A dinner party is as much about the experience as it is about the food. It’s about getting friends together to enjoy a meal, share some laughs, and enjoy the comfort of good company in a casual home environment. [AND save some money on big restaurant bills.]
Here are some tips to help you pull together a successful dinner party without spending much:
Invite your friends electronically
Personal phone calls are time consuming and mailed invites cost money. By inviting your guests electronically, you can easily manage the guest list, include detailed information (like directions to your place or what your guests should bring) in a visible forum. You might consider:
- Creating a Facebook Event or even a group message for your guests
- Punchbowl is a free site that lets you send classy little online invitations
- Smilebox is another free site that allows you to send personalized invitations with photos, videos and/or music
- Evite allows you to create personalized invitations, manage guest lists, and also offers several party planning ideas
Create the menu, and ask your guests to contribute
Establishing a dinner “theme” will help you focus on all the aspects of your dinner party, from appetizer to dessert. And it will help direct your guests. So if you’re planning an Italian-style dinner, your guests could bring bruschette or some other appetizer that fits with the theme. And an inexpensive Italian wine is always a winner.
Also, think about preparing recipes either with ingredients you already have and/or ingredients you know you’ll use often even after the party. Choosing meals that involve seasonal items could also save you a bundle.
Don’t cook something you've never tried
The worst time to try out a new recipe is when you’ve got the responsibility of providing a meal for a group of dinner guests. Not only will there be considerable stress involved – but you won’t know how the meal will taste until it’s time to serve everyone. You’ll likely spend more than you need to, and risk ordering pizza at the last minute if yours turns out sub-par.
Make it a Potluck
This might be a no-brainer, but it really is the best way to save money on your dinner party, and answer the question that’s bound to asked by most of your guests: “What should I bring?” It’s most likely easiest to ask your guests to bring things that will compliment your main course, like appetizers, bread, wine or other drinks, and/or dessert. You can either create a list of things you need and assign them to certain guests, or you can leave the choice to them in a forum if you’ve invited guests online. Just ask them to stick with the theme and share what they plan to bring so you don’t end up with several of the same dishes/items.
Include the kids
You’re more likely to have a good response if you invite guests to bring their kids. Childcare is expensive and sometimes hard to schedule, so setting up a kids table and providing some kid-friendly entertainment will enable more guests to attend. This is another advantage you have when entertaining at home, rather than a restaurant.
Most of us are still recovering from post-holiday financial strain. January nights are cold and dark, and an evening at home, in the company of good friends, may just be the perfect way to warm your heart and relieve your wallet.