- Have a potluck. When everyone brings something to the meal, no one person does all of the work or bears all of the expense. Just make sure you as the host or hostess are providing the main course—it would be a little tacky to ask someone to bring Beef Wellington and all you made was a salad. Of course, there are times when others like to bring the main course. My uncle likes bringing a smoked turkey, another uncle always brought goat to family gatherings because he raised them, and still another uncle likes to bring Corky’s BBQ to family get togethers.
- When planning foods, opt for soups, stews, or casseroles. Not only can these foods be made ahead of time, making it easier for you as a hostess, but they are also less expensive than having meat or poultry as a main dish.
- Plan your menu around what is on sale. Start buying now for Thanksgiving dinner. When you see ingredients that you will use for Turkey Day at rock bottom prices, add them to your cart. This week at Kroger, for instance, there was a 4 day sale with canned goods priced 2/88cts. A few weeks ago, Libby canned vegetables were on sale at Kroger and a coupon made them even cheaper than that. I have a grocery list for the week and a “needs list” for the month that I bring with me when shopping. This helps me score the best deals on products that I will need in the next few weeks.
- Cook what you know. Sometimes it is fun to have a new recipe at a party with friends, but if you are having a large gathering or are entertaining VIPs like your boss, that isn’t the time to try new. If you do want to try a new recipe, do a trial run the week ahead. Don’t be afraid to make what we call in the South “soul food”. One of the best dinner parties I ever had was with a bunch of friends and fried pork chops, gravy, and mashed potatoes as the main course. Not only was it super cheap, it was delicious.
- Drinks. Instead of buying soft drinks or cans, opt for tea or homemade punch to save money. If you choose to have alcoholic beverages, have a signature drink instead of a bar or bottled drinks.
- Easy punch recipes: Mock Champagne Punch—equal parts ginger ale and white cranberry juice with an ice ring or slices of lemon to garnish. Friendship tea—brewed tea with Tang added to taste.
- Don’t buy ice. I rarely buy ice. It just isn’t in my nature to pay someone other than the utility board for water (this goes for bottled water too!) If you have the freezer space, start bagging ice a few days before your party so that you have extra on hand. If you are hosting an event for a not-for-profit, call your local Sonic. They have been fantastic about providing free ice for our church’s events.
- Use real. If you have enough plates, napkins, silverware, and glasses, use them instead of disposables. Even if it is a hodgepodge of patterns, you can make it work for your decor. For example, my grandmother loved china patterns. Whenever she saw a super duper deal, she would buy one plate in a pattern she liked. As a result, she had about 20 different plates around the table for family dinners. Everyone had their favorites, and sometimes we would even rush to get our plate before anyone else took that seat.
- Bring nature into your decor. One of the most inexpensive decorating tools is outside your door. Make flower arrangements with what is in bloom outside. I’ve even added okra leaves, lettuce that has gone to seed, and other seed pods to my flower arrangements. For a beautiful arrangement on your fireplace mantel, go gathering. Pine cones, acorns, horse apples, freshly cut stems with fall leaves—look around and see what you have readily available. Add a strand or two of LED lights to give the decor some twinkle, and you are in business. Use edibles as decor. Winter squashes, apples, citrus are both edible and pretty.
- Use what you have. Having an outdoor party? Use your wheelbarrow that you’ve cleaned for icing down drinks. You don’t have a Christmas tablecloth? Use inexpensive wrapping paper as your table runner. Let necessity be the mother of invention. Instead of rushing out and buying something you need, repurpose what you already own.
- Borrow it. Don’t have a card table and need extra seating, borrow one from a friend. Need a coffee carafe, but you don’t own one, ask your church about renting one out. When we had my 30th birthday at our home, I borrowed my cousin’s pop up tent to use with ours outside.
- Music. When we had our daughter’s first birthday, we did a western theme. We borrowed CDs from the library that fit the mood of the party and used them for background music. I’ll turn on Pandora.com spa channel as background music when having seed talk or a tea party.
- Inexpensive party gifts. When I was hosting my sister’s baby shower, the theme was very casual and tied in with Memphis in May. At that same time there were coupons that made spice mixes from McCormick free at Kroger. I picked up enough for everyone at the party to have one as a little prize. Or, let your tablescape be their prize. A small flower arrangement at each place setting makes for a beautiful table and a very inexpensive party gift. For children’s parties, I tend to opt for less plastic. Last year at our daughter’s birthday party, I scored Kashi granola bars for just pennies at Target. Each child received one of them in their goody bag along with some other treats. At the Ladies Night Out event this year, I used coupons from Curves to make Luna Bars free at Kroger. One of our church members works at Curves, and we scored 30 coupons giving us enough for each vendor to have a little treat.
- Do it yourself. If you are willing to do more yourself, then your out of pocket expense will be less. Clean your own home instead of hiring a maid. Make your own flower arrangements. Make the food yourself instead of catering.
- The extra touches. I’ve heard it said that love is in the details. I tend to agree. When having overnight guests, anticipate needs. The week before, stay in that room yourself to get a better feel for what your guests might need. When prepping food to go on the table, add garnishes to your dishes. Clip herbs or edible flowers from your garden to use. Add a small vase of flowers to your powder room or bathroom.
What other money saving tips do you have for entertaining? Include them in the comments section so that all might benefit. I hope some of these tips and tricks will inspire you to have some friends over this weekend. Have a great one!