Entertaining a Lot of People on a Little Money

After the series on frugal living, Lori asked me if I could write about how we entertain inexpensively, as well.

I thought about the last couple of meals we've provided for others, and really I think the key is to plan your menus around what's on sale at the grocery store, even when you're entertaining.  There will be another season for gourmet dinner parties (I adore cooking and baking) but this is not it.

Recently served to 6 adults and 11 children:

-London Broil, on sale for 1.97/lb in June.  We marinated about 8 of them and threw them in the freezer.  My husband grilled it and sliced it thinly.

-Hot dogs for kiddos who prefer them, .89/package

-Iceburg lettuce was on sale for .57 per head last week.  I bought six heads and planned meals around the lettuce (I normally buy Romaine or red leaf, so I had to make adjustments).  For our friends, I chopped two heads of lettuce into wedges and served it with a homemade Gorgonzola dressing ($2.50).

-Garlic bread was on sale for .99/loaf at our supermarket, which has a nice bakery so it was a good quality loaf.  Two of those for our gathering.

-Cantaloupe was .10/lb (I know!  Crazy!) and so I stocked up on several of those.  I sliced them Meredith's way.  In fact, while we're at it, you should just go to Meredith's blog and learn from her.  She's got such a good eye.

-I had planned to serve ice cream (2/$5- not the least expensive route) and cookies (.44), but one of our guests is a candy broker who brought us a bushel of samples.  We set them all out with the cookies and let the kids have at it.  When a bevvy of teenagers joined us later, the candy buffet was desimated.

-Ice tea and water were also served, but I don't know how to estimate the cost of sun tea.  I did sweeten half of it with Xylitol, which is ridiculously expensive but very, very good for our teeth.  Gotta keep the resident dentist happy (especially after all that candy!) I do believe we let the kids crack into some 2-liters of soda, for which I paid .77/2-liter.  In addition, a bottle of wine was brought and served by one of our guests.

The total for 6 adults, 11 children, and dessert for an additional group of teens: 17.80.  Throw in some extra for the tea and sweetener and we're probably still under $20.

Last Saturday night we had a larger group- 7 adults and 30 children, but to be fair, 2 adults and 8 of the children only came for dessert. I wanted to share what we served, though, because there were some fun frugal items added as I saw what we had in the fridge and as the RSVPs continued to arrive as late as Saturday afternoon.

- Chicken thighs and drumsticks, .77/lb on sale this week at Raleys (if you're local, get to Raleys!).  We threw them on the smoker and slathered some in BBQ sauce.  We actually cooked $20 worth of meat so we could use the rest throughout the week, but for the purpose of this post, let's just say we served about $7 worth of chicken.

- Baked beans.  9 cans of pork and beans at .69 per can, plus a healthy amount of dried mustard, brown sugar, and ketchup thrown in.  Total cost- approximately $7.

- 2 loaves of .99 garlic bread- 1.98 total

- Pasta salad.  As the numbers kept growing I knew I needed to add something to the food list, so I peeked inside the fridge and discovered I could make one of our favorite pasta salads.  Two pounds of angel hair pasta at .50 each, a bottle of Italian dressing acquired for free during the last K-Mart double coupon event, a cup of mayo.  Friday night my husband and I attended a dinner party where the hosts were eager to send guests home with leftovers.  We took them up on it and while what we brought home was devoured by our teens, there was a good amount of shrimp still in the fridge.  I chopped it up and added it to the salad.  Total cost- $1 (plus whatever the mayo cost).


- Grilled zucchini from our garden and peaches from our orchard- free.

- Rainbow Jell-O salad, also known fondly here as "Stupid Jell-O".  Doesn't matter how hard I work at something really gourmet, in the end everyone just wants that stupid Jell-O :D  I buy Jell-O when it's on sale for less than a dollar per box, and I buy the big tub of sour cream at Costco- $6

- Popcorn- $2 for the bag

- Chips- brought by guests- free

- Peanut blossom cookies made with Hershey's Kisses acquired after the holidays- .25/bag- perhaps $2 for 3 dozen?

- A disappointing cheesecake I made just because I wanted to try the recipe- $5 total for ingredients (all on sale)

-sodas- $20

Estimated total for 7 adults and 30 kids = $50  BUT...

We have more than half of everything left over, so Sunday's lunch and dinner were part of the bill.  We'll turn even more of the leftover chicken into chicken salad sandwiches and throw it into a green salad.

Actual total for 5 adults and 22 children for dinner, plus 2 more adults and 8 children for dessert= about $26