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Monday, January 26, 2009

Entertaining on a Budget!


Notes From The Frugal Trenches

In my last post I discussed how I have slashed my grocery bill by 75% while continuing to eat a mostly organic diet high in fruits & veg! My backward menu planning has really helped. One question I get asked a lot is how do I afford to entertain while only spending a maximum of £15 approx $20 US a week on food. So I decided to follow on from my last post, I'd address this here. Here are my top 5 tips for entertaining frugally!

1. My weekly budget is £15, but most weeks I only spend around £13 or so. I put the extra money left into a jar marked entertaining. This means that I can afford to buy extra things when I have people coming to stay or am hosting a dinner. I'm amazed at how quickly it adds up!

2. When I find things on sale that would last or can be frozen, I will use whatever money I have left in the weekly budget to do this or dip into my entertaining fund. For example this week I found Feta Cheese 1/2 off, so I checked the dates and all were able to be eaten up to April. I purchased 3 and now will be making Greek Soup (uses spinach and feta cheese) for the next lot of company as well as make a greek salad to take to a lunch I am going to.

3. I try to always have a fresh homemade batch of soup in the freezer and homemade scones or rolls I've found on sale plus something homemade & sweet (like a cake or homemade truffles) and homemade pasta sauce frozen. This means when a friend pops in for a meal or tea and I don't have much in (often the case the day before shopping day) I'm not tempted to say we should order pizza or go out!

4. While I'm vegetarian (although had to go back to eating meat this week!) I will occasionally serve meat to friends, however I do not see meat as the main ingredient, it is just one of the types of food being served. For example, if I made chicken I would serve it with a veggie, salad and a carb. Large portions of meat are really not necessary.

5.If friends offer to bring something, I'm happy to say yes! I do the same when I am invited, often bringing a dessert or salad etc. Sharing the cost means entertaining becomes less stressful and more enjoyable!

Using these tactics, I've been able to have friends over for a meal at least once a week without going over budget. In fact I recently had a friend stay for a week and I still spent the same amount on food!

Do you have any good tips to share?


livinginalocalzone said...

What I've found is that I'll spend the same amount when I have guests over and just supplement when needed with pantry stores. I don't eat meat at all, so I might bake an extra loaf of bread when I do the weekly baking for myself, soak some more dried beans, etc. Then I can make a meal using those ingredients and the same amount of veg I'd use myself anyway. The meals come out great, just with a different focus by virtue of the dish itself.

What else helps is a different style of entertaining. Rather than expecting a fancy restaurant meal or something elaborate at home, I try to make an atmosphere when staying in is just as appealing by virtue of being together. Interestingly, more and more people seem to like this especially after the stress of a week. I've even had one admit relief at not having to be "on" for a dinner out or felling obligated after a bigger/expensive ingredient meal at home.

Anonymous said...

Hello! Could you share your recipe for Greek soup?!
It sounds yummy :)

Hot Belly Mama said...

I don't always comment on here - but I really enjoy these posts! Thank you so much...

Dani said...

How timely. I just remembered late last night that we have a friend coming for dinner tonight, I'd completely forgotten. So I defrosted a larger piece of meat which I will barbecue. That will give me enough leftover even with an extra mouth to feed for sandwich meat for a few days. Then I'll use what I have in stock to make a couple of different salads. Throw some veg on the barbecue and bake a simple dessert from pantry ingredients. No need for extra shopping and s multiple salads stretch so well there will probably be leftovers. Which means it won't run me short later in the week either.

Elizabeth said...

Great topic!

I'm a make it from scratch girl. I rarely purchase shortcut foods, processed foods. I don't like the taste or the cost of processed foods.

Homemade pizza is a great food for entertaining. You can have your guests customize their own pizza. So, they share the work too!

We always shared a big pot of soup or stew when I was growing up. Those are very inexpensive meals.

One of the biggest hits at my house was a baked potato topper meal. I just baked extra large potatoes and then put out a variety of toppings. Everyone enjoyed a hearty, frugal meal.

Barbara said...

We mostly eat Asian food where
you can put in as little or as
much meat as you like (I don't
eat meat but my husband does) so
that's pretty cheap to transfer
to a dinner party. I always cook from scratch and love
experimenting with different foods.
Also, we don't make desserts -
neither my husband or I have much
of a sweet tooth and I'd rather
spend the money on something else.
However, one friend is so sweet
toothed (and skinny too, the
bitch!) that she'll always
volunteer to bring dessert! said...

Thanks all for sharing your suggestions and ideas! said...

Annonymous, yes I'll share the recipe. It should be on my blog within a week!

Karen said...

great post! can you share your greek soup recipe? it sounds fabulous!!

i especially like the idea of having frozen meal/pasta sauce at all times. do you find these keep longer than 3 months? sometimes i get freezer burn even when the stuff is stored in glass containers and the air is sucked out before freezing. hm, you probably use the stuff so frequently you never have to worry about that ...

might i add, i collect tea (all different kinds of bags, though i also have loose leaf) and now have an enormous glass jar for people to sift through when they come over? i'm investing in a french press, too ... 8 cup in case company is here!

Hana said...

I remember one dinner in particular, in the congregation where I go when I'm in school... Several families met after a trip with the kids the youth prepared. I think there were about twenty of us.
There was one big pot of soup and two of stew; some women from the families volunteered to do them. We ate the stew with bread. And there was a LOT left; I think one whole pot of stew. The special entertaining quality was achieved by using colourful scarves as tablecloths, with candles glowing on the table. Pretty much a frugal solution, I think. (As far as the cost of candles goes - I don't know about you, but my friends tend to give me candles both for birthdays and Christmas. Maybe it's because both are in December...)