dinner parties http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/10095/all en-US Throw an Awesome Potluck Dinner With These 6 Easy Tricks http://www.wisebread.com/throw-an-awesome-potluck-dinner-with-these-6-easy-tricks <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/throw-an-awesome-potluck-dinner-with-these-6-easy-tricks" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/potluck_000031426074.jpg" alt="friends gather together for easy potluck dinner" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Want to eat well and spend less at your next social gathering? Consider hosting an informal potluck dinner. We throw the majority of our parties this way, and we can typically accommodate up to 10 people on a dime, which includes providing a main dish, dessert, and some beverages. Aside from the savings, potlucks give friends and family the opportunity to try new dishes (or showcase old favorites) and flex their cooking muscles. It's both fun <em>and</em> frugal.</p> <h2>1. Think Scope</h2> <p>How big will your party be? If it's just a few friends or another couple, your planning will be pretty easy and compact. A standard recipe yield should work just fine. For larger get-togethers, you'll want to ask your guests to make servings enough for themselves and at least six to eight other people, depending. Choose a date at least a few weeks in advance to give your guests time to plan and execute their dishes.</p> <h2>2. Consider a Theme</h2> <p>If your friends have eclectic tastes, feel free to skip this step. However, to avoid some pretty funky food combinations (think lasagna and General Tso's chicken), try sending your guests an overall theme for their dishes. You can go Italian, Mexican, Asian, French, BBQ, American, seafood, vegetarian, small bites, or even try cooking meals from one cookbook. Choose a cuisine that will fit your guests' tastes and budgets. (For example: No truffles or foie gras required.)</p> <h2>3. Organize Food</h2> <p>Ask your friends to tell you what they plan to bring well ahead of time so you won't see repeats of the same dish. If you invite people via social media or other online invitation services, this can be as easy as having them post the info on the wall or notes section. You don't want to discourage excitement over certain foods, but your goal is to create a well-rounded culinary experience that everyone can appreciate. The exception to this rule is if you want to have a party with variations on the same food (think different types of pizza or pasta, etc.).</p> <h2>4. Make the Main</h2> <p>As the host, you are responsible for the main dish to serve. Make a generous portion that will fill all the bellies at the party. And whenever we throw potlucks, we also provide the bulk of the nonalcoholic beverages, some beer or wine, and a dessert (if the group is small or no one offers). Overall, you'll want to see how your party is balanced and try to fill in the gaps as you see fit. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/win-your-next-potluck-with-one-of-these-23-cheap-easy-potluck-dishes?ref=seealso">Win Your Next Potluck With One of These 23 Cheap, Easy Dishes</a>)</p> <h2>5. Shop Around</h2> <p>While you're looking for ingredients to feed a crowd, try shopping at discount grocery stores like Aldi. The food is great and definitely wallet-friendly. For parties, I especially like their selection of cheeses, hummus, fresh berries, chips, and beverages. (Related: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-things-you-should-never-buy-from-aldi?ref=seealso">10 Things You Should Never Buy From Aldi</a>)</p> <h2>6. Label Everything</h2> <p>Provide note cards for guests to write down the ingredients they've put in their dishes. This will help people with dietary restrictions stay safe and happy. For example, vegans might like to know there's cream in that tomato sauce. People with peanut allergies might not imagine that those cookies are made with nut butter. If a friend does have a severe food allergy, mention it in the invitation (not by name, of course) so people can avoid that ingredient entirely.</p> <p><em>What are your tips for throwing an awesome potluck?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ashley-marcin">Ashley Marcin</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/throw-an-awesome-potluck-dinner-with-these-6-easy-tricks">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/15-easy-dinner-party-dishes-you-can-make-in-advance">15 Easy Dinner Party Dishes You Can Make in Advance</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-delicious-tater-tot-recipes">10 Delicious Tater Tot Recipes</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/flashback-friday-122-scrumptious-super-bowl-party-snack-ideas">Flashback Friday: 122 Scrumptious Super Bowl Party Snack Ideas</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-throw-a-fabulous-and-frugal-dinner-party">How to Throw a Fabulous (and Frugal!) Dinner Party</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/fabulous-party-ideas-for-the-frugal-minded">Fabulous Party Ideas For The Frugal-Minded</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Food and Drink dinner parties party food planning