Tis the season for parties, and parties are something I love to throw. Seriously, I still dream of maybe one day being an event planner. Unfortunately festive gatherings don’t always fit into this Indulgent Newlywed’s budget. However, this holiday season, the Single Shopper and I wanted to throw a Christmas/launch party, to celebrate the beginning of the blog. Could we apply our budgeting ways to a party? Why, of course!
What’s the best way to throw a successful party? A killer menu. Initially, I was thinking big- a cheese board, flat bread pizza, filet mignon bites…the list went on in my head. But wait, oh that’s right, we were on a budget.
So back to the drawing board. We wanted a smattering of bites that would be sweet and savory, with a touch of holiday cheer. Something that could tie people over, but less expensive than an entire meal. Oh, and of course, we wanted to provide beverages. In the end our menu included the following:
Baked brie (who doesn’t love this?) served with apples and french bread
Spinach and artichoke dip (another winner) served with pita chips
Three bean salsa served with tortilla chips
Hummus and carrots
Homemade sugar cookies
Homemade chocolate covered pretzels
Spiked lemonade and spiked cider
How much do you think all of this cost us? Upon looking at my grocery cart, Mr. Practical bet over $200. I was aiming for under $100. In the end, the final tally was $130, which accounted for some last minute splurges such as Christmas streamers, Christmas plates and cups, and a bottle of Prosecco…of course, this was a launch party after all.
The menu was a success, and there are only a few things we’d change. Below I’ve listed some budgeting tips and tweaks to this menu for your own future party.
1. Because this was a smaller party, we decided against shopping at Costco and went to Walmart. We were still able to buy a lot of food, but avoided the bulk items. However, it is never a good idea to go on a Saturday afternoon during Christmas. Note to self: don’t procrastinate shopping for a party.
2. Great Value products (much to Mr. Practical’s chagrin) are not created equal. Do NOT buy Great Value Parmesan pita chips! Definitely spring for the Stacy’s. We initially bought the Great Value brand, and upon tasting, even Mr. Practical agreed they were too terrible to eat.
3. Spend a couple dollars extra for the bigger wheel of Brie for the baked brie. Since two pastries come in the puffed pastry pack, you’ll be able to cut the brie in half, letting your baked brie go farther than it would otherwise. (Trust me, you’ll want two things of baked brie, so be sure you get two loaves of bread).
4. Buy three times the amount of ingredients for spinach dip, and divide the dip into three different dishes. (Quite perfectly, Great Value cream cheese come three to a pack for $3.48). As soon as one dish comes out of the oven, make sure you put the other in pronto. (By the time the second one is done- the first will be gone). Note: the Single Shopper follows her own recipe, but for a similar one see here, although we added Parmesan cheese, and excluded sour cream and mayonnaise.
5. When you have spinach dip and bake brie- don’t bother with the healthy stuff a.k.a. hummus and carrots. No one will even give it a second glance.
6. If you make the Three Bean Salsa, add in some more tomatoes and a bit more lime juice.
7. Don’t go to the trouble making chocolate covered pretzels. I was quite proud of myself. I melted the chocolate myself and rolled the rods in Christmas sprinkles (about as Martha Stewart as I’ll be this Christmas season). Not very many people ate them (I was about the only chocaholic in the house), so I didn’t even make the second batch. Next time, I would just buy chocolate candy and stick to the sugar cookies.
8. Here is the recipe for my all time FAVORITE sugar cookies. They are definitely a winner, and are so simple. I use two sticks of butter, instead of one stick butter and one stick margarine. Trust me, they’ll become your new favorite Christmas treat.
For more tips and tricks for a party on a budget, stay tuned for the Single Shopper’s post this week, as she covers our entertainment (hint DIY photo booth) and beverages….