Frugal Fun: Dinner Party

duck pie
A silly homemade pie I served with soup and biscuits.

In our society, it’s become harder to make genuine connections with people.  While social media is well and good for keeping in touch, it’s not the same as spending time with people in person.  Unfortunately for a tight budget, “catching up” has become synonymous with going out for an overpriced coffee and an undersized muffin at some chain coffee shop.

However, you can be proactive and host people at your house for a dinner party that won’t ruin your budget or your waistline.

Don’t be afraid to make “poor food.

Soups, beans, stews and pastas are all delicious and budget friendly.  Most people do enjoy that kind of home cooking. For guests, I have made a ham and bean soup with fried hoe cakes and homemade peach jam. I would recommend finding out if they have an intense hatred of beans, first though. Otherwise, your first dinner party might be your last.  Any soup can be made elegant with the addition of a rustic bread or decadent dessert.

Be creative with meals.

Fried eggs, scrapple (if you’re from around the Delmarva Peninsula… if not, bacon is good, too), and biscuits make a lovely breakfast for dinner. Bake pizza crusts ahead of time and have the guests help with assembling them. Better yet, make each person a small crust of their own with a wide range of toppings to choose from. It’s also a great conversation starter: “you like pickles and peanut butter on your pizza?!?”

Ask the guests to contribute something.

Majority of folks ask if they can bring something.  We’ve been conditioned to instantly say “no, of course not!”  Instead, ask them what they might like to bring that would complement your meal or what their specialty is. When people ask, they do want to bring something, they just need some direction.

Have fun with table decorations. 

I’m not suggesting that you go out and buy something, but it is fun to decorate the table with something as simple as a table cloth or a vase of flowers from the garden.  Decorations can make the dinner feel special, even with more humble foods.

Choose “theme” meals. 

I’ve been known to make Chinese, Indian or Thai themed meals. Now, are they as good as “authentic” meals? Probably not. However, they are tasty all the same! There are about
a gajillion different recipes available online. Try something new and add some fun embellishments.  It’s also a great way to incorporate homeschool activities.

Your slow cooker is your friend.

No, seriously, it is! There is no rule that says you have to make a labor intensive meal to impress the tar out of your friends.  Make the day less stressful on you and use a tasty slow cooker recipe. If you feel funny about serving straight from the cooker, you can put the food in a fancy dish or bowl for the table.

Choose one part of the meal to emphasize.

By making one part of the meal the focal point, the rest of the meal can be fairly simple.  For instance, bake your own bread for the pasta, but don’t worry about making a complicated side dish. The meal will seem elegant and all parts will be able to stand together without competition.

Keep it real! 

 The point of a shared meal is about sharing fellowship with people you care about, not about the food.   Remember is that your friends are just that because they
like you, not because they are after your cooking.  If you’re friends with me, the food’s just an added bonus. 🙂

Does anyone else have some suggestions for dinner parties? Favorite recipes? Tips?


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