potlucks Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:00:06 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1359591 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Host Thanksgiving in a Tiny Apartment http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-host-thanksgiving-in-a-tiny-apartment <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-host-thanksgiving-in-a-tiny-apartment" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/apartment-dinner-party-187088713-small.jpg" alt="apartment dinner party" title="apartment dinner party" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>You've decided to accept the challenge of being the host with the most this Thanksgiving, but there's just one tiny problem &mdash; your smaller-than-small apartment. Time to panic? Nah. Before you cancel the fete, feast on these ways to work with what you've got &mdash; and still deliver an incredible dinner. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/simple-recipes-for-a-frugal-vegetarian-thanksgiving?ref=seealso" style="text-decoration:none;">Simple Recipes for a Frugal Vegetarian Thanksgiving</a>)</p> <h2>Clear the Clutter as Soon as You Decide to Host</h2> <p>All right, hoarders, it's time to get busy; you've let that junk pile up long enough. Take this opportunity to clear out all your clutter so you can have a beautiful, <em>clean</em> apartment with plenty of space for your guests to sit back and relax on the holiday. Do this far enough in advance &mdash; and use your money-saving savvy to make a few bucks on items you don't want anymore &mdash; and you could possibly pay for the entire dinner with the cash you earned and have a few dollars to spare.</p> <h2>Keep the Guest List Manageable Given Your Space Constraints</h2> <p>You know how many people your home can handle, so don't overdo it. Only invite enough people for whom you have proper seats at a table or wherever you decide to eat. I live in a condo that has a breakfast bar that seats four, and I have a sturdy coffee table that guests can use to eat while sitting on the couch. That setup works for my friends and me, but it may not make everyone in your life comfortable. Let your guests know in advance how the dining situation will be arranged so they can make their own decision on whether or not they want to attend.</p> <h2>Ensure That You Have Enough Diningware to Accommodate Everybody</h2> <p>If you live in a small apartment, you probably have limited cabinet space &mdash; which means that you probably have limited diningware. Do a count once the guest list is set to ensure that you have all the plates, utensils, glasses, napkins, serving dishes, and so on that you'll need to host this dinner without a hitch. If you've come up short, you can either choose to buy more legit diningware, or you can opt to go plastic (the high-end stuff for this special occasion, of course), one of the only times I will recommend these otherwise money traps.</p> <h2>Plan a Menu That's Appetizing But Not Overly Complicated</h2> <p>If you like to cook like I do, you'll want to show off your kitchen skills by making fancy dishes to impress your guests at Thanksgiving. <em>Bad</em>. <em>Idea</em>.</p> <p>I've gone this route before and I've spent hours upon hours standing in the kitchen preparing a meal that has a million-and-one ingredients that turns out amazing but that I'm usually too exhausted to enjoy by the time it's ready to serve. And chances are, your guests would have been just as happy with Stovetop as they are with your from-scratch apple-sausage-sage cornbread stuffing. Trust me.</p> <p>What this also means in a small apartment is piles and piles of dishes claiming valuable dining real estate. Are you gonna wash all of them before serving dinner? I didn't think so. Thus, today is a day to enjoy your friends and celebrate the things for which you're thankful; embark on a mission of culinary excess and you'll curse the day you ever heard of Bobby Flay.</p> <h2>Prepare What You Can Ahead of Time &mdash; Like Earlier in the Week</h2> <p>Some dishes can be prepared ahead of time &mdash; like stuffings and mashed potatoes, for instance, and especially desserts &mdash; take advantage of the extra time to keep the dirty dishes to a minimum and enjoy more of your company when the big day arrives instead of slaving over a hot stove.</p> <h2>Assign Certain Aspects of the Meal to Your Guests</h2> <p>Another good way to save time, money, and space this Thanksgiving is to host a potluck Thanksgiving. If you plan to make the turkey, you can farm out the sides to a couple guests and ask others to bring bread, dessert, or a bottle of wine. A collaborative effort can definitely be fun, mind you, but it should be planned as the purpose of your Thanksgiving. What I mean by that is when you extend the initial invitation inform your guests that this will be a potluck meal. It's terrible form to spring this on somebody after the fact.