The Best Frugal Office Party Foods
Some do it to observe birthdays, others to celebrate weddings, and still others, just to mark the fact that they’ve made it to another Friday. Office food days are pretty much a fact of life if you work, well, anywhere. So how do you feed your coworkers without breaking the bank? Read on to find out which dishes are the best for workplace gatherings. (See also: 5 Potluck Parties That Help You Share the Wealth)
1. Sweet Onion Tartlets
I love this recipe because it makes you look like a master chef, but is so easy that even I can’t mess it up (and that’s quite a feat). My favorite sweet onion tartlets come from the Food Network’s own Sandra Lee. Once you’ve got the basic recipe down, you can fill your tartlets with any number of ingredient mixtures, including goat cheese and spinach, olive tapenade and fontina cheese, or bacon and cheddar. Estimated cost to serve 20: $8.84.
2. Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts
Let’s face it — anything wrapped in bacon is better. Water chestnuts by themselves have relatively little flavor (although they do have a delightful crunch!), but when combined with bacon and married by a toothpick, they become a winning office party treat. Try this bacon-wrapped water chestnuts recipe from Allrecipes.com. Estimated cost to serve 20: $13.79.
3. Fresh Fruit
If you’re health conscious (as many in my office are), you may appreciate it when someone brings in something to share that is both nutritious and delicious. Unless you want to risk coming off as the office Scrooge, though, don’t just pick up a bushel of apples and toss them out there for people to share. Try a variety of fruits, such as pineapple, mango, or star fruit. You could also try cutting fruits out in interesting shapes using a melon baller or cookie cutters. For the most bang for your buck, pick fruits that are in season. Estimated cost to serve 20: $10-$20; varies with type of fruit.
4. Mini Calzones
Who can resist tiny calzones at an office party gathering? Make spinach and cheese minis using refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough, frozen spinach, ricotta cheese, and shredded mozzarella. Estimated cost to serve 20: $9.49.
5. Grilled Mini Sandwiches
Like mini calzones, mini sandwiches are bite-sized perfection for an office setting. Try these three grilled sandwich recipes (courtesy of Rachel Ray), or experiment with your own. Rather than going for packaged sandwich bread, start with something heartier, like sourdough or focaccia. Also, try offering a variety of meats other than the typical deli slices — Serrano ham, salami, and prosciutto are good places to start. And, since your sandwiches are all diminutive in size, a slightly more expensive meat won’t hurt your wallet too badly. Estimated cost to serve 20: $15.
6. Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs
Every time my friend brings these meatballs to one of our parties, they’re gone before the last guest even arrives. Why not try them at your next office food day? I found something similar to her secret family recipe on Allrecipes.com. Estimated cost to serve 20: $13.83.
These sweet desserts are my favorite. Not just the packaged, plain-old-vanilla kind, though; I like the new trend in designer cupcakes. Try your hand at two of my favorites: red velvet cupcakes (who said you have to wait till a wedding to eat red velvet cake?) and carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Peruse recipes for the best cupcakes at Martha Stewart.com. Estimated cost to serve 20: $8-$12; varies by cupcake recipe.
What dishes do you take to your workplace gatherings that please crowds without breaking the bank? Share your experiences in the comments!