Tara Noland hosts dinner parties at her Calgary home at least once a month, plus for almost every Super Bowl and much more often over the holidays.
Entertaining at home instead of shelling out for pricey restaurant meals is often the advice given to people looking to reign in their spending. A full-blown dinner party with multiple courses, decorative centrepieces and signature cocktails can seem costly, but food bloggers for whom hosting is old hat say it’s possible to do for about $10 a person.
“I think planning ahead is key,” said Noland, who just celebrated the seven-year anniversary of her blog, Noshing with the Nolands.
The Calgarian starts to think about her events weeks in advance.
“I think one of the worst things is having a dinner party and you’re not participating in it because you’re in the kitchen cooking.”
Preparation can also result in savings if you scour for sales at grocery stores or even dollar stores for decoration.
Frozen turkey or chicken that can be slow cooked is easy to snag at a discount, said Idriss Amraoui, a 29-year-old in Montreal who runs the blog Broke Foodies.
He also suggests using cheaper and versatile frozen vegetables that can be whipped into a starter, like soup.
It’s not necessary to do multiple courses though, and appetizers are often just a bonus when Amraoui hosts.
Entertainers can avoid being saddled with the whole food bill by asking guests to contribute a specific dish or turning the event into a potluck. In the event of the latter, Amraoui stresses guests must be aware it’s a potluck before they’re asked to commit.
“I wouldn’t tell you, ‘Come have dinner at my house,’ and then tell you, ‘Well, can you bring your potato salad?’” he said.
Lisa Bolton’s secret to affordable entertaining is creative grazing boards. The food stylist selects one killer cheese and loads of seasonal vegetables. She’ll slice a fresh baguette and one artisanal salami into thin pieces to make them last longer.
Even dessert can come atop a board. Rather than buying a whole cake or baking something elaborate, Bolton opts to set out some chocolate bars, strawberriesand other treats.
A beautifully crafted board also eliminates the pressure for decor, she said, as it functions as a centrepiece.
If hosts want to serve a full meal instead, she suggests looking at brunch instead of dinner.
“Eggs are pretty affordable,” she said, though she tends to gravitate to a big bagel spread.
The biggest budget item though, depending on the crowd, may be alcohol. All three foodies estimated they could pull off a budget-conscious dinner party for $10 a head or less with the caveat of imbibing coming at an extra cost.
They diverge on the appropriate hosting etiquette to tackle that problem.
“If you’re hosting, you’re hosting,” said Bolton of her mindset. She tends to stick any bottle of wine brought by a guest into her cellar for future use.
Instead, she’ll serve one bespoke cocktail that can be diluted with juice to make more.
Noland also creates a cocktail that she’ll serve guests right away, but said it’s OK to designate the event bring-your-own-beer or give guests inquiring what they can bring a specific type of alcohol, like a bottle of white wine.
When Amraoui hosts, he finds it important to have at least one bottle of wine on hand, but said the expectation shouldn’t be for the host to supply an open bar.
“I think that the guests usually without even asking will bring a bottle or two and you will end up with more alcohol than you need at the end of the evening,” he said.
Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press