</p> <h2>Rearrange Furniture for Optimal and Maximum Seating Potential</h2> <p>You should, without a doubt, have enough seating for your guests at dinner, but they'll also want to sit down in other areas around your apartment before and perhaps after the meal. In my apartment I arrange the four breakfast bar seats to face outward into the living room, I roll in my two office chairs, and put our metal coffee table against a wall, which creates a circle of seating that allows everyone to converse conveniently while also having a good view of the TV. This particular situation probably won't work for you, but with a little creativity you can create your own game plan to optimize your own relaxation station.</p> <h2>Consider a Buffet Table to Free Up the Dining Table</h2> <p>When I serve dinner for more than four in my apartment, I set up a buffet-style table in the foyer. This keeps the actual dining space clear of serving dishes so everyone can spread out and enjoy their meal with a little breathing room. This table has turned out to be a great investment as I've used it as a buffet table for multiple gatherings, but also to display items at a yard sale, an extra dining table in some cases, and a game-night table with the boys.</p> <h2>Designate an Out-of-the-Way Space for Outerwear</h2> <p>Where, oh where, will all those coats go? You don't want to put them on the furniture because that's taking up much-needed seating, and you really shouldn't put them on your bed for sanitary reasons (you can judge me for this, but I don't want people's clothes on the bedding I sleep on; it's just&hellip; eww).</p> <p>If you have a coat rack or hooks around your apartment, utilize those as well as extra closet space if you have it. Another practical solution is to put the outerwear on hangers and place them on your shower curtain if it's a very sturdy one. Your guests will use the restroom while they're there, but nobody should be showering unless y'all are really tight like that. Save time by pulling the hangers in advance of your guests' arrival so you can take their coats and hang them efficiently. It goes without saying that you should clean your bathroom beforehand so your guests will be comfortable with their coats in there &mdash; and so they don't call the health department on you after they leave.</p> <h2>Make Do and Have Fun</h2> <p>Don't sweat the small stuff. Literally. Just don't do it. Make the best of what you have using these tips and other suggestions in the comments section and around the Internet and you're good to go. Thanksgiving is special, and it only comes once a year. Enjoy it, my friends. Enjoy it hard because the evil that is January is on its way.</p> <p><em>Do you have other tips on how to host Thanksgiving in a tiny apartment? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/mikey-rox">Mikey Rox</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-host-thanksgiving-in-a-tiny-apartment">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-4"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-throw-a-fabulous-and-frugal-dinner-party">How to Throw a Fabulous (and Frugal!) Dinner Party</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-thanksgiving-traditions-you-should-skip">5 Thanksgiving Traditions You Should Skip</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-frugal-non-depressing-ways-to-spend-nye">5 Frugal, Non-Depressing Ways to Spend NYE</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-ways-to-avoid-awkward-moments-at-white-elephant-parties">4 Ways to Avoid Awkward Moments at White Elephant Parties</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-fun-cheap-party-games-you-didnt-know-about">5 Fun, Cheap Party Games You Didn&#039;t Know About</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Entertainment dinner parties entertaining parties Thanksgiving Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:00:11 +0000 Mikey Rox 1257548 at http://www.wisebread.com A Dinner Party for 6: Feed 'Em for Under $20 http://www.wisebread.com/a-dinner-party-for-6-feed-em-for-under-20 <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/a-dinner-party-for-6-feed-em-for-under-20" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/2773938704_efdb98a443_z.jpg" alt="dinner party" title="dinner party" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>If you enjoy having dinner parties and entertaining, then you understand that costs can add up quickly if you&rsquo;re not careful. It&rsquo;s easy to allow our tastes to get the best of our budget. But there&rsquo;s hope for those with the gift of hospitality &mdash; dinner parties need not be expensive. In fact, here&rsquo;s how you can have an excellent, three-course meal for six for under $20. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-throw-a-fabulous-and-frugal-dinner-party">How to Throw a Fabulous and Frugal Dinner Party</a>)</p> <h2>Salad</h2> <p>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.</p> <p>Don&rsquo;t forget the dressing. You can <a href="http://www.mrfood.com/Salad-Dressings/Basic-Vinaigrette-Dressing">make your own vinaigrette</a> with simple ingredients you probably already have in your home.</p> <h2>Main Dish</h2> <p>I love to grill. One of my favorite things to grill is chicken breasts, because it&rsquo;s like starting with a blank canvas &mdash; 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&rsquo;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.