I don’t host my family’s Christmas dinner every year but almost always have a dinner party for friends sometime during the holidays. It’s a different crowd, a different mood and different food, but the stress and expense can still add up.
Everyone wants to throw the perfect, sophisticated soiree, but who really has the time and money this time of year? You do, if you plan it right.
Yes, it’s possible to feed four couples for $100 or less, gourmet style. Here’s just one example ( www.thekitchn.com/winter-wonderland-dinner-for-e-71014). I found several others online, where professional chefs set out with the same low budget, and probably more expensive tastes than mine! Of course, Pinterest has all the food and decoration ideas you’ll ever need. I’ll stick to the planning and strategy part. Here it goes.
Keep it small. More isn’t necessarily merrier. But it’s always more expensive. Find the number of guests that match your budget and stress tolerance.
Make the menu now. If you have two weeks to prepare, select a menu on day one. Plan on an entrée and three sides (salad, green vegetable, potatoes/rice) ( http://www.mrfood.com/Editors-Picks/10-Festive-Holiday-Menus-for-Christmas-and-More). Fancy pasta dishes, pork tenderloin and flank steak can go a long way, about $3 per person, and don’t have much prep and cooking required. For bigger groups, try a festive fajita bar.
Delegate duties. By far the best budget and stress-reducer is actually taking your friends up on offers to bring something. Just do it! Start with apps and desserts, but don’t be afraid to ask for a specific side that’s on your menu.
Cocktails on the house. Rather than blow money on an assortment of wine, beer and liquor, create one signature mixed drink that’s just right for the holidays ( www.sfgate.com/wine/article/Punch-bowl-a-key-to-holiday-party-success-4947588.php). Tell everyone that’s the featured drink, and to bring whatever else they wish to drink.
Time it right. I know stress is unavoidable even if you’re not cooking a thing. But if you space all the tasks in the right order, you can keep the chaos to a minimum. Set the table the day/night before. Save the dusting, vacuuming and bathroom cleaning for the day of. Give yourself 20 minutes before show time to cover any last-minute food prep or just relax and chill out.
No one wants to see a stressed-out host when they walk through the door. No matter the size of your party, or how elegant or ordinary your menu, it’s the people that make the perfect party. You can do it on a budget, and you don’t have to be perfect.
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens.