Entertaining is something many of us enjoy, but entertaining on a budget can prove challenging. At the request of reader, Elaine, here are 12 tips on frugal entertaining.
Recently, we entertained a family of 4, so our party was 7 in total. The kids happily ate pizza; the grown-ups enjoyed a very delicious Happy Pear recipe. Plant-based meals are both healthy and tasty and are almost certainly to be more cost-effective than a meat or fish-based main course.
Bring and share
If you’re the host, you cook the main course and have your guests contribute a starter, pudding, cheese and biscuits or a side dish. We’ve followed this format over several years with a group of friends; it’s a lovely way to enjoy each other’s company without the host having to incur all the cost.
You can even ‘bring and share’ for an event like a wedding, which gives guests a real sense of having contributed to this special occasion. A ‘bring and share’ wedding we attended was one of the happiest I can remember.
Use your slow cooker
I made lunch for 9 the day after Boxing Day. With a cheaper cut of meat and a very good recipe from Nigella, the whole meal cost about £25.
Don’t use disposables
Use your table napkins and make do with whatever crockery you have. Mix and match is charming and frugal. If you need something like a larger dish or an extra chair or two, borrow these.
Cook from scratch
Start backwards when preparing, with pudding first (one large one is easy to prepare), then main course, then starter. This can take a few hours, but the effort, quality of food and cost-effectiveness is worth it.
Remember that your friends are here to see you
Your guests won’t judge you as though you were a competitor on Masterchef. Good food, simply cooked, is the best thing ever.
Look in the freezer cabinet
If you want pre-prepared or need bulk-buy foods, frozen foods may be cheaper than buying fresh. Iceland, for example, sells large packs of chicken breasts for a fraction of the cost of fresh. So, shop around.
Catering for large numbers? Make homemade lemonade or fruit punch for a pre-dinner drink, instead of offering expensive alcoholic options.
Make savvy substitutions
If you intend to serve alcohol, make some savvy substitutions – Love a glass of fizz? The prestigious French brands are top-dollar, so opt for Prosecco. Even better, try Cava or a supermarket-own bottle of sparkling wine. Made into Buck’s Fizz with two parts of fizz to one of orange juice, this can also stretch a long way.
Plan, plan, plan
Look out for things you’ll need that might be on offer in the days or weeks leading up to your party.
Have a theme
Go back to your student days: jacket potatoes and chilli make a great bonfire night meal. Another idea is to get your guests to bring their favourite song and enjoy a ‘Desert island discs‘ evening. The food doesn’t have to be the main event.
Change the time
Make dinner high tea ; make tea lunch; make the whole thing brunch. This can prove to be less costly overall and more enjoyable for those who aren’t night owls!
I hope you’ve enjoyed these 12 ideas on frugal entertaining, but I’d love to know what you do when you’re feeding a crowd but want to keep the cost down.
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