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;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!<o:p></o:p></p> <p>I like to impress the guests by&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbqu.net/season1/112_4.html">grilling chicken under bricks</a>. 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, &ldquo;Are you really putting bricks on top of my chicken?&rdquo;</p> <p>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.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Sides</h2> <p>Just because you&rsquo;re going frugal doesn&rsquo;t mean you have to skimp on taste. I suggest picking up a 3 lb. bag of red <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/potato-ideas-that-pop">potatoes</a>, which at our local grocery store rings up at $2.50. Boil the potatoes in a small pot for about 30 minutes or until soft. Then drain the potatoes, cut in quarters, and put them in a bowl. Add a touch of olive oil and some seasoning (salt, pepper, parsley, basil, or oregano &mdash; whatever is on hand), and stir until the spices spread evenly.</p> <p>If you need an additional side, consider a can of vegetables ($.99), or take a look at this <a href="http://www.meijer.com/s/kraft-pasta-salad-italian-1-box-6-40-oz/_/R-118297">Kraft Pasta Salad</a> for $1.79.</p> <p>Total cost: $2.50&ndash;$4.29</p> <h2>Drinks</h2> <p>Don&rsquo;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&rsquo;re opening up your home.</p> <p>The second is to <a href="http://www.traderjoes.com/stores/index.asp">find your local Trader Joe&rsquo;s</a> grocery store and pick up one or two bottles of their &quot;2 Buck Chuck.&quot; These are the Charles Shaw house wines that range anywhere from $1.99&ndash;$2.99, and they are excellent.</p> <p>Total Cost: $1.99&ndash;$3.98</p> <h2>Dessert</h2> <p>What&rsquo;s a dinner party without <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/15-ultra-quick-homemade-desserts">dessert</a>? 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.</p> <p>What kind of dessert could you possible make for under $5 that will have this effect? How about a <a href="http://www.10buckdinners.com/?p=2275">no-bake chocolate chocolate cheesecake pie</a>? According to 10 Buck Dinners, this dessert comes in at a total cost of $4.43!</p> <p>So there you have it &mdash; your complete three-course dinner party for six that doesn&rsquo;t skimp on taste but spares the pennies.</p> <p><em>Bon appetit!</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/jason-topp">Jason Topp</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/a-dinner-party-for-6-feed-em-for-under-20">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-throw-a-fabulous-and-frugal-dinner-party">How to Throw a Fabulous (and Frugal!) Dinner Party</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-start-a-frugal-dinner-club">How to Start a Frugal Dinner Club</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/25-tasty-ways-to-use-chicken-stock">25 Tasty Ways to Use Chicken Stock</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/20-tasty-two-ingredient-cocktails">20 Tasty Two-Ingredient Cocktails</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/25-things-to-do-with-rotisserie-chicken">25 Things to Do With Rotisserie Chicken</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Entertainment Food and Drink affordable entertaining chicken dessert recipes dinner parties Thu, 22 Mar 2012 10:24:22 +0000 Jason Topp 913058 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Throw a Fabulous (and Frugal!) Dinner Party http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-throw-a-fabulous-and-frugal-dinner-party <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-throw-a-fabulous-and-frugal-dinner-party" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/dinner_party.jpg" alt="Women at a dinner party" title="Women at a dinner party" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="132" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I&rsquo;m excited to announce that we are fast approaching one of my favorite times of year. No, not Thanksgiving, or the holiday season, or even the New Year. No, it&rsquo;s none of those things &mdash; it&rsquo;s Dinner Party Season! I love dinner parties because they provide a fabulous excuse to dress up, decorate, and catch up. I love that they&rsquo;re different from the standard weekend schedule, which generally involves small gatherings or loud bars. I also love that they give me a reason to not hibernate during the cold winter months. With all these reasons to love dinner parties, what&rsquo;s to stop you from throwing one every weekend? Oh, right &mdash; feeding all those people can get <em>expensive</em>. Don&rsquo;t let that ruin your fun, though! Instead, try these tricks for throwing your very own fabulous-yet-frugal dinner party. (See also:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wisebread.com/class-without-tons-of-cash-frugal-cocktail-party-ideas">Frugal Cocktail&nbsp;Party Ideas</a>)</p> <h2>Themes</h2> <p>People love theme parties because they add to the feeling that this is not just an everyday occasion. They also allow your party to take on aesthetically appealing flair without having to spend a lot of dough (unless, of course, your theme is opulence...maybe you should avoid that one). If you don&rsquo;t have a specific theme already in mind, try picking one based on the party&rsquo;s main dish. Twice-baked potatoes might suggest a harvest or fall theme, for example, while pulled pork tacos or chicken fajitas would go nicely with a Mexican theme. Notice that those main dishes are ones that fit squarely within a frugal budget, which leads me to my next section...