My theory when hosting a gathering is quite simple. I follow two ideas. One, have a flexible menu and two, involve the guests. So when we host our large picnics at the farm, we supply the main course, a few sides, and a dessert. The guests are then asked to bring a side or dessert and it is BYOB. It always works out great.
This past weekend, we had an autumn picnic with 31 people in attendance. The grand total that I spent was $107.26 for the food AND the decorations. Not only that, but I had plenty of leftovers!
First, I scoured my freezer to see if there was anything I could use. I found kielbasa and a small pork roast. I always use crockpots when entertaining so that I can fix it and forget it. That way, I can enjoy the party too.
I then went to our local Dollar Tree where I found all of these goodies for $1.00 each:
I ended up not using the caramels or one pack of the little cups, so I took them off of the final tally. The rest of the items were used to spark ideas for side dishes, decorations (the pumpkins added a nice Autumn feel to the table) and dessert.
I then went to one of our local grocery stores that always has a 5 for $20 meat special. I was able to pick up ground beef, chicken breasts, kielbasa and ring bologna as part of the special. Those shopping trips, plus the trip into my freezer, determined which recipes I was going to use.
And since I found all of those great bins, popcorn bags and shakers…a popcorn bar was in order. I simply took seasonings that I already had and put them into Dollar Tree salt and pepper shakers. If they were too big for the holes…into the coffee grinder they went! This was by far the most economical and fun feature of the picnic. I used half a bag of popcorn kernels, spray butter that was on sale and mixed up most of the spice mixtures myself. I then added some of the Dollar Tree candies in small bowls to add to the bags. Total cost for the entire bar (buckets, bags, shakers and all) was under $15.00. And so much fun!
Here was the final menu:
- Shredded BBQ chicken and pork
- Chili with pepper jack tortilla chips
- Hot Dogs with cranberry relish
- Island Kielbasa
- Pumpkin Dip with Vanilla Wafers
- Taco Dip with corn chips
- Nutella Cheesecake cups
- Onion Dip with potato chips
- Peppermint Fondue with shortbread cookies
- Popcorn Bar
- Candy bags for the kids
- Roasted Marshmallows
And the guests added:
- Chocolate Fudge cake
- Pizza Dip
- Broccoli Salad
- Vanilla Cookies
- Cream Cheese Dip
- Cheese and Bacon Dip
Most of the food I was able to make the day prior to the picnic, so that morning was pretty relaxed, with concentration on the final details and getting everything into the crockpots, etc. When the guests arrived, the tables were set, the food was hot and I was ready to mingle! Here’s some of the highlights:
So instead of coming up with a menu and then shopping for items you need…you will save a ton of money by doing it the other way around. When you can entertain on a small budget, you just may do it more often!