Archive for the ‘Save on Entertaining’ Category

Last Minute July Fourth Party Ideas

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

July fourth party ideasJuly fourth weekend may have already begun, but if you haven’t finished planning your July fourth party, there’s no need to panic.  It’s possible to create a festive July fourth party, even at the last minute – and I’ve got 5 inexpensive ideas that can help you turn a regular barbecue into a memorable Independence Day feast.  So before you run out to buy American flag-themed napkins or complicated fireworks, read on to find 5 July fourth party ideas that may be useful this year and in years to come.

  1. Decorate with food – Who needs streamers or decorative flags when you can let your food decorate your July fourth party?  Use strawberries, raspberries and blueberries to create delicious and cheerful desserts, or spread them out as table decorations on a white tablecloth.  Other foods in appropriate colors include whipped cream, jello, and mayonnaise and ketchup swirled in a blue serving dish.  Red, white and blue jelly beans or sweet potato and yucca chips mixed with blue potato chips (I recommend the Terra brand) can also perk up any table.
  2. 50’s theme – The US has 50 states…why not use this as a basis for a 50’s themed July fourth party?  Break out your poodle skirt, prepare some root beer floats and serve cheeseburgers instead of typical barbecued hamburgers.  For extra excitement, set up a move projector and recreate the drive-in movie experience in your own backyard.
  3. Go small – Instead of serving your typical barbecue food, why not make everything in bite-sized pieces?  Think about making mini hot dogs, mini hamburgers, buffalo wings instead of roasted drumsticks, and mini muffins instead of cupcakes.  Smaller foods allow guests to taste everything you’ve made without over-eating, and will avoid the need for clumsy cutting if you’re having a buffet.
  4. Diversify your menu – Celebrate our great country by making dishes that are indigenous to different states.  Serve creole, Philly cheesesteaks, cornbread and cobbler.  If you’re having relatives or friends who have lived in other states, ask them to bring their favorite native food to share the taste of America with the rest of your guests.  This is also a great way to minimize the work of hosting the July fourth party.
  5. Let the games begin – If you’re inviting children to your July fourth party, offering games is a great way to keep them entertained and out of trouble.  Consider a game of capture the American flag, American flag relay races or a game of American flag football.

Happy  Independence Day!

25 Inexpensive (Christmas) Party Ideas

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Can you believe it’s that time of year again?  With only a few hours left until the holiday season arrives, you’ve got to finalize your Christmas party ideas and make sure that everything is in order.  I know the stress can be difficult, but with if you consider the Christmas party ideas below, you should have no trouble hosting a spectacular event without spending a fortune.  You should be aware, however, that most (if not all) of these suggestions aren’t necessarily exclusive to Christmas – you can actually use them to save money on any party you throw during the year.  And, once you realize how easy it is to throw a party without overspending, you may just find yourself hosting more often that you’d planned!

