These days, we’re all trying to cut costs. And having friends over for dinner instead of eating out is one way to do it. But if you aren’t careful, food costs can add up and soon a homemade dinner is pricier than a restaurant meal.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Follow these tips for an indulgent four-course dinner party that won’t have you applying for food stamps the week after.
Forget about ramen noodles, PB&J and mac-n-cheese. Your college staples aren’t the only budget foods around. You’re an adult now, and you can turn it out for a dinner party while being savvy about food costs. You can serve wine, steak, starters, sides and dessert for under $25. Stay with me people, I’m just getting going.
Greet Guests with a Glass and a Nibble
To welcome your guests, put a glass of wine in their hand and have something delicious for them to snack on.
Nuts and gourmet cheeses will blow your budget before you even get to the table. Go with deviled eggs, that retro treat your grandma made (for good reason). Six eggs (which translate to twelve little devils) will set you back less than $1.50. Boil them pretty, combine the yolk with mustard and mayo and sprinkle with paprika. You probably have that stuff in your fridge already.
Let Your Friends Wine
Your friends want to bring something, so let them. Ask for what’s easy: a bottle or two of wine. It’s an absolute must at a dinner party, but can blow your budget. So let your friends take care of it.
Your main course is the place to splurge. Sure, times are tough, which means an indulgent steak is a welcomed break from all the skimping. Serving steak doesn’t mean that everyone gets a Porterhouse; pick a cut that can be cooked, sliced, and served family-style. People actually take less meat when they serve themselves. Gluttony is so 2007.
Plus, since restaurants are cutting back their orders, there’s a surplus of prime meat in the grocery stores, which is being offered as a special. Last week, my local grocery had prime hangar steak for $4.99 a pound; this week it’s trimmed filet mignon for $5.99.
Go with the Grain
For an indulgent side dish, grab a bag of Arborio rice (for risotto), corn meal (polenta), or pearled barley. The dried, bagged stuff will cost less than $1 for a portion that can feed eight. Rehydrate with sautéed chopped onions and garlic, and bouillon cubes dissolved in water instead of expensive canned stocks. If you want to fancy-up with chopped fresh herbs or tomatoes, go for it; your total will still be under $4 for the entire dish.
Serve Salad After Dinner
It feels posh and good timing doesn’t cost a thing. Pick up a box of organic arugula for $3.99, which is more than enough for six. Toss with sunflower seeds or chopped nuts, sundried tomatoes or dried currants, and a few shavings or Parmesan or crumbled blue cheese (go with what you have; this is an opportunity to clean out the pantry). Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice, and season well.
Dessert Is A Must
People tend to say no to formal dessert, but seek a little something sweet. So forego the pricey, time consuming and caloric cakes and pies and ask your friends to bring some gourmet chocolate (a little goes a long way). Pair the chocolate with strawberries, blueberries or even clementines. Since seasonal fruit tastes best, and is always less expensive, you’ll be able to find a sweet ending in the produce aisle for less than $5.