I completely enjoy hosting large gatherings in my home! The only down side to hosting is how high the grocery bill can be. If you think about it, purchasing what you need for a fresh salad, the main entree and dessert, the cost really does add up. And you are not even including the wine! From hosting my many get togethers, I have learned a few tricks of the trade along with other ways to help keep my grocery bill low, but yet still have an incredible meal for my friends and family to enjoy.
First, build your menu around what you already have plenty of. Look in your freezer, do you have a large pork loin that can feed a crowd? How about a big pack of chicken legs? Any ground beef in there to make a big pot of meatballs from? Work with what meats or poultry you do have. I tend to stay away from serving seafood and fish when I host a large gathering, as the price per person for the meal goes through the roof. Decide which meat or poultry you’ll be serving and the rest will fall into place. If you do not have a stockpile in your freezer, then plan your menu around what is on sale at the grocery store that week. Maybe Italian sausage is on sale, or chicken thighs, or maybe even london broil (if you get lucky). Plan your meal either around what you already have or what is on sale for the week.
Second, not everyone eats meat or poultry and you may have to plan a vegetarian meal. That is actually even better! The one item that raises grocery bills the most is actually meat. There are so many delicious and healthy vegetarian recipes out there and for those that actually eat meat, offering a vegetarian meal that evening would be a refreshing change and keep your grocery bill low.
Next, determine if you would like to serve a soup or salad or maybe you would even like to serve both. Make it easy on yourself and use your slow cooker for making a delicious soup. Keep your salad simple, by using vegetables that are in season. Not every salad has to have tomatoes in it, try throwing in canned chick peas or maybe even canned mandarin segments. Soup and salad options are countless and just remember to think outside the box.
Fourth, side dishes can be quite easy to prepare and are relatively low in cost. For example, buy a five pound bag of potatoes and make your own mashed potatoes, or even just serve baked potatoes and guests can add their own toppings. Pasta is another side that can be turned into a meal all itself. Pasta is low in cost and is ideal for serving many people. As far as serving vegetables, try making a vegetable casserole with the veggies that are in season. Who doesn’t love something covered in cheese? Not only is this an economical way to serve vegetables, but easy way to serve a crowd.
And finally dessert – have you ever seen those large pails of ice cream in your freezer section at the store? Well, pick up a few ice cream topping and set up your own ice cream sundae station for dessert. Not only is it easy for the hostess, but guests can get creative and enjoy their sundae anyway they please!
Don’t be afraid to ask guests to bring something. If a few of your guests enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, and they ask you if they can bring anything, have them bring the wine. Have a few friends that have children? Ask them to bring a few of their favorite sundae toppings. Hosting a gathering does not have to be costly and making it a team effort with your guests makes them feel special as well.
Ann Martin is a freelance writer for Dinnerware Center, which specializes in dinnerware, tableware and flatware sets, such as the WMF Nortica and the WMF Royal. Ann frequently writes for other party planning and cooking websites. When Ann is not writing, she enjoys cooking for her family and friends.
photo credit: missmeng
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