Low Cost Entertaining

by Katy on September 11, 2008 · 8 comments



Enjoy having people over but dread the expense of entertaining? 

Do you shudder at the word potluck?

It’s time to get over that, toot-sweet!

There are so many different ways to entertain within a budget without sacrificing anything. And no, you don’t have to throw a potluck. (Unless that’s what makes your heart go all aflutter.)

I’m having 26 people over this Sunday for a family reunion brunch/lunch. I plan on laying out a delicious feast, but not at the expense of my waste-free/frugal lifestyle.

I’m going to bake a turkey and lay out a sandwich buffet with lots of nice breads, and veggies from my garden, (okay — my friend Sarah’s garden) and nice mayonnaise, mustard and cream cheese. I’ll also make peanut butter and jam available for the under ten set. A couple of Momeye’s coffee cakes will round out the menu.

Drinks will be juices from concentrate and ice-water. Coffee and tea will certainly be made available. And here’s a big money saver — no booze.

It’s a family brunch, not a cocktail party at the Playboy Mansion! (Although possibly slightly less fun.)

The secret to my entertaining prowess is all in the presentation. A clean house, beautiful linens and attractive dish-wear. Because I’ve been collecting Fiestaware since high school, I have enough dishes to avoid the environmental no-no of disposable plates. I’m deliberately not serving food that will require silverwear, so I’ll be able to just-say-no to nasty plastic forks. Cloth napkins round out the secret no-waste theme of the party.

Give yourself a break. It’s okay to serve simple meals when having guests over. It doesn’t have to be pheasant under glass with a rare wine selection. My friend Sarah today was telling me about how her husband, (a chef) has been serving made-from-scratch gruyere macaroni and cheese at dinner parties lately. And it’s been getting rave reviews!

When you plan out complicated menus, it can be a real budget buster. And you’ll spend your whole time in the kitchen, instead of enjoying the company of your guests.

It’s perfectly okay to serve simple foods. People are pretty much happy to be invited over, and if they’re like me, just happy to eat someone else’s cooking. Which, when it boils down to it, is hands down my favorite thing to eat.

Cause you just know Hugh Hefner is probably just craving a big bowl of macaroni and cheese that he can watch in front of a Matlock re-run.

I’d love to hear reader’s low cost entertaining tricks. Please share your tips in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeremy September 11, 2008 at 2:11 am

I agree, we should think of it as sharing a meal together rather than ‘entertaining’. That leads to trying to impress, even competition, and almost certainly overspending. And because it’s so much work, we don’t do it very often and then we miss out on the close friendships and sense of community that we could be developing.
In short, if you still feel a certain obligation to entertain, you don’t have people round often enough!


Peggy September 11, 2008 at 9:03 am

Love your sandwich buffet idea. Sometimes we do a chili supper, with a huge pot of chili, tortilla chips, shredded cheese, crackers, etc. Very casual, very filling and almost all of it done ahead of time so I can enjoy the company!


Annie's Granny September 11, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Self-serve taco bar at my house! People take what they want so there is seldom any waste, and if there are leftover’s we have taco salads the next day. I serve big pitchers of non-alcoholic Margaritas with tall glasses. I have enough of those great big hard plastic tray/plates for everyone. No fancy napkins here, I buy cheap, colorful wash cloths by the dozen and wrap each set of silverware with one. When they start to look shabby, they become dish cloths.


Elisabeth September 11, 2008 at 4:16 pm

I really loved this! Simple food is so much better, and I hate when I end up in the kitchen instead of hanging out with the guests.

If a party has to be a little bit fancy, though, here are some ideas:

Candles! They add a bit of drama and elegance.
Champagne punch- Doesn’t have to be costly and goes a long way!

A nicely set table makes a huge difference. I have a huge collection of mismatched silverware and china plates that I love to use. Against a white tablecloth, with candles lit, it looks as pretty as the expensive matching sets. Same with drinking glasses!

I also use plain white restaurant napkins that I’ve had for years. They have held up through dozens of parties, and still look great.

Thanks so much for this blog!


Mrs Green September 12, 2008 at 1:11 am

This sounds a wonderful meal. I usually do jacket potatoes – very cheap but not sure what you call them – they are baked in their skins in the oven, you split them open and put butter on them while hot which melts and then add a topping.

Something meaty and something veggie usually does the trick such as a chilli and a curry – all leftovers taste wonderful a couple of days later so there is no food wastage.

Alternatively, I love to do a couple of soups and some fancy breads.

Your idea is great for lots of people though because of the lack of need for cutlery.

Have a wonderful time. I’m really poor at gauging quantities, how much food do you prepare for a party of that size? That’s always my downfall and where I spend too much money……….


Pam in AZ September 13, 2008 at 5:12 pm

This year my extended family has started to celebrate anniversaries a little differently. We used to all go out to a fairly nice (read that “expensive”) restaurant and then split the bill, everyone else paying for the Anniversary Couple’s part of the tab. This year we tried something new, and everyone loved it. We all went to one couple’s house, everyone brought a covered dish (one person deciding on the theme/motif, and coordinating the menu). And each family brought a gift card (we chose our favorite restaurants/movie theatres and some even got more creative) in a blank envelope. After dinner, we each selected a gift card from the “fishbowl”. Everyone raved…and can’t wait till next year. PLUS, we all saved a fortune!!!


Mrs Green September 16, 2008 at 12:07 am

Pam – that is a wonderful idea. I’m not surprised you are all looking forward to sharing this one again! How inspirational 🙂


Alison January 22, 2009 at 10:12 am

Forgive me for commenting on an old post… I am a new reader, and am thoroughly enjoying perusing all the great content on this site!

I have recently begun to appreciate last-minute entertaining. If people are truly your friends, they will be happy to spend time with you… sharing in the meal you had planned to prepare for your family anyway. My family is small (myself and my husband, and our 8-month old daughter). But we are dear friends with a family of 6 (two parents and 4 children). Recently after church on a Saturday evening, they mentioned that they were going out for supper because they had just gotten back to town after being away for a few days. They invited us to join them, but we in turn invited them to join us for supper in our home, because we had a slow cooker full of beef stroganoff waiting. So they stopped at home to pick up a bag of homemade egg noodles, we bought a fresh loaf of bread at the grocery store, and we put together an apple crisp when we got home. Our house hadn’t been scrubbed to “company standard”, and there were a few cat fur dustballs cruising the floors… but we had such fun!


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