Source: sxc.hu Photo: monmart

Source: sxc.hu Photo: monmart

This time of year, it’s all about the parties. From Thanksgiving to New Year, we like to share our homes and our food with our friends and family. Few things in life are as satisfying as gathering around a table (or circulating through a room) full of good friends and good food. But with economic times still a little tight, there are concerns about cost. The good news is that you can still throw a great party for a relatively small cost. Here are some entertaining ideas that can be adapted to fit any budget:

Food

This is the main event. Everyone likes to have good at their holiday parties. The good news is that you can find a number of bargains on food this time of year. Keep an eye out for sales on roast, turkey and ham. You can also look online for printable coupons and promotions to help reduce your cost further. It is also possible to stretch the meat portion of your soiree by buying plenty of vegetables, fruits, salads, potatoes, rice and pasta. These are things that cost much less per serving, and are filling. Think about how much food you had last year, and if you had large amounts of leftovers, consider cutting down on quantities. Just buying less will save you some money. Some other tips for saving on food include:

  • Prepare your own veggie, fruit and cheese trays. Buying pre-cut produce and cheese is more expensive than buying it whole. If you have the time to prepare it yourself, do so.
  • Buy in bulk. In many cases, the bulk price costs less per unit. Whether it’s bagged apples or large bricks of cheese from the local club store, you can save if you buy larger quantities.
  • Check for day old goods. In many cases, day old baked goods can be salvaged with a little help of a Ziplock bag. Additionally, many stores have items that are just past the expiration date. Most of these are still good, but they are heavily discounted due to the date on the package.
  • Go potluck. If someone wants to bring something, accept! Make out a menu ahead of time, and if guests want to pitch in to help, give them an assignment.

Beverages

Drinks can get expensive, especially if alcohol is involved. However, it is possible to provide festive beverages without spending a ton. Sparkling wines are less expensive than champagne, but are still fun to drink. Limit the drink choice, focusing on just one or two cocktails. You can create drinks with fruit juices, like sangria to stretch your budget by mixing less expensive juices with the alcoholic drinks.

If alcohol isn’t a priority, look for sparkling cider or grape juice. Hot chocolate and hot cider are also fun, festive choices. These non-alcoholic beverages still invite the holiday spirit, but are less expensive than alcoholic drinks.

Decorations

You want to give the party a festive air, and this can be done with decorations. But there is no need to spend a great deal to make it happen. Look around your house. Do you have some glass bowls and vases? Chances are that you do. You can use small colored rocks or marbles, tea light candles and ribbon to transform them into festive decor. If you do decide you need to head out and purchase something from a store, check the dollar stores and discount centers first.

Natural decorations are inexpensive and easy to come by this time of year. Evergreen sprigs, pinecones, acorns, gourds, pomegranates and bright red apples add the right tone at a small price. You can also look for sales on holiday plants, such as poinsettias and Christmas lilies. We have a rather spectacular Christmas cactus that we got from a clipping. Now it is one of our favorite holiday decorations.

If you decide to get disposable dishes, it is a good idea to get solid colors, so that you can reuse the extras. While, red, green, clear and blue dishware can convey holiday spirit without being too specific. You can save money (and the environment), though, by using your own dishes, and borrowing dishes from friends and family. Most people won’t care if everything is an exact match, especially if you mix and match throughout the presentation.

In the end, though, holiday entertaining is about togetherness. When you have true friends and loved ones together for a party or a meal, it will be festive — no matter how frugal you are.