In case you don't know, my parents and grandma have been visiting us for the past week. My grandma lives in another country, so we rarely get to see her - this was the first time that she met my husband and our daughter. This evening, my uncle and his family will be driving in from New York, and they will stay the weekend. Although they're not expecting to be entertained, they are still company and guests in my home, and to a certain degree I feel a moral undeniable obligation to play hostess, no matter how much they protest. And playing hostess is taxing - not only on your mind but also on your wallet!
When Beeb, the Super Coupon Girl, offered to scribe a guest post on how to entertain on a budget, it was just too good to be true. So, without further ado, here is the awesome budget-saving post. Take it away, Beeb!
Entertaining On a Budget
With the holidays quickly approaching, many of us are starting to plan parties and family get-togethers. If you're playing host this year, you may be concerned about the impact this will have on your budget. Perhaps you're making the family dinner on Christmas Eve, or maybe you've been nominated to cook for the annual holiday party at work. Whatever the event, if you're cooking for a crowd, it can get expensive. Sure, you're utilizing your coupon skills and shopping the sales, but it might not be enough. Here's some tips to help you stretch your dollar to the max.
Meal Plan Around Your Stockpile
Open your cupboards, and take a good look at what you've got. If you can plan some of your menu around what you already have, you'll save big. When I hosted my annual Halloween party this year, one of the things I served was “Jack 'O Lantern Toast”. I have several loaves of Sara Lee bread in my freezer that I got over the summer, thanks to a free coupon that came out in the newspaper. I defrosted one of those, and topped them with Kraft Cheese slices that had little “faces” cut into them. The cheese was also free, from yet another great coupon that appeared in the newspaper. I made a big batch, and grilled them in the oven. Not only was it a free way to make a bunch of appetizers, it was a hit with the guests!
Stuck for ideas as to what you can make with your stockpile? Check out Recipe Matcher. You can type in a list of what ingredients you have on hand, and it will show you recipes that can be made using them!
Use Inexpensive Ingredients
If you haven't built up much of a stockpile yet – or if it mostly consists of Windex – then you'll still need to purchase quite a bit of food. Think of what items you can buy in large quantities for fairly little. For example, a bag of potatoes doesn't cost much, but it can feed a lot of people. Mashed potatoes are a traditional favorite for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and baked potatoes make a great side dish for almost any meal.
Making your own soup is another great way to make a large amount of food in a cost effective way. I made a simple, delicious soup using pumpkin and potatoes for my Halloween party – have I mentioned yet how much I love potatoes?
Pasta has always been a favorite of mine to serve guests, even before I used coupons. It's easy to make in large quantities, delicious – and cost effective! This year, I got a bunch of pasta and pasta sauce for free using coupons. But even if there's no fantastic sales in your area, it's still a low cost staple that goes a long way.
Make It From Scratch
Baking your own desserts, breakfasts, or breads is another fantastic way to save. If you bought a pie at the grocery store, it would probably cost about four or five dollars. For that amount, you could buy some flour and sugar and make several pies of your own. To save even further, substitute more expensive ingredients with lower priced alternatives. Got applesauce in your stockpile? Use that in place of oil in cakes and brownies. Out of butter or shortening? Opt for margarine. Check out this great list of other ingredient substitutions.
I make a lot of pies during the holiday season, and I often get feedback on how light and fluffy my crusts are. When I tell people that I make my crust out of oil, not butter, they're always shocked. Not only is an oil crust inexpensive, it's also easier to make than a butter crust. Interested in giving it a try? Here's the recipe:
Recipe from Betty Crocker's Cook Book - makes an 8 or 9 inch one-crust pie
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (I always omit this)
1/3 cup salad oil
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water
Measure flour and salt into bowl. Add oil; mix until particles are the size of small peas. Sprinkle in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until flour is moistened and dough almost cleans side of bowl. (If dough seems dry, 1 to 2 tablespoons oil can be added. Do not add water.) Gather dough together; press firmly into ball. Shape dough into flattened round and roll out.
Budget The Bird
The turkey is probably your biggest expense. Watch your store's sales fliers and see what kind of deals they're running. Some grocers offer special promotions where you can get your turkey for free with a certain purchase amount. Obviously, it makes no sense to spend $100 just to get a free turkey, but if you have to buy those items anyway, or if they allow coupons to sweeten the deal, it may be worthwhile for you.
Hold A Potluck
Finally, you may want to consider making your event a potluck. This could be especially helpful for family gatherings – instead of burdening one person with the planning and expense, everyone can pitch in a small amount and bring one dish.
This is also a big time saver, so it can help reduce the workload for everybody, and leave more time for what's really important during the holidays: spending time with each other.