dinner party http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/4399/all en-US 10 Things You'll Waste Money on This Thanksgiving http://www.wisebread.com/10-things-youll-waste-money-on-this-thanksgiving <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-things-youll-waste-money-on-this-thanksgiving" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_29382656_XXXLARGE.jpg" alt="don&#039;t waste money on these things this thanksgiving" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Serving a Thanksgiving feast on a budget is like performing a magic trick. It takes a lot of money to buy the large quantities of food to fill the bellies of all your Turkey Day guests. But it helps to know what people usually end up wasting money on, before forming your feast menu. If you're the host, here are 10 ways to stay on track and not blow your Thanksgiving grocery budget.</p> <h2>1. Buying Expensive Centerpieces</h2> <p>Have you priced formal <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/9-ways-to-save-on-your-thanksgiving-celebrations">floral Thanksgiving centerpieces</a>, lately? Your basic cornucopia number runs around $50. Ouch! No need to engage a florist. Try your own hand at tablescaping. Here are <a href="http://www.hgtv.com/design/make-and-celebrate/entertaining/30-thanksgiving-centerpieces-pictures">simple, beautiful ideas</a> using items you may already own, or that are easily found outdoors.</p> <h2>2. Serving Food Nobody Really Likes</h2> <p>Yes, Aunt Peggy's wiggly molded red jello may be traditional, but does anyone really <em>like</em> it? Take a hard look at your menu. It may be time ax the dishes you think you <em>ought</em> to make in favor of ones that people actually enjoy. Why waste time, money, and energy on food that is going to sit in the fridge for weeks?</p> <h2>3. Making Too Much Food</h2> <p>One of my grandmothers always worried about not having everyone's favorites, so she made it all. We really did not need both a turkey and a ham, or sweet potatoes fixed two ways. Even when everyone took leftovers home, her refrigerator was still difficult to close. Learn from my grandma: Stop overspending and also cut back on your food waste.</p> <h2>4. Only Buying Name Brands</h2> <p>Per pound, turkey is pretty inexpensive, unless you decide you need a pasture-raised one, which will cost you more. Big-box stores now offer organic products, too, so do your homework before you buy.</p> <h2>5. Not Asking for Help</h2> <p>One of the inevitable questions from your guests will be, &quot;What can I bring?&quot; Take them up on that! Hate peeling potatoes? Ask someone to bring the mashed potatoes. My mother couldn't make gravy without lumps, so she'd ask a friend to bring that. My daughter, who doesn't cook, can be depended upon to bring wine. There is nothing wrong with taking people up on their offers of help, and it will keep your costs down.</p> <h2>6. Serving Elaborate Hors d'Oeuvres</h2> <p>Spending loads of time on dinner? There's not much sense in your guests filling up on snacks ahead of time, and ruining their appetites. Instead of yet another hot appetizer that takes up space in the oven, try serving some inexpensive raw vegetables and <a href="http://markbittman.com/roasted-nuts-so-easy-so-good/">spicy nuts</a> that you can make ahead of time.</p> <h2>7. Using Fancy China</h2> <p>As someone who has multiple sets of china, I'm going to give you the straight scoop: I rarely use it. While I found the pretty flowers and silver bands on the rims just enchanting at age 20, now, I wish I had registered for a plain, good quality pattern. White, or off-white, is a lot more versatile, and a good quality plate is more useful than a highly decorative one.</p> <h2>8. Making Multiple Trips to the Store</h2> <p>Five years, ago, I found myself making a third trip to the supermarket when I realized I only had one type of cranberry sauce. What a waste of gas! How to avoid this? Make a list. Get out each and every recipe and make sure you either have the ingredient on hand, or that it is on your shopping list.</p> <h2>9. Creating Elaborate Place-Settings</h2> <p>I'm all for proper use of silverware, but you really don't need to go out and buy it all. It's no fun for my guests if they have anxiety about which fork to use first, or they don't know which bread plate is theirs. Here are some excellent photos and tips about <a href="http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-set-the-table-properly-206075">which silverware to put where</a>, ensuring that your guests don't stress.</p> <h2>10. Presenting Over-the-Top House Decor</h2> <p>Guests want to feel relaxed, welcomed, and comfortable. If you hang a wreath on your door, fine. But piles of pumpkins, huge hurricanes with candles, or hay bales at the front door are really unnecessary, and the cost adds up. What are you going to do with all this decor when Thanksgiving is over? Think ahead, and only buy the stuff you need and will use again.