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How To Be a Rockstar Host on a Budget

Looking through cookbooks is something that has always soothed me. Just before I would go into labor, I would be paging through an old cookbook. I enjoy cooking for others and trying new recipes, but finances have gotten the best of me in the past.

Making a new recipe for the first time for 10 people was not my strongest moment. However, through our 6-month spending freeze, I felt a desire to have a dinner party.

Even when we only had $25 a week to spend. If you have frugal in your bones, you know that having people over means there will be a cost. Yet as resourceful people, we are always prepared.  We stock up on goods when they are at a low sale price. We buy a season or two before.

We budget for holidays because they come simultaneously every year; we don’t get worked up about back-to-school supplies because we reuse what we have and stocked up on clothes all summer.

So I decided to entertain on a crazy low budget.  This means you can entertain on a budget without making it known to your guests that things are tight.

The best part of going to a dinner party or any get-together is the mood the hosts created.

Remember, you can always feed your family and friends for less.

This week I learned that while you are on a spending freeze, you can still host parties. You can feed your family and friends for less while on a budget. Don’t let the stress of money take you away from building relationships with others.

Wondering how to host a party this year while on a budget? Apply these simple tips to spend less and spend more time with your guests. We used these on our spending freeze and worked wonders.

First, Don’t Make This Mistake

Back in the day, when my husband and I were both working full time, just the two of us, I would pick all-new recipes and go to the store and grab all those ingredients. Then, we would eat a new dish four times a week.

I would buy something that I would use a teaspoon for in that recipe and not use it months later.

Then I realized the amount of money you can save when you plan your meals to items in your pantry and on sale.

The beauty of technology for preparing meals is that you can almost always find a substitute online if you don’t have an ingredient. 

Say you need taco seasoning?! It would help if you didn’t have to run to the store to get the packet. If you have your pantry stocked, you can make your own.

And who says that you can’t improvise. Not having the exact seasoning in a recipe means you can substitute.

Google things like- spice to use in place of cilantro- usually, you can substitute parsley.

So if you are living life on a budget and want to entertain on a budget, here are 15 Simple Tips to Entertain on a budget and have more time with your guests.

Below you will learn some tips to be a host while not spending a ton of money. 

Know your budget.

First, with so many financial decisions,  you can’t spend money wisely when you don’t know how much money you have to spend. Second, you can easily budget by taking 10 minutes to figure out how much money you have left after all bills are paid for the week.

Then, think about other things you need that week/month and realistically see the amount of money you have left.

Make it a tradition

If your funds are in a place where you can’t have a random get-together a few days or even a week or two in advance, then you can still entertain but do it the same time every year.

For example, you host the Fourth of July. This way, you have a year to plan and watch for sales and gather items you need.

Make a Cute DIY Centerpiece

A festive centerpiece can really add beauty without breaking the bank. You could also use an old window with holiday lights in place of flowers or candles if you’re feeling crafty. But, if money’s tight, try making this DIY thanksgiving centerpiece from fabric scraps and toilet paper rolls instead!

Have these 10 pantry staples.

You can’t start a meal without the basic kitchen needs. Here is a post I did with must-have pantry items. If you need to shop on a budget, learn how to make a perfect grocery list in under 10 mins.

Limit number of guests

It is easy to get carried away with wanting everyone to enjoy Johnny’s 1st birthday. Ask yourself what are your financial goals and does having this many guests fit within your budget?

If not, you will have to make the hard decisions of who to invite. If you are having a hard time making a decision, ask yourself- What is the reason for this event? Is it for the family to witness the first birthday?

Celebrating a promotion at work? A get-together to reconnect with friends?! Etc. When you know why you are having a party, you’ll know the audience that needs to be there.

Serve smaller portions

If it is a smaller gathering of 10 or less, don’t be afraid to serve everyone. This way, you can control portion size making sure everyone gets a little of everything! Of course, ask if they would like a serving of everything you offer, and don’t take offense if a polite no thank you is said!

Serve an Amazing Dessert

If your budget leaves your main course to just a protein and aside, don’t worry. You can wow them and fill their bellies with a killer dessert!

There are hundreds of desserts you can serve for less than $1 a serving! If you are terrified of baking, cupcakes are always an easy dessert that you can frost and top with something special.

Always Look for Free Turkey Promotions

This time of year, there are bound to be at least two stores in your area offering free Turkey promotions. This year 2019, BJ’s has a FREE Turkey promo here and some other stores.

Turkeys tend to be super cheap right before thanksgiving ( here is a roundup of prices), so buy two. Of course, if you plan on hosting a dinner again, you can always serve a turkey. 

Ask Guests to bring a side

There is no shame in asking guests to bring a side dish. There are plenty of people who enjoy baking something and sharing it at other people’s parties. This is a great way to take the stress off the person hosting and give various cooking styles.  

If you want to keep foods that pair well together, be specific when asking for a guest to bring a dish, but not too specific. For example, You could ask for someone to bring a vegetable or fruit dish. However, instead of asking could you bring a mushroom risotto?

Skip the Alcohol

If you are on a tight budget, alcohol can be the first item to go. Sure one or two drinks are nice with a dish, but it can kill your budget quickly. If you really want to serve something special, try jazzing up the juice and making it into a punch or jazzing up apple cider by adding in oranges & lemons.

Serve Popcorn as Appetizer

Hey, the bars have it going on when they serve free popcorn/peanuts! Popcorn is a great snack to have out that is affordable! I highly recommend an air popper! The price of kernels is low and lasts a long time, even with popcorn lovers in your house.

You can always sprinkle Parmesan cheese or cinnamon and sugar if you want to have something special. This entertains your guests and keeps you on a budget!

Use a Free Music service to set the tone

No one likes a quiet room when they are arriving at a party. Music sets the mood, so choose a channel that fits the purpose of your gathering! We use Amazon Prime Music or Pandora- Prime Music has a 30-day free trial and has ZERO commercials!

Love that! Join Amazon Prime Music – The Only Music Streaming Service with Free 2-day Shipping – 30-day Free Trial

Buy Extra Turkeys

The best sale on Turkeys is after Thanksgiving/Christmas. Buy and keep in the freezer. Our local BJ’s club had Fresh Butterball Turkeys marked down to $0.49/lb after Thanksgiving. This is a time to grab several. Cooking up a whole turkey or chicken is affordable, and you can stretch the meat.

Also, consider ground turkey as this is meat you can get relatively cheap too. 

Watch the sale ads

Watch the ad flyers for meat. If you know your son’s birthday party is coming up in a couple of months, start watching the meat sales ahead of time and grabbing when they are at their lowest price.  Save a lot has great sale prices on meat frequently. Check out my price comparison for Aldi’s Vs. Bjs Meat

Other stores with great prices: BJs, Aldi, Buy Local Meat and split with friends/family.

Use what you have

Not just in your pantry but for table decor. Most of the time, I start with a centerpiece in the table with appetizers out. Then as the meal progresses, I will move the centerpiece away to make room for the food to take center stage. Use Pinterest to gather jars and things you have around your home to make a free centerpiece.

Tip: Set aside some time to plan and then create. If you are pinched for a time, forget a centerpiece. Instead, light some candles around the house and use them in the middle instead. The point of a great hosting party on a budget is to be relaxed and enjoy your time. 


Use your Crockpot

Cheaper cuts of meat tend to be tougher. Using your slow cooker will keep the meat moist and tender, and you will spend less time in the kitchen!


Or now your Ninja Foodi! I’m so in love with mine you guys see all the things I’m doing here. 

Use Pasta

Homemade spaghetti sauce with homemade garlic bread is an instant comfort for many! In addition, pasta is VERY Affordable as we can get boxes for less than $1 frequently with coupons.

Places like Aldi and Save a lot usually have boxes for $0.85! Pasta is a great dish to make larger portion sizes on a budget. The pasta sides are endless! 

See my recent $60/week grocery hauls here. 

“Your budget is your right to say no.” You can’t be a host without hosting. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s not the end of the world; there are plenty of ways to save money and still have an incredible celebration with those closest to you. Check out our other articles for more tips about saving money.

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Sunday 2nd of December 2018

Serving on a budget, especially if you have a large family is always a must if you want to be able to entertain I have found. Leftovers are good to have though for the next couple of days. I'm just always afraid of not having enough for people and always have too much. I need to pair down. Its hard though coming from a large family and then having a large family myself then. Its a always learning experience.

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