Monthly Challenge: How to Host on a Budget
Hosting a get-together, especially around the holidays, is a great way to carve out time for friends and family amidst the hectic rush of day-to-day life. You can unwind, catch up with your loved ones and enjoy some great food and drinks.
But anyone who’s hosted even a small gathering can attest to how quickly expenses and stress can get out of hand!
Not to worry. We’ve rounded up some great tips and even better recipes to help you save and cut down on stress while hosting. So read on and get inspired for your next hosting event — we’re sure it will be a great success.
General Hosting Tips
Share the Cooking and Baking
Unless you’re a total pro in the kitchen, cooking appetizers, sides, an entrée and desserts for a crowd can make hosting seem more like a chore than a break from your daily routine. There’s no need for you to do all the cooking and baking yourself — enlist your guests to each bring a dish or a favorite drink.
As the host, take care of making the main entrée. Guests can handle apps, sides and even desserts. Since your guests will be arriving some time before dinner is served, be sure to have hot plates or room in the oven to keep any hot dishes warm for serving.
You’ll save a decent amount by passing off dishes, since there will be fewer ingredients you need to purchase. Plus, you can actually sit down and socialize rather than spending the entire evening in the kitchen. It’s your party, and you should get to enjoy it too!
Buy in Bulk
One of the easiest ways to save when hosting is buying your ingredients in bulk. Items like cheese, milk, eggs and other dairy products are often far cheaper when bought this way. Other dry staples like flour, sugar, pasta and bread are also great for buying in larger quantities. It’s great if you use up everything you buy for the party, but you also don’t need to worry about excess ingredients. Use perishables in your next weekday lunch or dinner and store staples in your pantry or cupboard for the next time. This will help you save on meals now and in the future.
Stick to Tried and True Recipes
Cooking a new and complicated recipe for a party is a pretty big risk to take. You don’t know what the dish will taste like, it requires intensive prep time, there are many ingredients, some of which are pricey, and it requires you to be in the kitchen for long periods of time. The answer to this problem?
Avoid it entirely.
Save fancy new recipes for a day when you have time to go through the recipe at your own pace — rushing to prepare a new dish usually ends in disaster. Instead, break out one or two of your favorite recipes that are easy to make and can feed a crowd. Things like slow cooker or casserole dishes are great options for a main course. You don’t need to buy too many ingredients and chances are you already have some of the things you need, like noodles. You’ll save on ingredients and rest easy knowing how great your dishes will taste.
Small Bites Only
Who ever said you had to have a full on-meal for it to be a party? There’s no shame in having only appetizers and drinks, or even just dessert. In fact, it can be a whole lot cheaper to host this way! If you’re sticking to apps, think easy-to make small bites like spanakopita, bruschetta or your very own marinated olives. They’re all relatively low-cost options and easy to make. If you’re going the dessert route, why not make a s’mores casserole and serve with hot chocolate? It is sure to be a crowd-pleaser and money-saver.
If you need some money-savvy recipes for your next event, look no further. We’re sharing some of our favorite recipes that are simple, cost-effective and satisfying.
Spinach and Refried Bean Quesadillas
2 tbsp olive oil
12 oz baby spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
8 large flour tortillas
2 cups refried beans
4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Optional toppings: Salsa, guacamole, sour cream, hot sauce
- In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add spinach and garlic, stirring constantly for three minutes or until the spinach wilts.
- Add the chili powder and salt. Cook for two minutes until all the liquid has evaporated.
- Transfer the spinach to a mesh strainer and press out as much liquid as possible. Set aside.
- Spread 1/4 cup of beans on half of each tortilla. Divide the cheese evenly over the beans, pressing the cheese into the bean spread. Divide the spinach over the cheese. Then fold each tortilla in half.
- Wipe out the frying pan and place back on medium heat until hot.
- Add 2 of the quesadillas and cook 3 minutes per side until brown on the outside and the and cheese is melted. Repeat with remaining quesadillas.
- Cut quesadillas into wedges and serve with toppings.
Slow-Cooked Beef Bourguignon
8 oz thick-cut bacon (5 to 6 slices), diced
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 1/2 to 3 lbs. beef chuck roast or other similar cut, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups red wine, divided
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
3 medium carrots, diced
3 whole stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 – 4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup beef broth, and 1/2 cup extra if needed
1 lb. white button mushrooms, sliced
- Heat a stainless steel or cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and drain out half the bacon fat from the pan.
- Pat the beef cubs dry and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. When the bacon fat is hot (look for a shimmery surface), add a single layer of beef cubes to the pan. Sear on each side from 1 – 3 minutes until golden brown. Remove and continue to sear in batches until you’ve browned all the meat.
- Transfer the meat to your slow cooker, and deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of wine. Scrape up any dark and crispy bits from the bottom of the pan. Once clean, pour the wine into the slow cooker with the meat.
- Add 1 tbsp. of olive oil to the pan and heat on medium. Cook the onions until translucent, about 6 – 8 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook for another 5 minutes. Finally, add the garlic and tomato paste, cooking for 3 – 4 minutes. Transfer the vegetable mixture to the slow cooker.
- Wipe the pan clean and heat another tbsp. of olive oil on medium meat. Cook the mushrooms with 1/2 teaspoon salt until they’ve released their moisture and the liquid is mostly evaporated, about ten minutes.
- Add the mushrooms to the slow cooker with the remaining 1 1/2 cup of wine, 1 cup of beef broth, bay leaf and fresh thyme sprigs.
- Cook on low for 7 – 8 hours. When finished, the meat should fall apart with a fork.
Sweet Bread Pudding
Serves 8 – 10
16 – 20 oz. loaf of brioche
1 tbsp. butter, softened
5 cups whole milk
6 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. fresh orange zest
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice or tear the brioche into bite-size pieces. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the cubes are dry and hard but not browned.
- Butter a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish. Arrange and pat the cubes down inside the dish so they settle down into a single layer.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, orange zest, cinnamon and salt.
- Slowly pour the custard mix evenly over the bread cubes. The cream should come to just below the top of the bread, with the edges and corners poking a bit above the custard. Note: You may have some custard mixture left over.
- Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate for one hour or overnight if you have time.
- Place a rack directly in the center of the oven and heat to 325°F.
- Remove the foil covering the pan and bake in the oven for 45 – 55 minutes. The dish will be finished when a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pudding comes out clean.
- Plate and serve. This pairs well with a caramel sauce and/or scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Christensen, Emma. (September 13, 2015). Recipe: slow-cooked boeuf bourguignon. Kitchn. Retrieved October 4, 2016 from http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-slow-cooker-boeuf-bourguignon-recipes-from-the-kitchn-196361
Christensen, Emma. (February 1, 2016). How to make sweet bread pudding. Kitchn. Retrieved October 4, 2016 from http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-sweet-bread-pudding-137763
Gallary, Christine. (March 11, 2016). Recipe: spinach and refried bean quesadillas. Kitchn. Retrieved October 4, 2016 from http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-spinach-and-refried-bean-quesadillas-228116
Henry, Alan. (December 19, 2013). How to host an awesome party. Lifehacker. Retrieved October 4, 2016 from http://lifehacker.com/how-to-host-an-awesome-party-on-a-budget-1486102176