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/marla-walters">Marla Walters</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-things-youll-waste-money-on-this-thanksgiving">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-6"> <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/6-vegetarian-thanksgiving-dishes-that-hold-their-own-with-turkey">6 Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dishes That Hold Their Own With Turkey</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/20-easy-ways-to-stretch-your-grocery-dollars">20 Easy Ways to Stretch Your Grocery Dollars</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/8-hot-new-food-trends-the-frugal-way">8 Hot New Food Trends — The Frugal Way</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/flashback-friday-53-grocery-shopping-tricks-thatll-make-your-life-easier">Flashback Friday: 53 Grocery Shopping Tricks That&#039;ll Make Your Life Easier</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-12-best-frozen-food-values">The 12 Best Frozen Food Values</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Food and Drink Shopping black friday Cooking dinner party food shopping groceries Holidays host Thanksgiving thanksgiving dinner turkey turkey day Wed, 09 Nov 2016 10:30:29 +0000 Marla Walters 1829423 at http://www.wisebread.com 15 Easy Dinner Party Dishes You Can Make in Advance http://www.wisebread.com/15-easy-dinner-party-dishes-you-can-make-in-advance <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/15-easy-dinner-party-dishes-you-can-make-in-advance" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/party-459961049.jpg" alt="dinner party" title="dinner party" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>If the idea of hosting a dinner party frightens you, you are not alone. I still remember the trauma of my first one. By the time you shop for ingredients, clean your house, and cook, that makes for a fairly exhausting day. However, if you choose one of the menus below (either casual or fancy), you can do some, or all, of your preparation ahead of time. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/a-dinner-party-for-6-feed-em-for-under-20?ref=seealso">Feed a Party of 6 for Under $20</a>)</p> <h2>1. Crab Cakes With Remoulade</h2> <p>Sounds fancy, eh? I love the way &quot;<a href="http://www.howjsay.com/index.php?word=remoulade">remoulade</a>&quot; sounds. It just rolls off of your tongue. Well, it rolls off of the tongue of the guy in that link, anyway. <a href="http://allrecipes.com/recipe/remoulade-sauce-a-la-new-orleans/">Sauce Remoulade</a> will really dress up a <a href="http://allrecipes.com/recipe/my-crab-cakes/">crab cake</a>. Further advantage: You can make both the sauce and the crab cakes ahead of time. I like an <a href="http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/guy-fieri/asian-slaw-recipe.html">Asian Coleslaw</a> (non-mayonnaise dressing) and a scoop of rice on the side.</p> <p>For dessert? Melona (melon) popsicles.</p> <h2>2. Chili</h2> <p>I think I could make this <a href="http://www.cooks.com/recipe/dv5c49wo/gila-river-bowl-of-red.html">chili</a> in my sleep, I have made it so often! In fact, we pulled a container of it out of the freezer last night and heated it up. It is best made at least a day ahead, making it a great choice for a party. We like ours with tortilla chips, but I have also served it with cornbread. When it's party time, I like to set out bowls of salsa, sour cream, chopped avocado, onions, and shredded cheese so that guests can choose their own toppings.</p> <p>Dessert? Vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.</p> <h2>3. Boeuf Bourguignon</h2> <p>Yes, this is <a href="http://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/julia-childs-beef-bourguignon/f7e0a6c5-710d-4c83-89a6-2a4936fec81a">Julia Child's beef bourguignon</a> recipe, and I am fond of it because it was an early newlywed success. Those were far and few between so the winners really stuck with me. I especially love the reference to a &quot;young and full-bodied red wine,&quot; which I interpret as &quot;cheap red wine,&quot; always available in my wine cellar. In a box. But I digress. This recipe serves six, which I think is a dandy dinner-party size. Serve with a crusty French bread and a simple tossed salad. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/25-easy-ways-to-make-cheap-cuts-of-meat-taste-expensive?ref=seealso">How to Make Cheap Cuts of Meat Taste Expensive</a>)</p> <p>Because this is a heavier entree, try a <a href="http://www.easy-french-food.com/peach-melba-recipe.html">Peach Melba</a> for dessert.</p> <h2>4. Jambalaya</h2> <p>Jambalaya (go ahead, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnKOVPXhlnE">sing along</a>) has a festive air to it. Off the top of my head, I can think of three different families who make it either for Christmas or New Year's. It's great year-round, and it's a fun party food. There are many variations, but I really like <a href="http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/cajun-jambalaya-recipe2.html">Emeril's jambalaya</a> because it goes together so quickly. It's a little spicy, so serve a coleslaw on the side.</p> <p><a href="http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/holidays/mardigras/neworleansdessertrecipes/recipes/food/views/Lemon-Icebox-Pie-356829">Lemon Icebox Pie</a> is a pretty and delicious dessert. I cheat and buy the ready-made graham cracker pie crusts.</p> <h2>5. &quot;Chicken Curry&quot;</h2> <p>My mother-in-law made delicious &quot;Chicken Curry&quot; for most special family occasions. I think she favored it because it is very child-friendly. Put a scoop of warm rice on a plate, add some <a href="http://www.cooks.com/recipe/k81zg2j8/madras-curry-sauce.html">sauce</a>, and let everyone choose their favorite toppings. We like: Chutney, chopped peanuts, pickles, hard-boiled eggs, sliced avocados and tomatoes, bacon bits, and grated coconut. This is also a very frugal recipe, as you can use things up. For instance, you might have a few tortilla chips left in a bag, a box of raisins, or a can of mandarins. Be creative! My father-in-law would put a little of ALL of the toppings on his rice; some of the kids would have rice and grated cheese. Everyone, however, goes away happy. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/15-chicken-leg-and-thigh-recipes-from-around-the-world?ref=seealso">15 Chicken and Thigh Recipes</a>)</p> <p><a href="http://www.cooks.com/recipe/in8my1gf/coconut-ice-cream-balls.html">Coconut Ice-Cream Balls</a> are nice for dessert (skipping the liqueur for the kids, of course).</p> <h2>6. Manicotti</h2> <p>It was a struggle whether to recommend a make-ahead lasagna or <a href="http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/sausage-stuffed-manicotti-10000001886430/">manicotti</a>. I opted for manicotti for a couple of reasons:</p> <ol> <li> <p>Manicotti seems a little more interesting; and</p> </li> <li> <p>I think it is easier to reheat more evenly.</p> </li> </ol> <p>True, it's a little trickier to assemble, but presentation-wise, it's also sportier. Toast some garlic bread, toss a salad, and dinner is served.</p> <p>For dessert, <a href="http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/easy-tiramisu-brownie-bars/ecdcc8f4-e953-4e2d-9426-31cfd46c3bca">Tiramisu Brownie Bars</a> are pretty on a plate that has been dusted with powdered sugar.</p> <h2>7. Crab Casserole</h2> <p>This is a very rich <a href="http://forums.finecooking.com/cookstalk/archives/seafood-casserole?page=1">casserole</a>, containing crab, artichoke hearts, cream, and cheese. Because fresh crab is quite expensive, I have substituted canned, and it is still delicious. It also makes 10 to 12 servings, so it's a good party dish that can be made a day ahead. Side dishes should be very simple, like a tossed salad and rolls. To my taste, Fetzer's Sundial Chardonnay (buttery, crisp, and affordable) is perfect alongside.</p> <p>A tray of seasonal fruit is a light, pretty dessert.</p> <h2>8. Split-Pea Soup</h2> <p><a href="http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Easy-Split-Pea-Soup-1919">Split-Pea</a>, to me, is another of those soups that is really better on day two. This one has ham hocks in it, but I have also made a vegetarian version, leaving them out, and just adding a little smoke flavor (I use the <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0005Z8NCM/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B0005Z8NCM&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20">Colgin</a> brand). It also freezes well, if you really want to get ready for your get-together way before the date. Pair with some <a href="http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/easy-whole-wheat-dinner-rolls">whole-wheat rolls</a> for a very healthy, yet comforting, cold-weather meal.</p> <p><a href="http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Old-Fashioned-Lattice-Top-Apple-Pie-102411">Old-Fashioned Lattice-Topped Apple Pie</a> for dessert, anyone?</p> <h2>9. Stratas</h2> <p>Not only <em>can</em> a <a href="http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/12/spinach-and-cheese-strata/">strata</a> be made ahead of time, but it <em>must</em> be. The bread cubes need to soak up the egg-and-milk mixture. You might think of them as a breakfast meal, but they work equally well for dinner. They also appeal to my thrifty soul, as they can be tailored to any theme. For instance, leftover mexican cheese, or chilis? Mexican strata. Small bits of mozzarella or pepperoni? Italian strata. You get the picture. Lastly, they can be made meatless for your vegetarian guests or for Meatless Monday. Toss a bagged salad for a side. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/25-breakfast-for-dinner-meals?ref=seealso">25 Breakfasts for Dinner</a>)</p> <p>Keep the &quot;layered&quot; theme going with this <a href="http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/layered-chocolate-pudding-dessert">Layered Chocolate Pudding</a> (my neighbor, Dale, passed on the recipe). This stuff is fantastic and you can also make it ahead of time.</p> <h2>10. Baked Spaghetti</h2> <p>I have made <a href="http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-deen/light-baked-spaghetti-recipe.html">baked spaghetti</a> three times in the last six months. It freezes so well! It is a Bobby Deen recipe, and he lightened up his mother's version. Serve with breadsticks, an antipasto platter, and a tossed green salad.</p> <p>Dessert: How does <a href="http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Cannoli-Cream-with-Fresh-Fruit-_Crema-di-Ricotta-alla-Frutta-Fresca_-456675?columns=5&amp;position=2%2F52">Cannoli Cream With Fresh Fruit</a> sound?</p> <h2>11. Sauerbraten</h2> <p>This is another recipe that will force you to get your dinner party ready ahead of time. A <a href="http://allrecipes.com/recipe/kates-easy-german-sauerbraten/">Sauerbraten</a> has to marinate for two to three days before cooking. It serves eight, so this is good for a large party. I love <a href="http://allrecipes.com/recipe/grandma-jeanettes-amazing-german-red-cabbage/">red cabbage</a> with it, and this recipe has apples in it, which makes it really delicious. I cheat on the spaetzle, though, and use packaged egg noodles. Serve with a Rhine wine.