Tag Archives: what to serve on a limited budget

How to Throw Your Own Stimulus Pot Luck Party

asparagus quicheThe other week, I decided to throw a party. I realized I hadn’t thrown one of my infamous Dinner-n-Jam parties in awhile, and also noticed it seemed like everyone including Wal-Mart was creating their own stimulus savings plan – and knowing I was on a limited budget – I decided to throw my version of a stimulus Pot Luck Dinner and Jam Party – it went off without a hitch this past weekend.

Here I show you some tips on throwing a good party where all have a great time, even when your own budget is tight.

Tips and Tricks

  • First and foremost – Be Organized – set up a date anywhere from 3-6 weeks ahead.
  • Second, Be Flexible – A relaxed host/hostess during the party ensures everyone will have a great time.
  • Decide if any ‘theme’ for the party you might wish to use.
  • Make up your guest list. Make sure to invite people from your gym, some good friends, and even people you would like to know more about. A group party is a great environment to learn a little more about people.
  • I highly recommend using an online free source such as evite.com to create your invitations, manage your emails and guest lists. This is so useful, nowadays, saving you monies on stamps, it’s eco-friendly and really helps set the tone for your party. You can set it up, so that you receive text or email alerts when people R.S.V.P. and you can easily add people and send additional invitations on the fly.
  • Create a list of what guests should bring. When using evite.com for example, you can create a list of items for guests to choose for themselves what to bring.
  • In my version, I requested people to bring what they drank, and/or to provide one dish.  Leaving said variety of possible options allows guests to bring things they can easily afford. What to put on this list? Put things such as cold appetizers, hot appetizers, cheeses, main dishes, bottle of wine, ice, dips, chips, music. On evite.com for example you can set up your needs such as 3 cold appetizers and 4 bottles of wine. As people R.S.V.P. and select off this list, the items needed will automatically reduce, and therefore reduce your need to go off and buy loads of food for your party.
  • Be open and allow guests to bring people to your party. I find if I mix it up (inviting different types of people) to every party, I find I have more new people I can invite the next time. Besides, these parties allow for having a nice mix of people which certainly adds something to your ‘group’.
  • Allow your friends to help when they ask what they can do when as they arrive at your party. Why get stressed out? Something my Mother taught me years ago, and she was the queen of parties – by allowing guests to help gets everyone involved in making an OK party, become a great party. Allow one person to be the ‘bartender’ whiles another stirs up the chili and another sets up the cheese platter.
  • When people ask if they can help you clean up, say yes! Many hands make for light work! Don’t be too bashful, and you will only be more than grateful after everyone leaves.
  • Set up tables the night before, so you are not stressed on the day of your party. I usually keep the selected tablecloth folded on top of each of the tables. Set aside serving spoons and forks to help serve the foods that will arrive. At times, when I am planning a sit down, I have been known to set up the table and then place a sheet over the entire table to keep it clean right until guests arrive.
  • Set up areas for trash – allocating receptacles for cans, bottles & trash.
  • Designate a smoking area if you have any friends who smoke.
  • Keep scented candles to a minimum, one small ‘gentle and light’ scented tea light will do. Use flavors such as ‘clean linen’ or ‘ocean breeze’- avoid vanilla, or heavy scents such as food-related strawberry cream or coconut for example since some people can be ultra sensitive.
  • Set up an area where coats, bags and other items can be kept as people arrive.
  • Make sure to have ample toilet paper.
  • Clean only those areas you know your guests will mingle in – the kitchen, living room, bathrooms. I tend to do a little of this every day starting a week before, thereby; I don’t have much to do at all on the day of the party, but to relax.
  • As people R.S.V.P. review the list of items they will bring. If you know someone will bring cheeses for example, make sure to have a cheese plate or wood cutting board handy and related cheese utensils and knives – cheeses should be set out at least one half hour prior to people arriving to become room temperature. Reviewing will let you know if you need to supplement a dish or two.
  • Set out wine opener, bottle openers, cooler filled with ice for possible beers and wines prior to people arriving.
  • For music, I personally chose some CD’s to rotate until the live music started.
  • Prepare any foods you can a couple of days before, dips, soups, etc.
  • Relax and let people be themselves.
  • Turn down the lights a little and remember to have fun yourself.
  • Mingle around introducing people to one another is a great way to get people to start talking with one another.
  • Finally Good luck!

