The spring and summer months are ideal for arranging parties, get-togethers and enjoying great food. Though there is nothing better than getting together with a bunch of friends and enjoying a fabulous BBQ party, costs also need to be considered. Party food and drinks can add up to a big amount if you are not careful with planning the menu.
It is important to have a fairly accurate idea about the number of guests who will be attending your do. This will allow you to plan how much food you should be serving and budget accordingly.
A simple well-planned buffet with no clashing flavors or food styles is always a crowd-pleaser than a massive meal with all kinds of foods tossed in.
Here are a few tips to help you plan a great party menu on a budget.
1. Plan Your Menu for Success
As mentioned earlier, ensure that you plan your menu carefully to avoid the clash of flavors. People tend to pile their plates with a little bit of everything. So, there should be foods that mesh well and provide a well-rounded combination of flavors.
You can pack the best of everything in your menu in several ways. Consider going the traditional food group way and serve meat or fish, a starch and a vegetable. Dairy and fruit are also important and it is necessary to add a dish from each group. If you try to add more than one item from these major food groups, you may overshoot the budget and make prepping tedious.
The most important things you need to consider are taste, texture, color and temperature of foods. Achieving the perfect balance of all of these will help you plan a satisfying party menu.
If your main dishes have a lot of roasted, rich flavors, then it will help to balance the sides with a refreshing and acidic salad or a veggie platter.
Seasonal veggies and fruits also provide a nice base to build your menu on. They will also be cheaper than their out-of-season and exotic counterparts. Plan a visit to the local farmer’s market and pick up fresh seasonal veggies and fruits. You can make salads, roast them or simply toss the veggies into a hearty seasonal salad.
As far as textures are concerned, pair crispy and crunchy with soft and creamy. A main of risotto will go well with a crunchy green salad or Brussels sprouts. Roasted potatoes go well with creamed or sautéed greens.
Visual appeal is very important as far as your party spread is concerned. If you have a dull-looking main dish then a brightly-colored side will perk up your guests’ plates. The easiest way to bring color is through garnishes. Edible flowers, bright greens, radishes, green onion curls, zesty lemon or orange slices, herbs and cherry tomatoes all bring a burst of color to dishes.
2. More Variety Is the Best Bet
Do not assume that adding more variety to the party menu will prove to be expensive. A variety of foods to choose from means that guests will be able to enjoy a little bit of everything. This also means you will have to prepare less of each item because people will be satisfied with smaller portions of each, with the variety making the food more satisfying.
If you host a dessert party with a couple of yummy cakes and nothing else, you will have to serve larger slices of the cakes and they will be wiped out in no time. But if there are cookies, brownies, fudge, pastries and puddings as well, then a bit of everything will result in full tummies and happy guests.
Dishing out variety in your party menu also can prove to be budget-friendly. This is because you can multitask with certain foods like veggies and fruits and make salads, soups, skewers, or dips with pretty much the same stuff. Do ensure that flavors do not get repetitive such as having an onion dip, a rice dish like a pilaf with caramelized onions as well as a salad with red onions. This will be boring. Remember that your food should contrast and complement each other.
3. Make Use of What You Already Have
It is not necessary to make a last-minute pricey trip to the grocery store to stock up for your party. Smart party planning on a budget requires you to do some work beforehand.
Always be on the lookout for sales on condiments, spices and canned food, and for free food samples that brands dole out. Buy in bulk and stock your pantry. They will not only stay fresh for long, but also provide you with tons of options when planning a menu. Food like cheese, meat, tortillas, baked goods, veggies and fruits last long if frozen properly.
If you feel that the ingredients from your cupboards, freezer and pantry do not give you enough ideas, look up what’s on sale for the week in your area. Plan your menu around what you can afford and shop wisely.
Also, remember that you must have a fairly good idea of how much food you need to prepare. This will prevent you from panicking and going overboard with shopping at the grocery store. Also, even if you end up short on something, there are always ways in which you can make up for the missing ingredients.
Planning a party on a budget is not an impossible task. If you plan wisely, focus on providing a lovely combination of tastes and flavors and keep things simple, your guests will definitely have a great time. A happy and satisfied crowd is the best result any hostess can hope for.
(Featured Image via: pixabay)