There are a lot of meal gatherings this time of year. Hosting friends and family for a holiday or celebratory meal can be a lot of fun, but it can also induce stress for the host. On top of all the planning, cleaning, shopping, and cooking involved, there may be a financial burden. Feeding a crowd of people can get expensive quickly no matter what your budget is. The task of host does not need to be so difficult or costly. I’ve compiled some tips below for hosting a nutritious meal for your guests without spending too much money.
Include your guests in planning.
Find out how many people are coming and ask guests if they have any dietary restrictions. Consider your group’s preferences and decide a simple and inexpensive meal menu like a taco bar or Italian pasta buffet. Don’t forget to include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains!
If you’re planning a meal that has a more traditional menu like Thanksgiving, read Alli’s helpful road map to feeding a crowd.
Make it a potluck.
Share the responsibility and the cost with your guests by making it a potluck meal. This will allow you to spend less time in the kitchen and more time mingling with friends and family as everyone arranges their dishes. You might even discover a new tasty recipe from your guests.
Use what you have.
One of my favorite tips for eating on a budget is to check to see what foods you already have before recipe planning and grocery shopping. Then, decide which recipes you will use and make a list for the additional ingredients you need to buy. This will help you avoid buying items you already have at home. You might even save money before the meal by preparing and eating items that you have on hand. Whenever I forget to follow my own advice I end up buying another can of black beans or diced tomatoes. At least they are versatile and last a long time!
Get the best price.
Shop early, especially if there is an upcoming holiday where store inventory might be impacted by busy stores. Look for store coupons and specials and choose store brands. Buy in-season fruits and vegetables and if you need to any that are out of season, try frozen. Don’t forget to stick to your list!
Get creative with the leftovers.
Save money by using the extra food after your meal. Pair leftovers with common pantry ingredients to make another recipe. If you have taco or fajita leftovers, try making our Quick Mexican Black Bean Soup or Stuffed Mexican Sweet Potatoes. If you have leftover Italian pasta, store your sauce and pasta separately or have extra sauce on hand to prevent the reheated dish from being on the dry side.
Finally, be sure to take some time to enjoy the meal you worked so hard to coordinate with your guests. And make someone else wash the dishes!