</p> <p>Dessert? <a href="http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/black-forest-cake/4e66caed-4e29-4154-a92d-27332162baa4">Black Forest Cake</a>, of course (the easy version).</p> <h2>12. Chicken Kiev</h2> <p>These <a href="http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/chicken-kiev-recipe2.html">Chicken Kiev</a> rolls can be made ahead of time and sit in your refrigerator until you are ready to <em>bake</em> them. Yes, fried is the traditional method, but we're all watching our fat intake and these are healthier. They have a crispy coating, just like the fried ones, using my favorite crumbs, panko. Start with a small cup of <a href="http://thefigtreeblog.com/2012/09/simple-roasted-beet-borscht.html">borscht</a> as an appetizer and serve with noodles and a creamy cucumber salad.</p> <p>I have had a variation on this <a href="http://allrecipes.com/recipe/ukrainian-apple-cake-yabluchnyk/">Ukranian Apple Cake</a> (using plums) and it is quite easy, so it is my dessert suggestion.</p> <h2>13. Fajitas</h2> <p>The flank steak needs to marinate, which will give you the rest of you day to chop up peppers, onions, and get the condiments ready. I love this recipe's step-by-step instructions and the manner in which the <a href="http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2013/03/beef-fajitas/">fajitas</a> are served. These are great with a side of beans. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/20-cheap-delicious-and-healthy-black-bean-recipes?ref=seealso">Healthy Black Bean Recipes</a>)</p> <p>Dessert? Vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce.</p> <h2>14. Chicken and Stuffing Bake</h2> <p>I have never known a man who didn't like stuffing. My friend Nancy Jo's sister-in-law served it right out of the bag at Thanksgiving once, and it still got eaten. There are many variations on this recipe for <a href="http://www.cooks.com/recipe/qu87g1sv/creamy-baked-chicken-breasts.html">Chicken and Stuffing</a>, but this one is darn easy. I get it ready to the point of adding the stuffing. Do that when you are closer to getting the chicken into the oven. Serve with steamed broccoli (toss with butter and lemon juice) and rolls.</p> <p>This is comfort food, so keep that theme going with pudding (sure, out of a box) that you can make ahead. Shoot a little whipped cream on the pudding for glamour.</p> <h2>15. Baked Ham</h2> <p>But wait, don't you have to <a href="http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/glazed_baked_ham/">bake the ham</a>? Sure, but do it the day before, and then serve it a' la Marla's Grandma, aka&nbsp;<em>cold</em>. Grandma sliced her cold ham and served it with deviled eggs, rolls, carrot and celery sticks, potato salad, and trays of olives. Bam! She was no dummy, and she fed an army with this combo. My husband chimes in: &quot;Dessert was pie <em>and</em> cake.&quot; Yeah, I miss Grandma. This is a kid-friendly meal, too, and my aunts have adopted this Sunday dinner tradition.</p> <p>All right now, I am afraid you are out of excuses about why you cannot entertain.</p> <p><em>What are your favorite make ahead dinner party recipes?</em></p> <h2 style="text-align: center;">Like this article? Pin it!</h2> <div align="center"><a data-pin-do="buttonPin" data-pin-count="above" data-pin-tall="true" data-pin-save="true" href="https://www.pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2F15-easy-dinner-party-dishes-you-can-make-in-advance&amp;media=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wisebread.com%2Ffiles%2Ffruganomics%2Fu5180%2F15%2520Easy%2520Dinner%2520Party%2520Dishes%2520You%2520Can%2520Make%2520in%2520Advance.jpg&amp;description=15%20Easy%20Dinner%20Party%20Dishes%20You%20Can%20Make%20in%20Advance"></a></p> <script async defer src="//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js"></script></div> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u5180/15%20Easy%20Dinner%20Party%20Dishes%20You%20Can%20Make%20in%20Advance.jpg" alt="15 Easy Dinner Party Dishes You Can Make in Advance" width="250" height="374" /></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/marla-walters">Marla Walters</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/15-easy-dinner-party-dishes-you-can-make-in-advance">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/tasty-healthy-breakfast-cookies-with-chocolate-covered-espresso-beans">Tasty, Healthy Breakfast Cookies With Chocolate-Covered Espresso Beans</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/20-office-potluck-dishes-everyone-loves">20 Office Potluck Dishes Everyone Loves</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/40-rice-cake-topping-ideas">40 Rice Cake Topping 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/35-tasty-ways-to-use-frozen-spinach">35 Tasty Ways to Use Frozen Spinach</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/50-ways-to-use-canned-salmon">50 Ways to Use Canned Salmon</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Food and Drink cheap recipes dinner party party food Tue, 11 Mar 2014 10:48:26 +0000 Marla Walters 1129551 at http://www.wisebread.com Easy, Frugal Ways to Have People Over (Even If You Don't Cook and Clean) http://www.wisebread.com/easy-frugal-ways-to-have-people-over-even-if-you-dont-cook-and-clean <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/easy-frugal-ways-to-have-people-over-even-if-you-dont-cook-and-clean" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/bbq-4358691-small.jpg" alt="bbq" title="bbq" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>A friend once made the observation that people have the time (and inclination) to cook OR clean. Like me, she opted to cook, meaning, then, that she typically had a messy house.