  1. Stick to a budget. If this is the first time you’re planning a party on a budget, it may be a bit of a challenge.  But with a bit of creativity, commitment and sticking to the ideas below, you should have no trouble hosting a great party without overspending.
  2. Make use of the dollar store.  Chances are good that you can find cheap paper goods, ingredients and even cleaning supplies to reduce the cost of your overhead expenses.
  3. Skip holiday-themed paper goods.  Not only will it disturb you that you can get the same paper goods for half the price after your party, but you may be stuck with assorted items that won’t be easily reused.
  4. Plan your menu around store sales.  OK, this idea is important every day of the year, not just when you’re looking for Christmas party ideas.  But if you didn’t operate this way until now, it’s time to get started!
  5. Simplify the centerpieces. Who says you need to shell out the big bucks for ornamental candles or gilded tapers?  Use a table runner to add some pizzazz to your table, or add warmth with tea lights.
  6. Use a stain-resistant tablecloth.  Once you’ve spent money on your party, you won’t want to spend more replacing the stained tablecloth.  Make sure that you cover the table with something that won’t get ruined by your crowd, especially if there are children attending.
  7. Make your own bread.  Gourmet breads can be extremely expensive, but you can replicate these delicacies on your own rather easily (especially if you have a bread machine).  Breads freeze beautifully, so you can make bread in advance without compromising on the quality of your final product.  (A note – if it’s your first time making bread, make sure you choose a relatively straightforward recipe so that you don’t have to throw your first batch away).
  8. Choose inexpensive appetizers.  There’s no rule that you need to serve crab legs as an appetizer.  Why not set the tone with chicken wings, veggies and dip or cups of soup?
  9. Cut the cleaning help.  You may feel like you need cleaning help both before and after the party, but let’s face it – you can probably clean up the mess by yourself, as long as your house looks presentable when the guests come.  You can save a pretty penny if you hire help only before the party, and make an effort to mop your own floors once the guests are gone.
  10. Skip the personalized desserts.  Creating dozens of personal chocolate cakes may make you look like Martha Stewart, but chances are good that it’ll also end up costing you extra money as compared with the cost of a larger, shared dessert.  Some of my favorite Christmas party ideas (for dessert, of course), include trifle and individual cookies.  Less food will be wasted, which means that less money will be wasted.
  11. Host a holiday grab bag.  Why buy gifts for all your guests (that they probably won’t like anyway), when you can get one larger gift for a special someone?  As an added benefit, think of all the wrapping paper that will be spared, which will protect the environment.
  12. Don’t over-decorate.  Thinking back to last year’s Christmas party, did you really need the reindeer piñata?  Paring down your decorations will not only help you save money, but it may create a classier ambiance.
  13. Borrow. Don’t have enough chairs or tables?  Instead of rushing out to buy these items, why not borrow from neighbors who have been fortunate enough to get invited out for the holiday meal?
  14. Pass on the party favors.  As Christmas party ideas go, party favors are soooo passé.  And because they’re unnecessarily expensive, there’s just no reason to have them on your radar.
  15. Reduce your guest list.  There’s no law that says you need to invite every relative you’ve ever met, or every neighbor who has no other place to go.  If you’re on a tight budget, make sure to set a guest list and stick to it.
  16. Don’t overheat your home.  You probably want to make sure that your guests aren’t cold, but don’t remember that body heat, wine and the steam of your delicious food will keep your guests naturally warm, so you won’t need to blast the heat as high as you think.
  17. Find ideas in forums.  There are dozens of online forums where people are excited to share their frugal entertaining ideas.  If you’re looking for something  more unique, why not flip through some forums?
8 Themed Christmas Party Ideas (that will save you money)

  1. Dessert-only party.  Who needs a roast when you can have fondue?
  2. Appetizer-themed evening.   Who doesn’t love finger foods, warm soups and crudités?  Alternatively, who wants to be stuck next to a boring uncle all night at a sit-down dinner?  Hosting an appetizer-themed evening can solve several of your hosting quandaries and budget restrictions all at once.
  3. Tree-trimming party.  With so many decorations to hang, there won’t be time for serious eating.
  4. Wine and cheese night.  If you’re planning an adults-only shindig, you can save big by offering wine and cheese, which looks expensive but doesn’t need to be.  There are plenty of great wine options available for reasonable prices, and you can minimize the amount of paper goods you’ll need as well.
  5. Potluck dinner.  The classic way to save money is to ask participants to chip in by bringing their own favorite dishes.  Just make sure that you confirm in advance so you don’t end up with doubles.
  6. Lupper.  It might be a bit strange to host a Christmas brunch, but there’s no reason that you can’t call your meal for luppertime.  Calling a party for a time in between lunch and dinner is a good way to ensure that your guests aren’t ravishing, and that you’ll be finished cleaning up in time for a normal bedtime.
  7. Open house.  Your closest friends and relatives may stay a while, but the people you invited because you felt required to probably won’t, so you’ll save money on food and avoid the discomfort of small talk for an entire party.
  8. Pizza party.  If you’ve ever been to a pizzeria in Italy, you’ll know that pizza can be dressed up beautifully for a party.  The dough is extremely cheap to make, and you may be able to buy it for almost as inexpensively. Consider pizza with chopped meat, grilled vegetables, mozzarella and basil, pineapple and any other topping you can think of.  Your meal will be interesting and more affordable than a standard Christmas party menu.  Serve chocolate chip pizza for dessert.  You may even create a new family tradition.

How to Save on Holiday Entertaining

Monday, December 21st, 2009

The shopping is nearly finished, you’ve started to wrap the presents, and you’ve even begun writing some of the cards.  But now that the dust has settled, you may be wondering how you’ll be able to afford holiday entertaining and the gifts that have already been purchased.  If you’re like most people, serving macaroni and cheese won’t be sufficiently sophisticated.  So how can you save on holiday entertaining without sacrificing on taste or ambiance?  Here are 7 ways to save- try one, and you’ll save a little.  Use them all, and you’ll be amazed at how much money stays in your pocket.

1- Host a pot luck dinner. If you’re hosting 20 of your closest family members and friends, there’s no reason not to ask them to pitch in.  Chances are good that your guests would otherwise spend money on a hostess gift.  Since you probably don’t need another vase or creamer pitcher, why not just ask your guests to bring a side dish or salad instead?  Getting everyone to help out will save you on holiday entertaining and also reduce the anxiety associated with preparing dinner for 20.

2- Ditch the expensive decorations. There’s absolutely no reason why you need to shell out money for fancy candles, table sparkles or other standard décor items.Ditch the expensive decorations  Instead, enlist your children to find pinecones, beautiful leaves or other free items to decorate the table with.  If you don’t mind going for a homemade look, encourage your children to create holiday art projects or hand-drawn cutouts to sprinkle across the table. If you don’t have young children, consider decorating the table in unexpected and inexpensive ways- scatter a handful of jelly beans across the table to create a splash of color, light up some tea lights or simply drag out your fancy napkin rings to create interest at the table.

3- Buy in bulk. Few would argue that buying in bulk will save you a bundle on your entertaining expenses.  And, if you play your cards right, you may even have extra paper goods or food items to use in the future.  (Just make sure that you don’t opt for the Santa plates or Rudolph napkins).  If you shop at wholesale clubs like Costco or BJ’s, be aware the not everything is cheaper in bulk.  Pay attention to prices on things like produce and dairy, as these items may actually be cheaper in other stores.

4- Go green. Using paper goods is one of the most obvious holiday entertaining ideas- but it’s also one of the most expensive.  If you’re inviting a manageable crowd, consider using real dishes, glasses and silverware, and breaking out the cloth napkins instead of paper ones.  Using real dishes and napkins will not only help you save, but will help save the environment as well.

5- Make recipes that require items you already own. There’s no better way to save money on holiday entertaining than to shop your own pantry closet.  Got two bags of noodles?  Why not serve sesame noodles?  Got some canned pumpkin?  A pumpkin pie it is!  Take a few moments to search your cupboards before heading to the store.  It will likely save you significantly on your holiday menu.

6- Cut back on the alcohol. Alcoholic beverages can be a significant part of the holiday entertaining bill.  In order to reduce these expenses, ask guests to bring their favorite drink (especially those who are not bringing any food), or offer mixers instead of straight-up alcohol.  It may require a bit more work to make the drink, but the result will be both fun and financially responsible.

7- Remember that less is more. Most people think that one of the underlying principles of holiday entertaining requires the host to prepare everything in their cookbook.  Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.  One of my favorite holiday entertaining ideas is that less is more.  Instead of cooking everything you’ve ever made, choose a few of your favorites.  Your guests will be satisfied and you’ll have done a fantastic job on a few select dishes, instead of serving too many lukewarm dishes because you didn’t have enough room in the oven.

Happy Entertaining,

Billy