Entertain on a Budget | Guest Post from Katie at the Kitchen Door
Katie at the Kitchen Door/
Dec 2nd, 2014
With Thanksgiving so late in the month this year and the early onset of wintry weather in much of the US, it feels like we’re hurtling into the Christmas season even faster than we usually do. December has already started and with it a flurry of excitement – holiday parties, decorating, baking, shopping, spending time with family and friends, and otherwise celebrating the season. While it may seem overwhelming to stick to a budget at this time of year, it’s not impossible, and even entertaining can be done in a way that’s frugal without feeling cheap. When Albertson’s asked me with coming up with a few recipes for throwing a holiday party on a budget, I was up for the challenge. Although my days of scrimping on every purchase (read: college) are getting further behind me, I still tend to entertain with a close eye on my wallet. But that doesn’t mean that the parties I throw can’t still be fun and elegant! When planning a party, I tend to rely on a few tips for keeping both my stress levels and my total expenses low:
- Choose recipes that can serve a crowd. Much of the cost for shopping for a recipe is in the ingredients that you only need a small amount of. If you’re doubling or tripling a recipe to serve a large group, you’re less likely to waste money in the form of lots of little bits and bobs that will be difficult to use up later. Besides, it’s much easier for you as the host to set out a large casserole or serving platter than to concern yourself with lots of small plated dishes!
- Look for ways to extend fancy ingredients. You don’t need to completely avoid luxurious ingredients to stick to a budget, just look for recipes that extend the main ingredient. Dying to serve steak? Slice it thin and serve steak sandwiches with blue cheese and caramelized onions. Want to serve candied nuts but worried about how many you’ll need for a large group? Toss them with homemade popcorn and there’s more for everyone (see below!).
- Cook from scratch. Wherever possible, make recipes from scratch to save money and keep things healthy. An example: making your own pizza dough is easy and requires only a little flour and water – much cheaper than buying one pre-made. Of course, there’s a trade-off here for how much of your time you’re willing to spend doing prep work, so don’t try to do everything by yourself.
With these tips in mind, I came up with the following four recipes. The ingredients would be easy to find at your local Albertson’s, and for a party of 8 should come in well under $100.
Pomegranate Mojito Punch
Punch is one of my favorite things to serve at a party, especially during the holidays. It’s the easiest way to serve a crowd a festive cocktail, and allows guests to serve themselves quickly and easily throughout the night. Adding a pomegranate and mint leaf studded ice ring to the punch bowl ups the elegance factor, with the added benefit of keeping the punch cool for longer than single ice cubes. Plus, if there will be kids at your party, they’ll love the non-alcoholic version of this, and you only have to make one recipe to please all ages! Get the recipe here.
Candied or spiced nuts are always a hit at holiday parties, but they can be hard hitting on both your waistline and your wallet if you rely on them as an appetizer. Extend them by mixing with freshly popped popcorn, seasoned with fresh rosemary butter. Individual newspaper cones make for a cute presentation, and also allow your guests to help themselves, wandering around with their own personal appetizer without worrying about making a mess or finding a place to put their plate when they’re done. The almonds themselves are glazed with a honey and chipotle sauce – just slightly sweet with a deep savoriness from the chipotle powder, they are completely addictive. Get the recipe here.
Similar to a calzone, a stromboli is like the jelly-roll of pizza. It feels slightly fancier than just serving a pizza, but is just as economical when you need to serve a crowd. It also allows easy and mess-free serving, and can be customized to use whatever fillings you have on hand. This one combines fig jam, blue cheese, and ham for a sophisticated and rich flavor combination. Get the recipe here.
Crepe cakes are similar in concept to a layer cake, except the layers are made from crepes instead of cake – good for those who are intimidated by baking cake from scratch. Assembling this neatly takes a bit of patience, but overall I find it easier than baking and decorating a layer cake. Plus, you get a much better ratio of whipped cream to “cake” then you do with a traditional cake. This crepe cake uses chocolate crepes, espresso whipped cream, and cherry jam. Get the recipe here.