If you love to entertain, you’ll know how all the little extras can add up. But catering for guests doesn’t have to break the bank. Here we’ll show you how to impress your friends with the ultimate fine dining experience – all without spending a fortune.
By giving yourself time to stock up on ingredients, you can usually save money. (Don’t forget to check your store cupboard first!) Shop around and get hold of the best bargains your supermarket has to offer, then build your menu around what you’ve found. If you entertain a lot, you might want to buy some ingredients in bulk while they’re on offer – as long as you’ll definitely use them.
If there’s something you need, like a special dinner set, why not ask around and borrow from a friend instead of spending money on a one-off item you’re unlikely to use again? If your table dinner table only sits 4, why not ask a neighbour or friend if they’ve got any chairs you can borrow, to save you buying extra to seat your guests. You can always return the favour by lending them something of yours.
Table decoration is a big part of what makes dinner parties so special. But you don’t have to spend lots of money on expensive accessories. Why not use flowers from the garden as a centrepiece, or co-ordinate with coloured napkins? Fairy lights, tea lights and hand-written place cards are all cheap but effective ways to dress your table – check out your local pound shop to see what they have to offer. These are also multi-functional decorations that can be used at your next celebration again and again, making sure you get good use of them.
Grow your own
Not everyone has space to maintain a vegetable garden, but it’s possible to grow your own herbs even in the smallest of spaces. Fresh parsley, basil or coriander can be costly to buy in the supermarket, but seeds are cheap – and that just-picked taste will definitely be appreciated by your guests.
With meat-free dining more popular than ever before, a vegetarian menu could be a great way to serve up a delicious dinner on a budget. Fresh, seasonal veggies don’t need much dressing up, so you can concentrate on bringing out their natural flavours. If you don’t want to go for a completely vegetarian menu, you can always use veggies and legumes to bulk out your dish. Try adding lentils to your lasagne mince or chickpeas to your curry. That will half the cost of your meat, or simply make it go further.
Introduce cocktail hour
A great way to host a dinner party on a budget is to serve your own cocktails. These will seem like a real treat for your friends, but the good news is that they can also save you money, as mixing a signature cocktail or making a punch uses less expensive ingredients than serving everyone a glass or two of wine. You could also get everyone to bring a bottle, to make sure there’s always enough to drink.
Freeze the leftovers
It’s easy to misjudge portion sizes when cooking for a big crowd, so don’t go overboard. By serving bread or other ‘fillers’ with your main meal, you can make sure no one goes hungry. If you do find you have lots left over, make sure it doesn’t go to waste! Freeze what you can so that you always have a quick and convenient meal to warm up when you need it.
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