</p> <p>I had never really considered that there were two such types of people. But after doing a mental scan of the homes of friends and acquaintances, I realized she was spot-on. Those with immaculate homes infrequently prepared home-cooked meals whereas those who cook most of the time seem to have, well, lived-in homes.</p> <p>Whatever your personal capabilities, lacking one or the other skill shouldn&rsquo;t prevent you from having people over. There are easy, cheap ways to entertain, even if you are not amazing at <em>both </em>cooking and cleaning. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/quick-pantry-snacks-for-unexpected-guests">Quick Pantry Snacks for Unexpected Guests</a>)</p> <p>Let's start with entertaining amidst your mess.</p> <h2>Entertain Cheaply Without Cleaning the House</h2> <p>Friends, acquaintances, and neighbors will appreciate your hosting a get-together, even if the venue is not a formal living or dining area in your home.</p> <p><strong>Throw a Party in Your Backyard</strong></p> <p>Your backyard, patio, or deck is a great place for a casual function. Friends with small children will especially appreciate freedom from worrying about their kids making a mess.</p> <p>Grill burgers and serve with a side item and dessert for a dinner party. Host an ice cream social if you want to have a kid-friendly affair. For either, stash drinks in a cooler and let guests help themselves.</p> <p>Pull out patio chairs or throw a blanket on the ground for seating. Ask guests to bring a lawn or camp chair if you are expecting a crowd.</p> <p>Leave most of the house untouched but clean the few areas that your guests might visit inside.</p> <p><strong>Use the Clubhouse</strong></p> <p>Many people I know have a clubhouse or common area in their neighborhood that can be reserved at no charge. Such an arrangement is ideal for a gathering.</p> <p>Food preparation is a bit more complicated than dinner or drinks in your home. But since you&rsquo;ve saved loads of time by not having to clean the house, you have more energy to plan and prep food and beverages.</p> <p>For a casual get-together, have your favorite pizzas delivered. For a slightly more formal affair, <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/25-great-cheap-and-easy-crock-pot-recipes" target="_blank">fix a hot meal using a crock pot</a> and serve with previously prepared cold items, such as a tossed salad with <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/25-tasty-and-affordable-salad-dressing-recipes" target="_blank">homemade dressing</a> and potato salad.</p> <p><strong>Plan a Picnic at the Park</strong></p> <p>You can host a lunch, early dinner, or birthday party at a park inexpensively. Note that facilities vary in their arrangements: some sites are free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis whereas some venues require reservations and charge a nominal fee ($10) or a hefty one ($200 or more).</p> <p>Free options involve spreading a blanket on an open space or snagging an empty picnic table. There, treat a couple of friends to a casual picnic with fried chicken or sandwiches.</p> <p>For larger events, reserving a space is helpful. Coordinate a potluck dinner with friends if you want to share a meal. Oversee games or free play and serve ice cream and cake for a <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-throw-a-kid%E2%80%99s-birthday-party-that%E2%80%99s-fun-happily-memorable" target="_blank">kid's birthday party</a>.</p> <p>Remember to bring your own supplies, like plates, spoons, and napkins.</p> <p><strong>Invite Your Closest Friends</strong></p> <p>Your best friends will enjoy your hospitality no matter the state of your house. They&rsquo;ll understand that you&rsquo;d rather spend spare moments in conversation, not polishing furniture or dusting around books.</p> <p>A <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/company-coming-10-areas-to-clean-to-make-it-count" target="_blank">bit of tidying won&rsquo;t hurt though</a>. Just clear the main area and take care of tasks like clearing dirty dishes, taking out the trash, or changing the bathroom towels before, rather than after, the visit.</p> <p>Entertain as simply or elaborately as you want, hanging out over a casual brunch or hosting a fancy dinner.</p> <h2>Entertain Cheaply Without Excessive Cooking</h2> <p>Keeping your space clean and free of clutter can take a lot of effort. As a result, you may not have honed your cooking skills or developed a list of go-to dishes for special events. But you can still have people over with these techniques.</p> <p><strong>Use Simple Recipes</strong></p> <p>Spend most of your party prep time planning the guest list and decorating the area to ignite great conversation.</p> <p>Don't attempt to fix a lavish meal. Prepare a simple-to-make but elegant dish like <a href="http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1739,153176-250204,00.html" target="_blank">creamy baked chicken</a>; or try one of these <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/cooking-for-beginners-10-recipes-for-kitchen-newbies" target="_blank">easy recipes for beginners</a>, such as spaghetti with salad and bread.