Hosting social events for friends and family is always enjoyable, but can be very expensive. It is always important to keep in mind that the primary goal of entertaining is to spend time with people that you care about. While offering extravagant food and activities are appreciated, not being able to afford to go all the way should not be used as a reason to not get together. Here are some tips to help plan an affordable party.
Fire the Caterer!
The cost of a caterer will always be higher than the cost of preparing food yourself. His costs will include labor, equipment depreciation and replacing supplies. If you are not confident in your ability to cook for groups, many large supermarkets and wholesale warehouses offer prepared foods. Trays of food only require warming in the oven before they can be served over sterno heaters. Platters of cold foods are placed on divided platters and can be presented without any work at all.
Cook It Yourself… Somewhere Else
For hosts who enjoy cooking but have limited kitchen space, there are businesses that provide large, clean kitchens and prepared ingredients. While these services are more expensive than purchasing the ingredients and preparing them from scratch, many people find the time saved is worthwhile. Half the fun is knowing that you can cook and then leave the cleanup to a professional team!
Select Your Ingredients With Care
It’s easy to go overboard on fancy treats when planning your menu. In truth, your guests will be just as impressed if you serve a few special foods and make up the balance with inexpensive, easily prepared foods that are served attractively. Start menu planning by selecting two or three premium ingredients and then create the rest of the meal to highlight them.
For example, moderate amounts of local seafood supported by generous amounts of roasted chicken, fresh salad, buttery corn on the cob and boiled red skinned potatoes with fresh parsley will leave all of the guests full. If you can afford to hire help, guests who are served plates will eat and waste less food than guests who are offered a buffet table.
Avoid fussy foods that require extensive intricate preparation. Even if the ingredients are cheap, the time spent on cooking for a crowd can be problematic. If the flavors are not changed, modifying dishes so that the ingredients are presented more simply usually is just as impressive. This is a good time to pull out those coupons for name brand food products. Look for websites, like this one here at fatwallet.com to find super bargains.
Italian dishes are ideal for catering large groups because they focus on a few, high quality ingredients prepared simply. This will save the host both money and time. Chicken marsala or homemade Italian sausages with peppers and onions with lots of extra sauce can be served with trays of Italian pasta to feed large groups without appearing to be stingy.
Use Tools Appropriate to the Task
Using appropriate tools for the job at hand can be the difference between a well prepared meal and dishes that should not be served to company. Even something as basic as a properly sharpened knife makes the cook’s work simpler. When slicing large amounts of meat or cheese, using a meat slicing machine guarantees evenly sized, attractive slices. Even an electric knife can help get the job done.
If you own a meat grinder, it can be used to grind custom blends of meat for far less money than a gourmet butcher would charge and will be fresher than anything the supermarket can provide. Grinding hot smoked bacon with large cuts of beef adds a fantastic flavor that most people have never experienced. For juicy meatballs, a blend of beef and pork is always enjoyed. If you don’t have a manual or an electric meat grinder, ask your butcher to grind if for you – this ensures the meat is fresh and you have better control over the quality of the mix.
Avoid Evening Parties
Daytime parties are generally less expensive because guests eat less at lunchtime than at dinner. Many people expect alcohol to be served in the evening but are not surprised if a lunchtime party is dry. Additionally, there are generally more inexpensive options for renting party sites during the day than in the evening.
Enjoy the Outdoors
Hosting a party in your home can be difficult. Even if the guests don’t leave a mess behind, accommodating everybody comfortably may not be possible. Renting a party site can be expensive, therefore, many restaurants will offer space for parties, but will not permit outside food or beverages to be brought in. Therefore, you might consider using outdoor locations for your event.
For housing complexes with common space, it may not be necessary to go very far. If you do not have a clubhouse available to you, many fire departments offer inexpensive party space.
In addition, while parks and other public settings are more casual than having parties indoors, the savings make it worth considering. Additionally, having a party near a playground makes inviting families with children more comfortable. Call the Parks Department to find out if there are any available pavilions with electricity and bathrooms.
Money should never be a reason for not getting together with friends and family. These tips will help you host a fabulous party without anybody knowing you were economizing.
This post was contributed by Italian food writer, Liz Krause of SimpleItaliancooking.com. She enjoys sharing tips about food preparation and planning, and of course how to save money. She writes reviews on Italian themed products from the Award winning Alessi 9090 to various Italian cookbooks and recipes.