Follow these 5 tips for the ultimate stress-free and money-saving summer party experience this season. Your guests will enjoy the effort you put into your party and you'll feel good knowing you have enough money to pay your bills - everyone wins!
Focus on presentation with some inexpensive party decorations and don't feel the need to race to the grocery store to buy completely new ingredients - shop efficiently in your own kitchen first, then hit the store with our tips.
Budget Summer Tip 1: Decorate with Paper
Savvy hosts have been using scrapbook and designer paper to personalize party details for years. Browse the scrapbook aisle of your local craft or stationary store and you're sure to find 12-inch squares of designer paper ranging from 25-cents to $1.00 a sheet. Choose complementary colored and patterned paper to embellish your party with these ideas:
Craft a party pennant banner
Budget Summer Party Tip 2: Think Batch
Head to your local BJs, Sams Club or Costco and pick up food in bulk. Avoid pricier chicken breasts and opt for legs and thighs to grill. You can also pick up larger packs of burgers and dogs with accompanying buns, bigger condiment bottles and bulk paper goods for less.
My mother in law used to say, "You can always put another potato in the pot to feed your family," because potatoes are cheap! Here are some other thrifty food ideas:
Potatoes - There's a reason why potato salad has been on picnic tables for years: Everyone loves it and it's a money-saver!
Pasta - It doesn't get much cheaper than pasta and often times it is the only thing that little kids will eat! Add a pasta primavera to the menu to please all palates and watch the pennies.
Eggs - At 2 bucks for a dozen eggs, it's easy to see why the old devilled eggs always show up at a party. Vary traditional recipes by adding a new spice to the yolk mix like curry or minced rosemary.
Budget Summer Party Tip 3: Decor Do-Overs
Pull out your collection of vases from a Mother's Day flower delivery or birthday bouquet, hunt through your jewelry box, and open your china cabinets to create affordable decor for your party table.
Colored Water in Glass Vases with Floating Candles - Tint water using food coloring to your desired color. Fill vases with water and float tea lights.
Cheap Fillers that Look Great - Add clean black rocks or shells to the bottoms of vases for a simple centerpiece. If your budget allows, fill them halfway with water and add a few flower stems
Floating Flowers in China Bowls - For a Provence look, garden party, or an easy elegant tea table, float flowers in matching China soup bowls down the center of the table. Or use wood bowls with floating flowers and candles for a zen style.
Adorned Candles - If the weather isn't too hot, dress up complementary colored pillar candles to use as a table display. Wrap wide grosgrain ribbon around the middles of each, such as a brown ribbon on a cream candle for a handsome look. Or decorate the candles with jewelry by inserting earring posts into the side or wrapping the bases with bracelets.
Budget Summer Party Tip 4: Use What Food You've Got!
The convenience of bottled dressings and marinades might save time but won't help your wallet. Get reacquainted with your pantry and think about how all those cans and bottles can spice up your food. Remember to always check the expiration date on cans and bottles to make sure that they are still good.
Spicy Savings - Oh those little bottles of spices such as coriander or cumin! They were purchased for a special recipe and then never opened again. Browse through your pantry and give those spices a good sniff! Think about how they can enhance salads and side dishes. Try toasting them on high heat for a few minutes to release their oils and make them more pungent. Look online for simple recipes that use the spices that you have.
Canned Foods - Beans please! Bulk out potato salad, salsas, pasta salads, and just about any other side dish with canned veggies or fruits. Add garbanzo beans to pasta salad or a can of corn to salsa. Make both your food and dollar stretch!
Oil and Vinegar - Mix up your own marinades and dressings for green and pasta salads using the oil and vinegars that you have on hand. It doesn't have to be a fancy balsamic vinegar or gourmet oil as sometimes that can overpower a dish. Simply add a splash of fruit juice or a dash of spice into a basic O&V mix to boost its flavor.
Budget Summer Party Tip 5: Frozen is Frugal & Fabulous
The cool thing about a frozen little something is that you can add an inexpensive decorative element to beverages or your party table decor. For example, frozen fruit or herbed ice cubes are a big party trend right now. Simply freeze some berries or sprigs of basil in your ice cube tray, then garnish your drinks.