</p> <h2>Main Dishes</h2> <p>In order to get the most bang for your buck when serving a big group, choose a main dish that can be made inexpensively. If you know, for example, that broiler chickens are steeply discounted at least once a month, pick one or two up to make a great <a href="http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/roast-chicken-with-rosemary/detail.aspx">rosemary roast chicken</a>. Or go for a main dish with a protein that&rsquo;s not meat. Try something like the <a href="http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/ultimate-twice-baked-potatoes/detail.aspx">twice-baked potatoes</a> mentioned above. Of course, you probably don&rsquo;t want to feed your guests ramen noodles in the name of frugality, although <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ramen-recipes-to-write-home-about">ramen noodles do have their place</a>. Spend money where it counts by adding one or two upgraded ingredients to your main course, like gruyere cheese for your twice-baked potatoes or a béchamel sauce (white, milk-based sauce) for a <a href="http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/baked-rigatoni-with-bechamel-sauce-recipe2/index.html">pasta dish</a>.</p> <h2>Appetizers</h2> <p>When planning dinner party appetizers, a few simple rules will take you a long way: stick with your theme, keep it simple, and, like with your main dish, throw in some luxury. Sticking with a chosen theme will keep your appetizers from being all over the board and will save you time by narrowing down possibilities right off the bat. Keep the appetizers you do choose simple, in terms of number served, number of ingredients per appetizer, and how you choose to serve the appetizers. The caterer&rsquo;s rule of thumb is that, for a dinner party of 8-10 guests, three appetizer options are appropriate, with about 10-12 bite-size portions per person. Even though you&rsquo;re keeping it simple and using as few ingredients as possible per appetizer, add some extravagance to your starters by using a few more expensive ingredients sparingly. For example, this is a great place to use <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-simple-seafood-appetizers-to-impress-your-guests">seafood</a>, which is generally a more expensive protein.</p> <h2>Drinks</h2> <p>To keep you dinner party more on the frugal side, consider making it BYOB. Like potluck dinners, BYOB dinners work because they satisfy a guest&rsquo;s desire to contribute while satisfying your need to be economical. If you don&rsquo;t want to ask guests to bring their own drinks, consider serving one signature drink (like <a href="http://therecipegirl.blogspot.com/2008/02/red-wine-sangria-recipe.html">red wine sangria</a> for a tapas party or <a href="http://thatssomichelle.blogspot.com/2011/10/hot-buttered-apple-cider-rum.html">buttered apple cider rum</a> for a holiday party). This is always less expensive than offering a full bar. Or, if you&rsquo;re a real wine-lover like myself, head on over to your local Trader Joe&rsquo;s for a great, cheap wine pairing. I once bought an entire case of completely respectable and drinkable white wine for less than $60 for a party. If you&rsquo;re not lucky enough to live close to a Trader Joe&rsquo;s, or you live in a state that doesn&rsquo;t sell liquor in grocery stores (I&rsquo;m talking to you, Pennsylvania), try finding a general type of wine to complement your main dish at <a href="http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/shopping-storing/beverages/food-wine-pairing-guide-00000000008252/index.html">Real Simple&rsquo;s wine pairing guide</a>, then do some online research to find inexpensive yet enjoyable labels of that variety.</p> <h2>Invites</h2> <p>Save money on invites by foregoing the old-fashioned mailed kind in favor of electronic ones. You could create a <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/">Facebook Event</a>, or try one of the many free websites like <a href="http://www.punchbowl.com/digital-invitations?gclid=CIrR7LS5tqwCFcjb4Aod9D_DHg">Punchbowl</a>, <a href="http://www.smilebox.com/invitations.html">Smilebox</a>, or <a href="http://new.evite.com/#home">Evite</a>. Of course, if you&rsquo;re having an impromptu dinner party, word-of-mouth and phone calls may be all you need.</p> <h2>Presentation</h2> <p>Even <a href="http://www.food.com/recipe/sassy-water-368368">water can look fancy</a> with sliced fruit or a few other ingredients in it. Don&rsquo;t forget the old rule that we eat with our eyes first. To that end, consider how to present each course in a creative way (bonus points if you can tie the presentation into your theme as in, for example, serving a Chinese dish in cardboard take-out boxes). Other examples include making ice cubes infused with fruit or herbs, serving appetizers or desserts in shot glasses, dishing up a soup course in a bread bowl or giant mug, and adding garnishes where necessary. But wait, aren&rsquo;t these extra serving paraphernalia going to cost me, you ask? Why, so glad you asked! This brings me to my next point...