Main Menu

How to Plan a Thrifty Dinner Party

Thrifty Dinner PartyWhy plan a thrifty dinner party? Because living on a budget can be difficult, especially if you’re a social person. Going to the movies, eating at restaurants, and shopping are all accepted as common social events. However, not everyone has it in their budget to do these things on a regular basis.

Luckily, there are lots of affordable ways to spend time with the people you care about. One of my favorite budget social activities is hosting dinner parties. I love to feed people, and having people over is only as expensive as you make it. Below are some tips for planning and hosting a fun, elegant and thrifty dinner party when you’re on a budget.

Planning a Thrifty Dinner Party

Working with people’s schedules can be tough. But having a couple of stress-free hours to catch up with friends is worth it. Usually my dinner parties are planned due to a conversation with a friend “we should really hang out!” Then we decide who else we want to invite, whether there will be a theme, and what times we want to pitch to everyone.

Once everyone’s on the same page, I send out a free e-mail invite with the details. This lessens the chance that people will forget to set aside time in their calendars.

Decorating for a Thrifty Dinner Party

Thrifty Dinner PartySometimes the themes for my dinner parties are simple and straightforward. We decide to cook Chinese food (or Hawaiian, or vegan), so the decor will be along the same line. Other times we’re getting together for a holiday or anniversary, so the theme can be wilder and more elaborate. For example, if your friend-group is a bunch of movie fans, hosting an upscale Oscars party may seem extravagant. But, it can be done for less than the cost of one person’s dinner at a fancy restaurant.

Once a theme is decided, I head to my local thrift stores for decor inspiration. I often find large batches of homemade centerpieces from weddings and other parties. These can be as simple as vases with lace on them. Thrift stores are also a great place to find candles, dishes, and decorative accents. Glass stones and water beads are items I see often for a fraction of the retail price.

It’s not often I have to buy dishes for a dinner party. Once in a while, however, I need special cooking equipment like a steamer for dumplings or bamboo mats for rolling sushi. Other times, I have a specific vision for serving, which requires a certain type of tray or serving board. Whatever the situation, I always hunt through thrift stores to save on these kitchen items that I probably won’t be using on a regular basis.

Split Up Responsibilities

The success of a dinner party depends on two factors: the people and the food. As I mentioned before, I love cooking for people. I often use dinner parties to test new recipes. To keep things affordable, I split up responsibilities.

As host, I usually take on the entree and have guests bring sides, drinks, and desserts that fit the theme. If I’m only hosting another couple, we’ll split things down the middle. I’ll prepare the entree and drinks, while they bring a side and dessert.

I always try to have the menu planned a week in advance so the ingredients can be worked into my weekly shopping list. This way, I can plan efficient uses for leftover ingredients. Using this method, having a dinner party could have the same impact on your budget as a regular weeknight dinner.

Cooking impressive food might seem costly, but it doesn’t have to be. Something as cheap as potatoes can be made impressive with the right seasonings and presentation. I often choose one item to “splurge” on, like a fancy cut of steak or some nice big shrimp. Then I build the rest of the recipe using spices and cheaper ingredients that highlight the main star.

The image of a dinner party might seem like an upper class event from the 70s, but I find it a great way to save money and create memories with friends. Do you host dinner parties? How do you keep them affordable?

About the Author

This blog was contributed by Jeriann Watkins Ireland, a crafter, small business owner and blogger – read more from her at her blog, dairyairhead.com.

If you would like to become a guest blogger, contact us at blogs@iShopThrifty.org.

Want to see more stories, tips and finds from fellow thrift shoppers, as well as notifications on upcoming sales and promotions? Sign up for our weekly newsletter at iShopThrifty.org/rewards.