Fabulous entertaining on a minimal budget is easy and inspiring with the following ideas.
Using what you have is the name of the game for frugal decorating. If the weather cooperates, head outside to the garden and let Mother Nature decorate for you with leafy trees, flowering bushes, or verdant herbs. If it's too cold out, bring the outdoors in and make bouquets for your table from whatever you find outside.
Rather than stocking the liquor cabinet, pull out your trusty blender and the contents of your fruit bowl to serve up luscious smoothies or icy frappes in martini glasses. Pop in a sprig of mint or an edible flower from the herb garden instead of an umbrella to make things festive.
For more refreshing drinks, fill wine glasses with cold club soda and add crushed mandarins, berries, or watermelon, or fill a big pitcher with ice water and add cubed honeydew melon or curled strips of cucumber to flavor it beautifully.
If you'd like a bit of wine with dinner but several bottles of wine is not in the budget, make your own wine coolers instead with one bottle of sweet, fruity wine and several bottles of cold club soda. (You can also host a wine swap party!)
Fresh bread is a wonderful base for an appetizer. Choose a crusty baguette or sourdough loaf, cut thick slices, and serve with a good salted butter. Make up a few spreads with your food processor: olives and olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil, and pesto are good, easy options. Add sliced cheese, cherry tomatoes, and grapes and you have a platter fit for a king. Spanish tapas is another great and frugal option for an appetizer platter.
Pasta is a tried and true dinner party favorite that also happens to be inexpensive. Choose a good quality pasta and make a few homemade sauces for your guests to choose from. Make a creamy Alfredo with extra parmesan cheese, a spectacular Tomato Sauce made with roasted roma tomatoes and roasted garlic, or simple olive oil with tuna, capers, and kalamata olives. Provide bowls of extra grated cheese, fresh basil and oregano, and chili flakes so your guests can individualize their bowls of pasta.
Instead of splashing out on a posh dessert, delight your guests with a delicious yet inexpensive Jam Tart. Make a buttery crust, press it into a tart pan, prick all over with a fork, and par-bake for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and spread the crust with your favorite jam, then bake another 20-30 minutes until jam begins to bubble. Remove from oven and cool until ready to serve. Choose a special jam such as quince or mulberry, and stick to jewel tone colors since they bake the most beautifully. Make your jam tart extra special by topping it with pieces of dough in the shape of stars, hearts, or leaves.
For ideas on taking your frugal but fabulous party to the next level, try these excellent hacks.