</p> <h2>Using What You&rsquo;ve Got</h2> <p>Don&rsquo;t buy new serving dishes; use things you already have around the house to serve up food in creative new ways. For example, I have some martini glasses that have yet to be used (I love martinis; I just don&rsquo;t drink them at home). I could put those to work as adorable appetizer vessels, or as innovative serving containers for, say, chocolate mousse. My big glass hurricane, once it&rsquo;s washed out, would be a great way to serve a <a href="http://allrecipes.com/recipe/double-chocolate-mocha-trifle/detail.aspx">dessert trifle</a> or, alternatively, it could be filled with just about anything to make a centerpiece to match the party&rsquo;s theme.</p> <h2>Getting the Group Involved</h2> <p>Of course, the most frugal (yet still fun) way to throw a dinner party is to go potluck. The upside to this one is that people generally feel compelled to bring something to a party anyway &mdash; this just formalizes the process. Also, the meal is not only cheaper for the host; it&rsquo;s also usually less expensive for each guest to bring a dish than to make dinner for themselves at home. I would suggest sticking with a theme for your potluck, so you don&rsquo;t end up with, say, a seaweed salad appetizer and a lasagna entrée (although I love both seaweed salad and lasagna, I think it&rsquo;s a little incongruous to mix the two in one sitting). I would also assign people specific courses (appetizer, salad, sides) so you don&rsquo;t end up with a dinner entirely composed of shrimp cocktail appetizers.</p> <p>Progressive dinner parties are a variation on potlucks; however, not only does each guest provide a dish, but they also provide the venue &mdash; their own home. At a progressive dinner party, each guest agrees to provide one stage of the meal (appetizer, main course, dessert) and to play host for their particular course. One of the major benefits of a progressive dinner party is, of course, that the cost of providing one course of a meal is a lot less than providing the entire meal. It&rsquo;s also nice to have a change of scenery, too, and progressive dinner parties spread clean-up duties over a number of households. Of course, a progressive dinner party works best when guests live relatively close to one another.</p> <h2>Games</h2> <p>Throwing a frugal, fabulous dinner party entails more than food and drink. Keep your guests entertained with some games, too. I&rsquo;m not suggesting you pull out the old Twister mat (although you can if you&rsquo;re so inclined), but games are a great way to bond with old friends and get to know new ones too. Games are also easily had for free; if you don&rsquo;t have one of the classics, chances are, one of your guests will. To get an idea of which games are especially suited for dinner parties, check out this list of the <a href="http://www.thedailymeal.com/11-best-games-dinner-parties">top dinner party games</a>, or try my personal favorite, <a href="http://www.target.com/p/Classic-Game-Collection-Mexican-Train-Dominoes/-/A-12858403#?ref=tgt_adv_XSG10001&amp;AFID=Google_PLA_df&amp;LNM=%7C12858403&amp;CPNG=NoCPNG&amp;ci_sku=12858403&amp;ci_gpa=pla&amp;ci_kw=">Mexican Train dominoes</a> (yes, my friends think I&rsquo;m 80 years old for loving this game, but I promise you, they love playing it).</p> <p><em>Have ideas that aren&rsquo;t included here? Share them in the comments! </em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/janey-osterlind">Janey Osterlind</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-throw-a-fabulous-and-frugal-dinner-party">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-5"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/surviving-the-holiday-season-entertaining-and-being-entertained-on-a-budget">Surviving the Holiday Season: Entertaining (and Being Entertained) on a Budget</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/40-cheap-or-free-ways-to-make-the-most-of-the-weekend">40+ Cheap or Free Ways to Make the Most of the Weekend</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-host-an-awesome-frugal-movie-night">How to Host an Awesome Frugal Movie Night</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/a-dinner-party-for-6-feed-em-for-under-20">A Dinner Party for 6: Feed &#039;Em for Under $20</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/flashback-friday-143-fun-and-frugal-ways-to-spend-your-weekend">Flashback Friday: 143 Fun and Frugal Ways to Spend Your Weekend</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Entertainment Food and Drink Lifestyle dinner parties entertaining frugal food weekend Wed, 23 Nov 2011 11:24:48 +0000 Janey Osterlind 795610 at http://www.wisebread.com Surviving the Holiday Season: Entertaining (and Being Entertained) on a Budget http://www.wisebread.com/surviving-the-holiday-season-entertaining-and-being-entertained-on-a-budget <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/surviving-the-holiday-season-entertaining-and-being-entertained-on-a-budget" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/entertaining on a budget.JPG" alt="holiday entertaining" title="holiday entertaining" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoPlainText">With the holiday season upon us, invitations to dinner parties &ndash; and expectations of reciprocating invitations &ndash; are on the increase. You bring a nice bottle of wine or bouquet of flowers (or even a Christmas present for closer acquaintances) to every home you visit. And you whip up a marvelous meal for those who visit you. Before you know it &ndash; without even starting your <a target="_blank" href="http://www.wisebread.com/holiday-gift-giving-techniques">Christmas shopping</a>, you have blown your holiday budget. <o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p></o:p>So how do you navigate this season of dinner parties and other seasonal cultural expectations without going broke at the end of the day? The answer to this question is as much a mystery to me as it is to anybody else. But here are a few ideas:<o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h2>Gifts for your Host<o:p></o:p></h2> <p class="MsoPlainText">Common etiquette prescribes that we bring along a gift when invited over for dinner (or lunch, or tea, or whatever). But what to bring? <o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h3><strong>Scrap the Flowers</strong><o:p></o:p></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText">Cut flowers are pretty and all, but they don&rsquo;t last, they shed petals and pollen everywhere, and are bloody expensive to buy. Your host will appreciate them for about the first two days and then it will just be more of a nuisance than anything else. Save your budget &ndash; and think of something else to bring along as a gift. <o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText">If you insist on bringing something living, a potted plant can sometimes be a better bet, less expensive, and will last longer. This is ideal if you know your host enjoys cultivating plants, and may even wish to transplant it to their garden. <o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h3><strong>Know Your Wine</strong><o:p></o:p></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText">If you don&rsquo;t know your wine, and/or your host does, your attempt to be budget friendly by buying the cheap stuff will be foiled and tacky. But how much <em>do</em> you spend on a bottle? This largely depends on the circles of friends you keep. I believe that a $15 bottle would be more than acceptable for most people. It still ain&rsquo;t cheap, but it&rsquo;s a quick fix for a last minute invitation. <o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText">And what about the wine bags, which add an extra few bucks to the price tag? Unless you have a stack saved from bottles previously given to you, do your wallet &ndash; and the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-easy-ways-to-be-nicer-to-the-environment-and-your-wallet">environment&nbsp;</a> &ndash; a favor and find alternate forms of wrapping up your bottle if you must wrap it at all. <o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h3><strong>Sugary Sweets</strong><o:p></o:p></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText">Wildly popular during holiday time are <strong>home-baked goods</strong> and other candies. These are often a good bet, most people love them (even if they&rsquo;re on a diet &ndash; it is the holiday season after all), and it shows that personal touch which goes a long way beyond even pricier store-bought gifts. The down side? You have to bake. Hopefully you&rsquo;re good at it. <o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h3><strong>Scrumptious Savory</strong><o:p></o:p></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText">For a twist on bringing bad-for-you cookies and cakes, you could <strong>bake a loaf of bread</strong> instead (made fancy with nice herbs or other flavors), or even concoct a <strong>cream cheese dip from scratch</strong>. Try this one: whip up some plain cream cheese with a little lime juice, add green onions or chives, then spread it in a (recycled) plastic container (the kind you get from the deli). Top it with sweet chili sauce, and you have a dip that will make you a hit at parties for a fraction of what you would pay to buy the manufactured stuff. <o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h3><strong>Other Consumables</strong><o:p></o:p></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText">Don&rsquo;t know what to get the host with the most? Join the club. Stop guessing and simply get (or even better &ndash; make yourself) something consumable. Do you have an herb and flower garden that is on its last legs? Make a dried <strong>loose leaf tea mix</strong> and give it to them in a nice bottle with a tea strainer (both purchased at a dollar store or equivalent). Can&rsquo;t cook to save your life? Then make up a <strong>gift basket</strong> if you must. Fill it with inexpensive but nice staples and wrap it up