Welcome to the fourth in our ‘Super-Saver’ series. This week we share tips and tricks on how to entertain – for less!
There’s nothing more pleasant than entertaining friends in you own home – except the cost! Whether you’re planning dinner or just drinks and nibbles, the expense keeps creeping up. That’s why it pays to plan.
Timing is everything
Generally speaking, an afternoon gathering is likely to be less expensive to host than evening entertainment. Apart from a glass of bubbles (if you plan on providing this), alcohol is much less of a feature than it tends to be in the evening, and catering usually involves snacks and sweets rather than costly cuts of meat. What’s more, seniors often prefer to go out in the afternoon rather than at night, and an afternoon gathering also has a delightful way of extending into early evening, anyway, with afternoon tea leftovers catering for the stayers-on.
Map out the Menu
Several weeks before you issue the invites, plan out the party menu. Then, watch out for ‘specials’ as they become available at the supermarket and liquor outlet. Or do things in reverse, and watch out for the specials, then plan your catering around them. Check out op-shops, too, for brand new and unused items such as paper serviettes, scented and table candles, wine glass identifiers, fancy dishes, party banners and balloons. Watch out for good quality, secondhand table cloths and linen napkins, too.
Fresh flowers mark out an occasion as something extra special – and there’s no need to head to the florist to find them. Dotting small vases around the room on coffee tables, rather than aiming for one formal arrangement, means you can gather little blooms from your own garden, or even use wild flowers. If these options aren’t available, pick up a container of cheap and cheery potted colour, and pop the individual plants into fancy containers (drainage holes aren’t necessary for a few hours).
Drinks are do-able
Drinks don’t need to break the bank. For cool-season drinks, make a feature of serving your own home-brewed ginger beer or kombucha. Or offer your own mulled wine. Even the cheapest red wine is delicious when warmed together with a budget orange juice, cinnamon and cloves. A cool mixer that comes without the cost, is tonic and lemon juice served on ice with a shake of bitters – delicious, refreshing – and it turns out to cost just a few cents! Whatever you do, don’t forget the garnish. A slice of orange perched on the edge of the mulled wine glass, a sliver of lemon with the tonic and bitters, and a few cubes of pineapple floating on the ginger beer turns a budget drink into a sophisticated ‘cocktail’. If you want your guests to have a wider range of alcoholic drinks, let them know you’ll be providing a glass of bubbles or sherry for a toast, and that BYO is also welcomed. This is a perfectly acceptable plan.
Food that’s fun
Turn attention away from the need for costly dishes, and turn toward building anticipation and fun around ingredients which are much less expensive. One way to do this is to have a pizza parlour evening. Make your own pizza bases and tomato sauce in the afternoon, grate your cheese, and assemble dishes of toppings for your guests to choose from. Let them personalise their own pizza slice (or slices) before baking in the oven (ten minutes is all it takes), and serving with a simple salad. Do the same with home made hamburger-builds. Warm the buns and patties, set out the fillings, and let guests create their own personalised burger. It breaks the ice, creates conversation, and everyone is sure to want to check out each others’ combos!
If you’re looking for the cheapest nibble in town – it’s popcorn! Not the commercial variety, but home-made. What’s more, it can be dressed up with sweet or savoury spices, caramelised with a sprinkling of salt, or served au naturel with a drizzle of melted butter or olive oil. And all for a few cents!
Entertaining need not cost the earth when you let yourself be creative!