Why don’t you share your party success stories with us all? We would love to hear about it.

Party Time – Party Menu, Limited Budget – A Great Time Had By All

I just finished putting away the last of the dishes from this weekends 50th birthday dinner party I threw for my guy. OK, I know it is now Wednesday and the party was Saturday night, but heck, I must have run the dishwasher a total of five times and hand washed items in my sink roughly four times before all was said and done. Was it worth all the work? Absolutely.

I had made everything by hand, except for the wine…. the menu was as follows:

  • Hummus
  • cilantro bean salad
  • zahatar with olive oil for dipping bread
  • turkish ‘flat’ bread
  • tortilla chips – yes handmade
  • tri-colored salad with tarragon and white balsamic salad dressing
  • cilantro and scallion basmati rice
  • steamed broccoli with garlic and olive oil
  • Chicken ala Leah – Stewed chicken with grapes, raisins, grape tomatoes, cloves, curry, etc….extremely good!
  • extra large creme puffs with creme filling.

The group we had over for dinner we have had before, and the six of us really get along so well, with everyone never feeling left out at any one time, the personalities mesh so well, the laughter hard-felt and general well respect for each other.

I was talking and sharing with one of the women last night that was there, that we are really really lucky for this. It is not often once coupled, you find other matching couples that go so well together. In fact when you do, you should nurture those relationships as you do your very own. Not that nothing lasts forever, but when something is working out so well, you don’t go crazy to break it up.

As we rose our glasses in cheering on different wonderful things that were recently happening to each one of us in the group last Saturday night, I really felt blessed. I knew that my guests also felt rather good about it, themselves and for one another.

In the past, we usually all gather and meet once a month at one of our places to have dinner. With the level of cooking being extremely high from each of these wonderful people involved, it’s super fun to see what the one ‘house’ will cook up for that night’s gathering.

One man was a former NYC chef, another man is from the Mediterranean and creates wonderful spiced meats on the grill and wonderful bright and spicy salads, while one women makes wonderful quiches and other baked goods from eggs that were hatched that very morning, yes, that very morning.

It’s wonderful to see what will be served for the meal with amazing foodies every time we get together. And it is for this very reason I was perplexed almost to the very last day in what I should make for this gathering of mine. Now entertaining is nothing at all very new to me. I have been entertaining and cooking for well over 20 years. It is something I really enjoy. It is one of the reasons why I created my dinner and jam blog – which originally was to share the recipes I make for my once a month ‘dinner and jam’ parties which consists of musicians, artists and eaters alike getting together and creating live music, great fun.

In fact, since I promised my peeps, I just stopped writing this post, and sent out an invitation to my email list for my next dinner and jam party. Once I send out the invitations, then I know I have to get the house ready – I personally think it is a reason why I do invite people over, so I do get the house in order for them.

I do not only think it is my duty to have a party once a month – it is always a great way to get the house in order. But back to me trying to come up with a tangible menu.

I was in particularly on a tight budget, and though at times this may not be new, but it is never a reason why you shouldn’t or can’t serve amazing food just because you are on a limited budget. In fact, I know that out of necessity, creation comes forth, and since these two other couples have had several of my party-dishes, I had to come up with something new.

I didn’t really want to do a baked ham, since it seems like an Autumn meal, my guy is not a fan of fish – so that choice was out, and this group has seen my leg of lamb – so when I decided upon my Chicken a la Leah, it was a simple solution knowing the dish has wonderful complex flavors, nearly cooks itself without much fuss allowing me to time and ability to concentrate on my other dishes.

If you are having any questions as to what to serve for a party, give me a comment, or email me. I can usually come up with some ideas for you which won’t break the bank. I was able to cook everything on the menu you see above for $40. – yes forty measly bucks…. and no one could tell! Many of the recipes are available on my dinner-and-jam blog if you want to surf over and check them out.

So are you planning a dinner anytime soon? Need some ideas? Let me help you come up with some ideas and I am sure you will have a wonderful party!