By Sheryl Smolkin
My husband Joel and I are foodies. We look on food as much more than sustenance. It is family, community and culture. Preparing and eating a good meal is creative, sensual and satisfying.
Joel generally does the cooking, but I do the planning and most of the shopping. So I know how expensive holiday entertaining can be — particularly if you serve multiple courses including an expensive cut of meat and a pricey bottle of wine or two.
But there are lots of ways to fill your home with good friends and the heady aroma of good cooking before and after the holidays without breaking the bank. Here are a few of my favourites:
- Decide what you can afford: Budgets are boring, but it’s also all too easy to just cruise up and down the supermarket aisles and throw things into your buggy. Figure out what you can afford to spend and shop with a list.
- Plan ahead: Plan your menu as far in advance as possible. That will allow you to buy ingredients on special and cook and freeze some dishes. You will not be paying top dollar at the last minute and you will be much more relaxed because a significant part of your party preparation is already done. The cost of your event will also be spread out over several weeks.
- Keep it simple: Make more of a few things rather than offering a huge variety of items on a buffet. If there is too much choice everyone wants to taste everything and you will either run out of the most popular dish or end up with a lot of leftovers. Lasagna, shepherd’s pie, chili, a pot of stew or a curry can all be served with a couple of salads and good bread.
- Potluck dinner: Divide up the meal into appetizers, main course, salads, beverages and desert. Ask your guests to indicate which category they will contribute and to bring their dish in a container suitable for heating and serving. Each person gets to take their leftovers home or trade with others.
- Progressive dinner: A progressive dinner means that each course is served at a different home. It lends itself to groups of up to half a dozen couples or families who don’t live too far apart. While traipsing from house to house may be less appealing on cold dark nights, a progressive dinner can still be lots of fun. It’s also less expensive for each family than preparing a full meal. If alcohol is being served make sure to have designated drivers.
- Brunch: Brunch on weekends or holidays is a great time to entertain. You are not worn out before your guests arrive and parents with young children can still get them home for a nap. Fruit smoothies, an egg frittata and muffins are inexpensive and easy to make. Even if your crowd includes carnivores who love breakfast meat you’ll spend much less than on a prime rib roast.
Even if you are on a budget, plan to make enough to feed a few extra mouths so you can issue last minute invitations to friends or friends of friends who can’t make it home for the holidays.
These are just a few of my ideas about how to entertain economically. Tell us about yours by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org If your tip is posted, your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.
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And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar for every dollar you save…….