Just because the economy is tanking, doesn’t mean the party is over. Entertaining at home is less expensive than you might think. These simple money saving tips will help you throw a great party for less than you’d spend on a big night on the town.
1. Go casual. If you think you need Champagne and caviar to have a good time, think again. A less formal affair encourages your guests to relax and have fun. It’s the difference between a Superbowl party and New Year’s Eve. Forget sit down affairs, go for finger food and wine. Decide on the budget you feel comfortable with and plan accordingly. Evite’s party budget estimator is a great way to figure out where and how to spend your money wisely.
2. Pick the right wines. Skip expensive cocktails and serve a choice of approachable and affordable red and white wines that will go with almost anything you serve. A Chardonnay that is mildly oaky will pair well with anything caramelized. “Toasted loves toasted,” says David Katz, Chef and Managing Partner of Pane Vino. Toasted bread, nuts or caramelized onions all make fine matches with a balanced Chardonnay. For a red wine, Katz recommends choosing something medium weight like Pinot Noir. Mirassou Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fit the bill nicely and are around $10 each. Other food friendly and budget friendly choices include a crisp Rosé or a sparkling Spanish Cava.
3. Know when to splurge and when to save. Some ingredients are worth the extra cash. Katz recommends saving when it comes to blue cheese with a domestic supermarket brand, but splurging on sliced to order imported prosciutto. Buying from a deli means you’ll end up with thinner slices and save in the long run. Wrap slices of prosciutto around Italian bread sticks for a quick and savory bite.
4. Prep in advance. Many great appetizers can be made in advance. Blue cheese mousse can be made days ahead then piped or spooned onto vegetables before the party starts. Meatballs made from any inexpensive ground meat or turkey found on sale can be made then frozen and reheated. Spiced toasted nuts can also be made hours before your guests arrive. End your party with a selection of homemade cookies and brownies, ice cream optional.
5. Get friends involved. Have a friend who knows something about wine? Ask them to bring a few of their favorite house reds. Is one of your pals a great cook? Get them to make an appetizer or dessert. Encouraging your friends to help out gives them a chance to take a more active role in the party, takes the pressure off of you as host and helps spread the financial burden more equitably as well.
Most importantly, make your party easy and relaxed. Stuffy parties that break the bank are no fun. Chances are, if you’re having a good time, your guests will too!
Amy Sherman is a San Francisco–based writer, recipe developer, and restaurant reviewer. Visit her blog at Cooking with Amy