We enjoy entertaining, but it can definitely be expensive. So while I was preparing for these events, I was also preparing a list of ways to save money when entertaining.
And trust me when I say that I know these things are money-savers, because I did some of them and I should have done the others. Only my receipts and I know for sure which was which.
Food and Drink
1. Choose frugal foods.
When you plan your menu, don’t start with your cookbooks and recipe files; start with the grocery ads.
Just as with your weekly meal planning, it pays to plan your party menu around what is on sale that week.
Flavor Bonus: Grocery specials often feature fresh, in season foods, which are tastier anyway.
2. Cook from scratch.
People are busy and the grocery stores have responded with lots of conveniences. But you’ll save a bundle if you chop your own vegetables and assemble your own appetizers.
Even if you can’t make absolutely everything from scratch, choose the one or two things that will save you the most money and do those.
Health Bonus: Avoiding pre-made or processed foods lets you control the ingredients and make things healthier or less fattening.
3. Keep adult beverages simple.
You don’t have to have a fully stocked bar for your guests. Consider mixing one signature drink that goes along with your menu or theme, and offering it along with beer and wine.
Have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks as well, for the non-drinkers, designated drivers, and others who don’t want to indulge.
Good Host Bonus: Trying a new drink is fun for guests. And providing several options for the non-drinkers is good form, too.
4. Invest in white dishes.
Some women (and men too, I’m sure) can never have too many shoes. Others of us feel the same about dishes.
But for maximum flexibility and minimum cost, your best bet is investing in an inexpensive set of all white dishes. They won’t show chips and food looks better on them anyway.
For variety, pick up decorative salad plates, chargers, or cloth napkins when you see them on sale. They’ll mix in nicely with your basic white.
Storage Bonus: One set of white dishes with some accessory pieces is much easier to store than several complete sets of dishes.
Napkin rings look great on a dinner table, but they can easily cost $3 – $5 a piece.
Creative napkin folding is easy to learn and there’s no napkin ring required. Here’s a great web site to get you started: Napkin Folding Guide
Family Bonus: Even kids can master napkin folding and it’s a great way to let them help out.
6. Shop used.
Garage sales, estate sales, and thrift stores have a treasure trove of items that can be used for entertaining. Look specifically for dishes, serving pieces, and table linens.
If you keep in mind the white dish suggestion from above, everything you collect will look great together.
Style Bonus: Mismatched is in. Even Pottery Barn is selling mismatched sets of flatware for an eclectic look.
7. Skip the disposables.
When you buy basic, inexpensive dishes, glasses, and cloth napkins, you can easily recoup the cost of them by skipping their paper or plastic equivalents a time or two.
Shop for them used at the places listed above, or buy inexpensive sets at stores like Target, Marshall’s and even Big Lots.
Green Bonus: It goes without saying that skipping the disposables is easier on the environment. But, there, I said it anyway.
8. Use what you have.
Less shopping = more savings. Always try to make what you have work first.
Pull candles from a mantle to use on a table. Ice down beverages in a large bowl or a clean metal tub. Swap out recipe ingredients for something that’s already in your cabinet.
Stress Bonus: Starting with what you have and then shopping only for what you need to fill in saves time and energy, not to mention gas.
9. Let your guests help out.
Most guests today expect to bring something to the gathering. If they ask what they can bring, tell them!
Or consider starting a regular game night or dinner club, where people take turns hosting and plan to pitch in when they’re not.
Friendship Bonus: Having a standing date with good friends ensures you’re making time for the things that matter.
10. Keep it simple.
A cold beer in a frosty glass. Grocery store tulips in a clear vase. A hot steak paired with a cool salad.
Simple is always better.
Choose to keep you gathering simple and focus on your guests and the good time you’ll have. That part is free!
What are your favorite ways to save money on entertaining?
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