nicely. The basket and bows can be purchased at the dollar store, and the contents don&rsquo;t have to be extravagant. A total purchase price can even be under $10 if you&rsquo;re smart about it and your host will appreciate this creative grab bag of goodies. They may even be able to turn around and serve those crackers you gave them at their next dinner party. <o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h2>Entertaining<o:p></o:p></h2> <p class="MsoPlainText">This is where being budget minded can get a little more tricky. You want to put on a good show &ndash; crackers and cheese (and wine) to start, then a two or three course meal (with more wine), and all of a sudden you spent the entire day in the kitchen, spent a small fortune on ingredients, and have one hell of a mess to clean up. Sounds like enough to turn your stomach from entertaining any day. A few tips to reduce your cost and burden:<o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h3><strong>Simple Snacks</strong><o:p></o:p></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText">Buying just two or three nice cheeses and crackers could cost you $20 if you aren&rsquo;t careful, and you haven&rsquo;t even touched upon the drinks or the actual meal to be served. Instead, placing out a <strong>bowl of nuts</strong> (bought in the bulk section &ndash; they&rsquo;re cheaper) can whet the appetite just as well. Serve the <strong>kind of nuts that need shelling</strong> (like pistachios or even walnuts for a treat), and your guests will be nicely occupied and won&rsquo;t fill up on the pre-dinner stuff. <o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h3><strong>Easy Apps</strong><o:p></o:p></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText">Unless you keep company with high-brow folks (in which case you will always have a problem satisfying both your budget and your friends) your guests won&rsquo;t be horribly offended if you skip the appetizer course altogether. <strong>Go straight to dinner if you can</strong>. Otherwise, choose ingredients you can whip together easily and inexpensively. <o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h3><strong>Done Like Dinner</strong><o:p></o:p></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText"><strong>Pasta</strong> is always a great bet for a budget-friendly main course: it fills your guests up, is inexpensive, and can be presented in a very luxurious manner. <o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h3><strong>Delicious Desserts</strong><o:p></o:p></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText">Unlike appetizers, rarely can you skip serving dessert without at least a few raised eyebrows. <strong>Baking something yourself</strong> is usually the least expensive and shows the most care and personal flair. <o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h3><strong>Drinks</strong><o:p></o:p></h3> <p class="MsoPlainText">Serving drinks all night is where you can end up spending the most money. Stocking up with wine, beer, and other beverages in an attempt to anticipate what your guests might like will fill your fridge, but empty your wallet. Get a bottle of wine to serve with dinner, and stick to non-alcoholic drinks for the rest of the occasion. Before dinner, you can prepare a <strong>non-alcoholic cocktail</strong> of various fruit juices and soda water for fizz. Serve it up in a big punch bowl with lots of ice and nobody will notice the lack of alcohol and will come back for seconds and thirds. <strong>Tea or coffee</strong> after dinner is the perfect way to compliment dessert, cap off the night, and stop the drinking in its tracks. This is also good protocol for guests who have to drive home&hellip;<o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoPlainText">This is a simple collection of ideas on how to keep your holiday entertaining budget to a minimum. But we want to hear from you! <strong>What are your tips, techniques, and recipes for getting through the holiday entertaining season financially unscathed? </strong><o:p></o:p></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/nora-dunn">Nora Dunn</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/surviving-the-holiday-season-entertaining-and-being-entertained-on-a-budget">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-throw-a-fabulous-and-frugal-dinner-party">How to Throw a Fabulous (and Frugal!) Dinner Party</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/wisdom-from-my-favorite-frugal-tv-character-julius-rock">Wisdom from My Favorite Frugal TV Character - Julius Rock</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/seven-ways-to-be-the-life-of-every-party">Seven Ways to be the Life of Every Party</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/15-tips-for-hosting-holiday-houseguests">15 Tips for Hosting Holiday Houseguests</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-cost-of-full-time-travel">The Cost of Full-Time Travel</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Food and Drink Lifestyle Art and Leisure dinner parties entertaining holiday dinners holiday gifts holiday guests Thu, 04 Dec 2008 00:01:16 +0000 Nora Dunn 2620 at http://www.wisebread.com