Hosting a summer party can be fun without breaking the bank. Planning is one of the keys to making it happen. Whether you’re planning a baby shower, a retirement party or a simple soiree to commemorate the beginning of summer, planning and shopping in advance will help you save money and lower your stress level.
Stock Up During Sales
Sales on barbecue essentials generally begin the week of memorial day, so watch your local sales ads to stock up on items that don’t spoil, such as soda, chips and condiments. You can also begin stocking up on meat while it’s on sale and stashing it in the freezer until you’re ready for grilling. Keep track of everything you buy so that you don’t end up with a large stock of mustard and a single jar of relish. It’s also smart to check the expiration dates on the products you buy and use the ones with the closest expiration dates first.
Plan a Menu
Saving money doesn’t have to require a great deal of time. One of the easiest things you can do is plan a simple party menu that can be tailored to any occasion. Everyone wants to throw a great party, but there is no reason to go overboard. Make a list of appetisers, main dishes, sides and desserts to keep on hand so you can choose a couple of items from each category to serve at each party.
Stick with In-Season and Sale Produce
Most produce items tend to spoil quickly, so you probably won’t be able to buy them in advance. It’s best to work with whatever is on sale the week of your party. Your guests will probably appreciate a peach pie as much as a strawberry pie and you will be saving money by purchasing fruit that is in season and on sale. Stone fruits such as nectarines and peaches tend to be on sale during the summer months, and you will probably find great deals in the vegetable section to create tasty, inexpensive salads.
Allow Guests to Contribute
Some party hosts are concerned that allowing guests to bring food to the party makes them look cheap, but most guests love being able to contribute something. Another bonus is that guests who are picky will bring something that they will eat, taking the pressure off of you to clear the menu with every guest or risk having some go hungry. Most people will ask if there is anything they can bring to the party when you invite them. Let them know the number of guests you expect at the party and make a gentle suggestion such as a salad or a dessert, so you don’t end up with eight desserts and two salads. You may also consider asking guests to bring their own alcohol so that you aren’t stuck guessing which brands everyone is partial to.
Consider Skipping Dinner
If you are concerned about the cost of serving dinner to a large crowd, consider hosting your party late in the evening and serving just dessert instead. Most people will have already eaten dinner by 8:00 pm and will enjoy the opportunity to get together with friends for dessert and drinks. You can also serve brunch around 10 am, as breakfast items like eggs and fruit tend to be less expensive and simpler to prepare than typical dinner foods. Being creative with the timing of your party also makes it stand out in people’s minds, as a Sunday brunch is a wonderful departure from a typical Saturday afternoon cookout.
Related: 5 Things Not to Buy During Summer