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As summer approaches, most of us will start thinking about outdoor activities, from picnics and barbeques to hikes and cycle rides. Lots of these activities involve vast amounts of food – you’ll often have to feed a crowd of people! Entertaining a lot can therefore start getting expensive quickly.
However, this doesn’t have to mean you should stop having friends and family over for food. There are lots of different ways you can feed a crowd, even on a budget! We’ve explored a few tips and tricks below:
Just because you’re hosting, doesn’t mean that you need to provide all the food and drink! Years ago, it was common to have a party where everyone was expected to bring a dish to share – this could even be the case at a wedding reception!
Asking friends and family to bring food that everyone can share isn’t being cheeky – many people want to contribute something when they come to a big gathering anyway! You can either ask individuals to bring specific things, divvying the meal up between everyone, or just rely on chance. In America, this is referred to as a potluck – you don’t know what sort of food you’ll end up with.
If you do leave things up to chance, you may even end up trying things you haven’t before – your friends and family could bring along dishes that are native to other parts of the world, or even come up with recipes themselves! You might want to at least suggest savoury or sweet to guests though – otherwise you could end up with ten desserts and no main courses!
If you do intend to provide all the food and drink at your gathering, it’s best to plan ahead. That way, if you see anything you need at a discounted price, you can buy it and set it aside. Obviously you can’t do this for everything – fresh foods don’t last for months! But most food items can be frozen, as long as you have the space in your freezer.
Other than getting bargains, the good thing about buying food early is that you can spread the cost. There won’t be one massive outlay, but lots of smaller shops that you probably won’t notice impacting your bank balance.
You shouldn’t have to try hard to impress your friends and family. So there’s no need to get the fanciest foods and drinks! Think about what you could serve, and make sure you include lots of cheap filling foods, such as pasta, potatoes, and rice dishes. Canapes may look beautiful, but they won’t fill anyone up!
Other filling foods include bread and crackers, though the fillings can start to get expensive if you’re buying cheese and meats. Perhaps you can provide the essentials, and ask your guests to bring along their favourite filling! This also works for pizza – if you make the pizza dough and the sauce, everyone can bring their toppings of choice.
Just like the type of food and drink, you don’t need to opt for the most upmarket option when shopping. Compare prices in your local supermarkets, and see which one offers the best price. You can always get a few things from higher end shops, if the quality is worth it, and get the essentials where it’s cheaper.
It’s also good to bear in mind that nobody is going to see the packaging once you’ve cooked the food up! So they won’t know if it came from Marks and Spencer or Lidl, just that it (hopefully) tastes delicious!
Gourmet food may be a lovely treat now and then, but people certainly don’t expect it when going to a friendly gathering! Simple but tasty food is always appreciated – there’s no need to go wild! Perhaps have one showstopper – the dessert can be a good choice for this – and keep everything else simple.
Keeping things simple has the added benefit of reducing your stress levels. You’ll be putting less pressure on yourself if you’re not trying to make something spectacular or stretch yourself too thin.
While it’s not always the case, for the most part, if you make food from scratch, it works out much cheaper. This tends to be true when cooking for a crowd at least! So although it may be easier to get pre-made food, if you want to save money, you should probably make it yourself!
And if you run out of time, invite some friends over before the event, and ask them to help you prepare the meal. Just a few extra hands chopping and peeling can make a huge difference!
If you’re stuck on ideas for your summer party, there are loads of simple foods you can make, which won’t break the bank! We’ve listed a few ideas below, to help you get started:
And remember, it’s your party, so you can provide whatever food you like! It doesn’t have to be typical barbeque fare, even if you do light up the grill. Perhaps you’re having a themed evening, where traditional options wouldn’t fit with everything else. Essentially, the sky’s the limit!