</p> <p><strong>Serve &quot;Home-Cooked&quot; Meals Prepared by Others</strong></p> <p>Private catering can be expensive, but you can often buy healthy and affordable items from local businesses.</p> <p>In my area, there are a few shops with commercial kitchens that make small batches of reasonably priced entrees, side dishes, and desserts. Items can be purchased fresh with prior arrangements or frozen nearly anytime.</p> <p>Alternatively, buy dishes from the freshly prepared, deli, or bakery sections of a traditional or specialty grocery store. Some frozen foods work well also, such as marinated fish.</p> <p>If you decide to try one of these techniques, be sure to sample the food before your event. Pay close attention to cooking times and consider adding minutes because multiple items in the oven take longer to heat thoroughly than smaller or single-sized portions.</p> <p><strong>Practice New Recipes</strong></p> <p>Just because you don&rsquo;t have a repertoire of wonderfully exotic meals doesn&rsquo;t mean that you can&rsquo;t learn to make a new dish for a special event.</p> <p>Look for recipes that you can easily master, which typically are those with cooking techniques you understand and ingredients found at most stores. Test them in your own kitchen to be sure that you&rsquo;ll enjoy the dish. Consider trying one or two new foods and ask your friends to bring additional items if needed.</p> <p><strong>Throw a Cooking Party</strong></p> <p>Cooking parties can be riveting and well-orchestrated get-togethers based on what I've read. Find formal guidelines in this article on <a href="http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/menus/how-to-throw-a-cooking-party.htm" target="_blank">how to throw a cooking party</a>.</p> <p>For a simpler event, pick a casual dinner or dessert theme. Ask friends to <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/fabulous-party-ideas-for-the-frugal-minded" target="_blank">bring a topping</a> for the pizza, baked potatoes, or salad that you provide. Let your guests surprise you with add-ons or mix-ins for ice cream or plain cheesecake, if you decide to throw a dessert party.</p> <p>Buy the basic ingredients and be prepared with supplies needed to cook, serve, and dine.</p> <p>Confession: I am much better at preparing meals than keeping a spotless house. Getting food and drinks together has always been easier for me than readying my house for even the friendliest of gatherings. And although I am far from a perfectionist, I sometimes find the process of having more than a couple of people over a challenge &mdash; and I thought you might feel the same way. So, to make things super easy (no matter your strengths and inclinations), mix and match the suggestions (buy home-cooked meals and eat outside, for example), relax, and enjoy.</p> <p><em>Do you have frugal, time-saving techniques for entertaining guests?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/julie-rains">Julie Rains</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/easy-frugal-ways-to-have-people-over-even-if-you-dont-cook-and-clean">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-2"> <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/cooking-for-beginners-10-recipes-for-kitchen-newbies">Cooking for Beginners: 10 Recipes for Kitchen Newbies</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/254-uses-for-vinegar-and-counting">254 Uses for Vinegar. And Counting.</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/the-5-best-thermoses">The 5 Best Thermoses</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Food and Drink Home Lifestyle affordable entertaining dinner party easy cleaning Fri, 12 Apr 2013 10:24:31 +0000 Julie Rains 971677 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Start a Frugal Dinner Club http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-start-a-frugal-dinner-club <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-start-a-frugal-dinner-club" 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_fun.jpg" alt="Dinner party" title="Dinner party" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>A dinner party never has to be over the top, but anyone who has ever hosted one knows that the cost can escalate quickly.</p> <p>In an effort to impress their guests, many hosts opt to make a fancy dish with expensive ingredients. Or they go out all out on table decorations. Or they pick up pricey bottles of wine. Now, what once might have cost $25 total has increased to $100 &mdash; an amount that quickly sucks all the fun out of having friends over for an evening of good food and conversation. (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> <p>If you&rsquo;re a fan of dinner parties and keen to avoid this common mistake, perhaps starting a frugal dinner club is a good idea. The primary purpose of the frugal dinner club is to bring your friends together so you can spend quality time together enjoying delicious grub without spending a lot of money. If this sounds like a club you&rsquo;d like to start, here are a few criteria.</p> <h3>1. Establish the Club by Inviting Your Frugal Friends</h3> <p>Everyone in your frugal dinner club should be frugal-minded and resourceful. These are your friends who live on a budget, always have a coupon for dinner or activities, and can seek out the best deals no matter where they are. You don&rsquo;t want those friends for whom money is not a concern or those friends who are too lazy to save cash when they can. Inviting the latter will defeat the purpose of the club and take away the excitement.