Dinner parties have become a staple in my college life, whether they’re to mark a special occasion or just gather an old group of friends together. But hosting is tricky; you may want to impress guests with your cooking skills or incredible new apartment but not want to feed them all from your kitchen (or bank account). These guidelines will help you put together a great party even on a budget.
Make a Guest List. …and stick to it. It can be a lot of fun playing the host, but the easiest way to spend too much money on a dinner party is offering to feed more mouths than you intended. To prevent this, keep your group small and selective, either by way of a quick Facebook event or homemade invitations (depending how fancy you want to get). That way, you know what you’re getting into and can plan a menu accordingly. And if you’re still looking to get a big group together, invite the rest over for dessert and drinks post-meal.
Go Meatless. I love meat just as much as the next carnivore, but if you have to serve a lot of people, a meatless main dish will help to cut costs. This doesn’t mean you have to leave your guests hungry; anything pasta or rice based is filling and easy to serve family style, so try a veggie lasagna or stir fry with in-season ingredients.
Create a Signature Dish. Got a great recipe you want to try, but don’t want to double or triple the recipe? Make it anyway but compromise with simple but filling potato-based or vegetable sides that will satisfy your guests. This way, you can wow everyone with your skills in the kitchen and make sure they don’t leave hungry.
Encourage Guest Participation. If your guests offer to bring something, don’t turn them down! Potlucks can be fun and hey, it’s less work for you. But if you’re cooking to impress, already have the entire meal planned out, and don’t want guests to mess with your menu, give friends specific instructions for an easy appetizer or dessert. The most simple approach may be to have everyone BYOB, because alcohol is expensive and really, you can never have too much.
Scrimp on the Décor. Throwing a classy dinner party doesn’t mean spending tons of time and money redecorating your dorm. You can do a few little things that will make all the difference: use real dishes instead of paper, fold the napkins, arrange your food in a graceful way and add parsley or other veggies as garnish. Stick a few flowers in an empty wine bottle for a centerpiece and you’re good to go!