Ideas and Inspiration

Budget dinner party ideas that don’t look cheap!

Here are some ways to entertain at home without breaking the budget or looking like a cheapskate:

  • Buy food and decorations in bulk – head to the flower markets for huge bunches at a fraction of the usual cost; and buy your produce at wholesale markets where fruit and veg is vastly cheaper by the box.

  • Keep the menu simple – generally if you use fewer ingredients, it will cost you less and you’ll probably have most staples already in the pantry. The more complicated the food, the more likely you are to need exotic ingredients, which can be pricey.

  • Choose recipes that use cheaper cuts of meat – cooking techniques such as overnight marinating and slow cooking mean you can still create mouth-watering meat meals for less. Bulk up dishes with inexpensive seasonal vegetables.

  • Do a pot luck theme where all guests bring a dish. Still be a generous host by catering the main course and providing the alcohol and soft drinks.

  • Try to make as much of your menu from scratch as possible – it may take longer but the labour involved will save you the cost involved in buying pre-made items like sauces or pavlova cases. Also use home-brand ingredients – when it comes to flour, tinned tomatoes and the like, the brand names aren’t necessarily better (just pricier).

  • Keep the drinks list basic – decant clean-skin wines into glass carafes; stock up on beer when it’s on special; and use no-name mineral water or lemonade. Skip mixed drinks and cocktails which call for expensive spirits and juices.

  • Stock up on non-perishable items, which you can set aside in the pantry, when they are on sale. Even if the party isn’t for a month, you can still get ready with things like crackers, chips, bottled olives and serviettes that you bought for under full price.

  • Consider having a morning tea, afternoon tea or drinks party instead of dinner. This way, you don’t have to provide a full meal which obviously costs more due to the greater quantity of food required. Canapes plus a variety of beverages are plenty for mid-meal occasions.

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