookoff. Or coordinate a supper or cookbook club, in which you select the theme or cookbook/blog and assign each guest a type of dish—appetizer, entrée, side or dessert. If you just moved into your place, host a “stock the bar” party and ask friends to bring their favorite drink in lieu of a housewarming gift.
5. DIY décor. Decorations and serving pieces can get expensive. Rather than buying new platters, themed decorations and fresh flowers, be creative with what you already have access to. Shop your home to find items you can repurpose; ask friends or neighbors if they have pieces you can borrow; and gather flowers, greenery and even branches from your yard for unique, natural centerpieces.
6. Organize an activity. If your guests focus on an activity, they may be less concerned with the refreshments. When you host a movie night, game night, craft night or book discussion, you can get by with serving a few snacks instead of a whole meal.
These events also bode well for large quantities of inexpensive food, like popcorn, mixed nuts or chips and dip. Take it to the next level by having popcorn seasoning or mix-ins available or roasting chickpeas or cinnamon-sugar pecans yourself.
7. New to you. Host a swap party to which your guests bring items they no longer use or wear and go home with “new to them” items. In some cases, you may not want to offer any refreshments for fear of spilling on the garments. Depending on the group, you could swap women’s or children’s clothing and accessories, books, movies or toys, to name a few. The possibilities are endless!
Entertaining does not have to be expensive, and your guests will appreciate the effort you put forth more than the dollars you spend. With a bit of planning and strategy, you can throw a fabulous, budget-conscious event that your friends will talk about for years.