A Dinner Party for 6: Feed 'Em for Under $20

by Jason Topp on 22 March 2012 4 comments
Photo: halahmoon

If you enjoy having dinner parties and entertaining, then you understand that costs can add up quickly if you’re not careful. It’s easy to allow our tastes to get the best of our budget. But there’s hope for those with the gift of hospitality — dinner parties need not be expensive. In fact, here’s how you can have an excellent, three-course meal for six for under $20. (See also: How to Throw a Fabulous and Frugal Dinner Party)

Salad

A simple salad is easy to put together with all the pre-mixed bags of greens at the grocery store. You can get two 12 oz. bags of mixed greens for $3.33.

Don’t forget the dressing. You can make your own vinaigrette with simple ingredients you probably already have in your home.

Main Dish

I love to grill. One of my favorite things to grill is chicken breasts, because it’s like starting with a blank canvas — there are so many different spices and seasonings that can be added. I will often open our spice cabinet and experiment with a few different spices, but if you want to keep it simple, then season the chicken with salt and pepper. It’s amazing how good simple seasoning turns out. If you have oregano, Italian seasoning, or basil, you can go with more of an Italian-tasting chicken breast. On the other hand, if you have a little chili powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper, you can easily tilt the chicken toward a Mexican flavor.

If you’re looking to really impress the guests and are okay with climbing above the $20 mark for the meal, then try stuffing your chicken breasts with a quarter cup of shredded mozzarella cheese ($2.00 on sale for an 8 oz. package), a sliced tomato ($.33), and a few basil leaves ($.99 for a basil bunch). The final product will be worth the extra $3.32!

I like to impress the guests by grilling chicken under bricks. This also helps to keep the chicken from drying out, and it adds a little mystique to the dinner party too since the guests usually ask, “Are you really putting bricks on top of my chicken?”

A perusal of the weekly ad for our local grocery store showed a big 40 oz. package of chicken breasts on sale for $4.47. 

Sides

Just because you’re going frugal doesn’t mean you have to skimp on taste. I suggest picking up a 3 lb. bag of red potatoes, which at our local grocery store rings up at $2.50. Boil the potatoes in a small pot for about 30 minutes or until soft. Then drain the potatoes, cut in quarters, and put them in a bowl. Add a touch of olive oil and some seasoning (salt, pepper, parsley, basil, or oregano — whatever is on hand), and stir until the spices spread evenly.

If you need an additional side, consider a can of vegetables ($.99), or take a look at this Kraft Pasta Salad for $1.79.

Total cost: $2.50–$4.29

Drinks

Don’t forget about a nice bottle of wine for dinner. I suggest you take one of two routes. The first would be to hope one of your guests brings a bottle of wine as a simple gesture of thanks since you’re opening up your home.

The second is to find your local Trader Joe’s grocery store and pick up one or two bottles of their "2 Buck Chuck." These are the Charles Shaw house wines that range anywhere from $1.99–$2.99, and they are excellent.

Total Cost: $1.99–$3.98

Dessert

What’s a dinner party without dessert? You could bake a pan of brownies, which will likely reveal to your guests that you really are trying to go cheap, or you could make an incredible looking and tasting dessert that will leave them asking for the recipe.

What kind of dessert could you possible make for under $5 that will have this effect? How about a no-bake chocolate chocolate cheesecake pie? According to 10 Buck Dinners, this dessert comes in at a total cost of $4.43!

So there you have it — your complete three-course dinner party for six that doesn’t skimp on taste but spares the pennies.

Bon appetit!

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Jason

2 buck chuck? You can get great wine for $5-8 and not risk offending your guests with horrible wine.

Jason Topp's picture

I agree the thought sounds reprehensible. But if you've ever tasted it, you would quickly realize there would be no offending your guests with this wine.

Guest's picture

If you're really trying to be cheap then you should skip the wine and hope that at least one person brings wine. Because who shows up to a dinner party without wine?

Jason Topp's picture

Haha, that's a good point! :)