Now that the holiday party season is in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to settle into the cozy winter dinner party season!
What better way to get through the winter doldrums than entertaining good friends at your home? Even if the holidays have left you low on cash, you can still come out of hibernation, gather your friends, and throw a fabulous dinner party on a budget. Whether you’re hosting a general dinner party with close friends, a housewarming party, or a themed party, here are some ideas to get things rolling. Challenge yourself to see how little you can actually spend and still make it a good time for your guests!
Let Your Friends Help with Alcohol Buying
Most of your guests will ask if they can bring something without being prompted, but you should specify in the invite what you would like people to bring. Considering that alcohol is an expensive, but often desired, component of a good party, it’s reasonable to request each person bring beer, wine or liquor of their choice. This is one way to make sure you will have enough alcohol to go around.
DIY with Alcohol Buying
If you plan to buy all the alcohol yourself, here are a few considerations:
- Shop for cheap bottles of wine at your local grocery outlet or Trader Joe’s. You can get at least 10 bottles of wine for $50. Bottles look nicer than boxes, too. However, there’s always a time and place for boxed wine.
- Make an alcoholic punch to stretch your liquor budget. Plus, a festive pitcher or punchbowl of your favorite cocktail adds a colorful touch to your serving table. Here’s a general rule of thumb: two bottles of chilled wine to two bottles of chilled ginger ale or sparkling water. Add a few splashes of vodka, gin, or rum to the mix for an extra kick.
- Solely serve beer and wine. If people want hard liquor, they can bring their own. Be sure to specify in your party invite.
- If you do offer cocktails, narrow it to one or two options. One could be light and refreshing, and the other could be darker and comforting for a cold winter’s night.
Keep the Menu Simple
You don’t need tons of food, but you do need one quality dish that’s a crowd pleaser. It will be the focus of your party, so make it good. A big batch of simple fish tacos with tilapia, cilantro, onions, avocado, pineapple, rice and beans are sure to hit the spot. Another option would be to serve up a low-maintenance, family-style meal. This one-pot chicken dish looks pretty hearty and delicious. Chicken thighs are much cheaper and way more tender than breasts, too.
Go Light on Appetizers
You don’t want your guests filling up on apps, but you’ll want to provide a few nice things for them to nibble on. As guests filter in, offer small plates and cocktail napkins with a couple different options. Mini cocktail skewers always make people feel fancy. Using a party toothpick, skewer a mini pickle, a folded slice of salami and a cube of marbled cheddar for a nice antipasti bite. Or, skewer a caprese bite: a tiny mozzarella ball, a basil leaf, and a cherry tomato drizzled with a balsamic reduction.
Music and Games
An awesome playlist is a requirement of any good party. While you’re mingling and drinking with friends, get in the mood with some good tunes. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. Play the classics; play songs that may not be on their radar; mix genres and eras. There’s nothing wrong with mixing Drake with Led Zeppelin. Play a little something for everyone and you can’t go wrong. When it comes to after-dinner entertainment, the classic games from the 80s and 90s are always a hit. When is the last time you played Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, or Farkel?
Dinner parties these days are just as much about the experience as they are the food. Without spending a ton of money, you can share a nice meal and good laughs with some of your favorite friends in the comfort of your own home. Your guests want to see you having just as much fun as them, so relax, and plan out your stress-free party in advance. Enjoy the food and the good company!
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