</p> <h3>2. Establish the Frugal Dinner Club Rules</h3> <p>Once your club is established, it&rsquo;s important to set up rules by which the club will abide. They don&rsquo;t have to be so strict that they turn off some members, but they should adhere to frugal principles. Consider these suggestions to adopt as your own rules:</p> <p><strong>Individual Dishes Alternate Meal to Meal</strong></p> <p>I like to cook all kinds of different foods, so I wouldn&rsquo;t want to be stuck always bringing the main dish or the side dish; sometimes I may want to bring dessert. Alternating the types of dishes members bring to every club meeting will keep it exciting for everyone.</p> <p><strong> Use Only In-Season Ingredients</strong></p> <p>Using only <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/fresh-fruits-and-vegetables-by-the-month">in-season ingredients</a> will help you narrow down your recipe choices, but it will also save you money since in-season foods are inherently cheaper than out-of-season foods.</p> <p><strong>Clip and Swap Coupons</strong></p> <p>Of course you&rsquo;re going to use coupons to buy food for your frugal dinner club. So to enhance your stash, make it a rule that every member should <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/coupons">clip coupons</a> prior to each meeting so you can trade after dinner.</p> <p><strong>Put a Cap on the Cost of the Dishes</strong></p> <p>The group can decide a reasonable price point for each dish based on the amount of members in the group, but the price point should be low enough that it requires smart shopping and creative cooking. I&rsquo;d also suggest that everyone keeps their receipts so the group can tally up the total at the next club meeting, so everyone can see how much money is actually spent and saved.</p> <p><strong>Raid Pantries</strong></p> <p>Before anyone goes to the market to buy food, one of the rules should be that they must raid their pantries for ingredients. There&rsquo;s no reason to buy anything you already have. After you've searched your pantry, use <a href="http://www.recipekey.com/">Recipe Key</a> to input items to find a suitable dish to make for the club.</p> <h3>3. Set the Frugal Dinner Club Schedule</h3> <p>Come to a consensus within the group to settle on the appropriate meeting schedule.</p> <h3>4. Assign the Frugal Dinner Club Dishes</h3> <p>Now that you have your friends lined up, the frugal dinner club rules set, and a schedule firmly in place, it&rsquo;s time to assign dishes (not to be confused with recipes; those are at each member&rsquo;s discretion). Who will make the main? Who&rsquo;s in charge of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/15-ultra-quick-homemade-desserts">dessert</a>? Discuss.</p> <h3>5. Sit Down for Dinner and Brag About Your Saving Savvy</h3> <p>This is the moment you&rsquo;ve all been waiting for. Gather for a meeting of your frugal dinner club and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Discuss the recipes (ask members to bring a print out for the rest of the group), the ingredients, what you had on hand and what you had to buy, how much you spent, and how much you saved. Then simply enjoy each other&rsquo;s company while stuffing your face with the satisfaction that you can throw a fabulous dinner party without inflicting any pain upon your pockets.</p> <p><em>Do you have a frugal dinner club? Do you have other suggestions for those who want to start one? 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-start-a-frugal-dinner-club">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-6"> <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/win-your-next-potluck-with-one-of-these-23-cheap-easy-potluck-dishes">Win Your Next Potluck With One of These 23 Cheap, Easy Potluck Dishes</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/7-podcasts-for-foodies">7 Podcasts for Foodies</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/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-4 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-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/cheap-fun-and-libations-brewery-and-winery-tours">Cheap Fun and Libations: Brewery and Winery Tours</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Entertainment Food and Drink affordable entertaining dinner party frugal recipes things to do Thu, 23 Aug 2012 10:24:45 +0000 Mikey Rox 951304 at http://www.wisebread.com Can't Cook? Fake It. Easiest French Recipe, Ever. http://www.wisebread.com/cant-cook-fake-it-easiest-french-recipe-ever <p><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/wisebread_imce/fennel.jpg" alt=" " width="319" height="208" /></p> <p>Sometimes you have to cook to impress. Fortunately, there are dishes out there that are so deceptively delicious that no one will ever have to know that you whipped it up in ten minutes using the bare minimum of ingredients. </p> <p>This is one of those recipes.</p> <p>Fennel is a bulb, related to dill, that grows wild all over the place, especially in northern California. It has a sweet, licorice-like taste when it&#39;s raw, and is enjoyed throughout much of mainland Europe and even parts of Asia as a part of fine cuisine.</p> <p>In its wild form, fennel&#39;s fronds are popular with swallowtail caterpillars. I used to work at a wildlife refuge in the East Bay outside San Francisco, and part of our job was to go out hunting for swallowtail cocoons in the fennel fronds. We would collect cocoons, and safely hatch them in our butterfly house, then release them when they butterflies were strong enough to fly. </p> <p>Swallowtail caterpillars are voracious eaters, and in the springtime, you can see them snacking like little potheads with the munchies on wild fennel all over the Bay Area.</p> <p>[<img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/wisebread_imce/fennelswallow.jpg" alt=" " width="168" height="178" align="left" />By the way, if you take this fennel dish to a dinner party, you can use this tidbit to impress the host. &quot;You know,&quot; you can say sagely, &quot;Wild fennel fronds are a favorite of the swallowtail caterpillar.... what&#39;s that? Oh, no. <em>This isn&#39;t wild fennel</em>. No caterpillars were harmed in the making of this dish.&quot; And then you can chuckle a bit, and everyone with think that you are awesome <strong>and</strong> wise.]</p> <p>I stole this recipe from <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Three-Black-Skirts-Need-Survive/dp/0761119396">Three Black Skirts</a>, a cute little book by Anna Johnson. She claimed that the recipe was basically what French women cook when they don&#39;t feel like cooking. I don&#39;t know if this is true or not, but I&#39;ve made it dozens of times, and it&#39;s always a hit.</p> <p>Basic recipe:</p> <ul> <li>Three or more bulbs of fennel</li> <li>Heavy cream (pint or less)</li> <li>Salt</li> <li>Pepper</li> </ul> <p>Remove fennel stalks (the green part at the top - hack it off) and slice off the very bottom of the bulb. Save some of the fronds for garnish. Wash and thinly slice the fennel bulbs. Combine all ingredients in a glass baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees F for as long as it takes for the fennel to become soft and the top to brown.</p> <p>That&#39;s pretty much it. The amount of cream you use is up to you, but I don&#39;t ever let the cream cover the raw fennel, since the fennel will collapse and reduce as it cooks. I like a lot of salt, but some people don&#39;t, and I&#39;m addicted to cracked black pepper, so I use a lot of that. </p> <p>What you end up with is sort of a fennel au gratin. The fennel&#39;s sweetness and heady scent is tempered by the cream and the heat of the oven, and it&#39;s tender and succulent. It&#39;s usually served with a loaf of crusty French bread and far too many glasses of white wine, but it doesn&#39;t have to be limited to that serving style (although, if that also sounds like a good dinner to you, be my guest!). If you show up to a dinner party with a warming dish of baked creamy fennel and some kick-ass artesian bread, you&#39;ll be a gourmet hit! And it shouldn&#39;t cost more than $10, including the bread.</p> <p>The great thing about simple recipes is that you can embellish them and make them your own. Here are some optional ingredients that can be tossed in to change the dish&#39;s character. You can use creamy fennel as a topping for baked fish or chicken, or add cream cheese and gruyere and make it into a dip, or even use it as a pasta sauce.</p> <p>Optional ingredients - use one at a time or combine as desired:</p> <ul> <li>dill weed</li> <li>basil</li> <li>crumbled bacon</li> <li>sliced onion</li> <li>crushed garlic</li> <li>lemon zest</li> <li>tarragon</li> <li>thyme</li> <li>chopped hazelnuts</li> <li>sliced sunchokes</li> <li>anchovies</li> <li>bay leaves</li> <li>pink pepper</li> <li>feta cheese</li> <li>crab meat</li> <li>parsley</li> </ul> <p>The options are limitless, really. Herbs and spices make a big difference in such a versatile dish.</p> <p>A note about price: Fennel bulbs can be bloody expensive. It all depends on the time of year that you get them - they&#39;re usually best and cheapest during the summer. But shop around - farmer&#39;s markets usually have the best prices. Don&#39;t buy the fennel if it&#39;s too brown and bruised on the outside.</p> <p>On a side note, this dish can be made without fennel if you want to use something else more zippy - like Walla Walla Sweet onions. They&#39;re not available year-round either, but they cook up beautifully in this creamy dish, and really are sweet.</p> <p><em>(Bulb picture by </em><a href="http://www.cookingatdebras.com/"><em>Debra Samuels</em></a><em>. Caterpillar picture by </em><a href="http://www.flickr.com/people/shelly-and-roy/"><em>Shelly and Roy</em></a><em>.)</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/andrea-karim">Andrea Karim</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/cant-cook-fake-it-easiest-french-recipe-ever">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-3"> <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/four-inexpensive-breakfasts-in-under-five-minutes">4 Inexpensive Breakfasts in Under Five Minutes</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/perfect-peanut-sauce">Perfect Peanut Sauce</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-gluten-free-lunch-ideas">20 Gluten-Free Lunch Ideas</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/10-things-youll-waste-money-on-this-thanksgiving">10 Things You&#039;ll Waste Money on This Thanksgiving</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Food and Drink baguette cream dinner party fennel bulb French recipe Sun, 22 Apr 2007 02:57:16 +0000 Andrea Karim 542 at http://www.wisebread.com