When we were in college, a bunch of pizzas, some jarred salsa and chips and a case of cheap beer was more than enough to fuel a killer party. As we get older, our tastes change and our budgets expand, and we get busier—but we still want to entertain. So what do you do (oh, yeah, and throw in a recession to complicate things!) when you want to have a get-together? Here are a few tips that I use when I’m entertaining to save money, time, and still enjoy time with my guests!
1. Focus on what you’re good at, or what you want to do. I really don’t like to bake, so for a recent party, I turned to Kirsten Busam’s Babycakes for a sweet ending to my party. Not only were they delicious, but they saved me a ton of time and energy—and they were a little more special than something you pick up from the grocery store’s bakery. She even came up with a custom cupcake to go along with the theme of my party (which was a cast party for Falcon’s Hamlet)—the Ophelia. That left me to make appetizers (which I love to do) and order some La Rosa’s foccacia pizzas, because sometimes, the tried and true really can be the best. So you bake, but don’t like to cook? Head to Kroger’s Fresh Market in Kenwood, Trader Joe’s in Kenwood, any Wild Oats or Fresh Market location—all have exotic and interesting dips and appetizers for you to take home and claim as your own. There’s no shame in buying a few things— we can’t all be Martha!
2. There’s nothing wrong with BYOB. Unless you’re someone who really likes to pick wine and beer to compliment your food, alcohol can be a huge expense. Tell your guests to BYOB. If it’s an informal occasion, they can bring whatever they want. If you want to follow a theme, like Michelle did at her Paella Party, instruct people to bring the ingredients for a signature drink, or a specific type of wine or beer. I’ve never met anyone who has ever balked, and buying alcohol is easy and nearly effortless for your guests.
3. Prep ahead of time. Make items that are best served cold, room temperature, or in a CrockPot. That way, all of your food is ready by the time your guests get there, and you can hang out with them, instead of hanging over your stove.
4. Skip the china, get out the paper plates. No one will think any less of you, I promise, and it’s a lot easier than making sure you have china and silver for 22. If you want to be fancy, head to a party supply store and get some pretty colored plates (Party Source has an entire wall that looks like a rainbow!), but most people care what’s on the plate, not whether the plate is disposable.
5. Clean as you go along. As I made my appetizers, I was sure to run loads of dishes as necessary, cleaned knives and cutting boards, and by the time I was finished, the kitchen looked like I hadn’t used it. As I socialized with my guests, I made sure to pick up bottles and paper plates and throw them away when I got a chance. Then, before going to bed, I always try to clean up as much as possible—no one wants to wake up to a messy kitchen! Cleanup is a lot less daunting if you do it in steps.
6. Have fun. Seriously, you’d think I wouldn’t have to remind you of this, but I do. Have fun. You’re there to have fun with your friends, coworkers, family—whoever you’ve invited over. Don’t sweat the small stuff, because no one will notice but you!
Have some other tips you would like to share?