The menu! It's the most important part of a dinner party isn't it? Yes. The answer to that is YES. Fellowship is good and very important, but food is also up their with importance, if you ask me. ;)
After we have chosen our date, theme and notified our guests then we start on the menu. Sometimes the menu reflects our theme, and when it does, it makes it really easy (most of the time) to build our menu. To help keep the cost down we sometimes do a potluck style dinner party. 1.) It keeps cost down. 2.) It's fun to try other peoples versions of various dishes. 3.) It will help take a lot of time and effort off of you (the host)! I know some people question potluck style meals, but we love them every now and then for our dinner parties. We usually create a Facebook event when we do potluck style dinner parties so people can sign up for a dish, and we can avoid duplicate dishes. The picture below is our sign up list for Friendsgiving this past year. Don't be afraid to ask your guests to bring a dish, I know some of our guests get really excited to pick out a new dish on Pinterest to bring.
*We sometimes get to-go boxes similar to these for our guests to fill up and take home with them. That way we aren't left with a ton of leftovers.*
I'll give you a couple of examples. For our Summer Soiree we decided to do a hot dog bar. Since hot dogs are budget friendly we decided to provide everything for this dinner party. From the appetizers to the desserts. We kept it very simple and that helped keep us in budget!
Here is our menu:
Loaded baked potato dip and lil smokies.
Hot dogs with various toppings
(nacho cheese, chili, onions, lettuce, ketchup & mustard)
Chocolate chip cookies and White Chocolate Chip Blondies (my best friend was also very sweet and brought a cheesecake)
Lemonade, sweet tea, and water
- Our appetizers were very easy to make. I made the loaded baked potato dip the night before and popped in the oven (covered) about 30 minutes before everyone got there. The lil smokies I made and served in the crockpot. For both of those recipes I already had a lot of the ingredients.
- Our main course was very easy and like I mentioned earlier, very budget friendly. We bought a family pack of hot dogs and hot dog buns. I already had some of the toppings already on hand. The ones we didn't, I picked up at the store that week.
- For our desserts I decided to keep it simple. We already had a package of cookie dough and I decided to make the blondies, and again, I already had most of the ingredients for those on hand.
- The drinks are always simple for us. Since we don't drink we just always serve lemonade, sweet tea and water, and honestly I could probably just get away with serving sweet tea since that is what everyone usually drinks the most of.
My second example is our Red, White, & Blue BBQ. This was our most recent dinner party, and this one was potluck style. We provided the appetizers, BBQ and drinks, and asked everyone to bring a side. We had a great turn out and it was all delicious!!
Here is our menu:
Loaded baked potato dip, and Velveeta cheese dip.
Layered Oreo pudding & chocolate chip cookies
Lemonade, sweet tea, and water.
- Our appetizers were easy for this dinner party (I try to keep the appetizers easy.) The loaded baked potato dip was requested, so that's why it made another appearance at another dinner party so soon. Cheese dip is very simple and everyone loves it.
- Our main course was very simple, we just picked up some BBQ and a local favorite and they provided the BBQ sauces.
- Our sides were provided by our guests! There were a few dishes that none of us have had before and ended up LOVING. Recipes were definitely swapped at this dinner party!
- For dessert I made a layered Oreo pudding and baked chocolate chip cookies. Desserts are usually fairly easy, because I usually have most ingredients on hand already.
- Drinks, again, were simple...lemonade, sweet tea and water! I do provide lemons and limes for people to add to their drinks if they want.
So there is the breakdown of building your menu. When you first think of hosting a dinner party it can be overwhelming, but if you take a little time and break everything down it's not bad. Now how I go about grocery shopping for our dinner parties. I am very much type A personality. I like things planned out and organized so I am not running around at the last minute trying to get things done. With that being said I start shopping for our dinner parties weeks in advance. "Woah Woah Woah, gettin' a little ahead of yourself there, aren't you, Shelby?!" Nope...just being prepared! It's okay if you don't like doing things this way, but this is what I have found works best for us. So if I know our next dinner party is in 4 weeks I will pick up a few nonperishable food items as well as paper products.
Taking it back to our Summer Soiree....once everything was set in stone I starting picking up things and included it in my grocery order (to see how we grocery shop, go here.) That way the week before or day before our dinner party I was buying a lot at once. So one weekend I picked up the canned nacho cheese, canned chili, and pickles. One weekend I picked up plastic cups, napkins and plastic utensils...and so on and so on. Then the week of our dinner party I picked up the perishable items, such as, the hot dogs and buns, toppings (onions, tomatoes, etc.) for the hot dogs, and chips. Thankfully our pantry at our home is a decent size so we are able to keep everything in there, but when we were in our apartment we weren't so fortunate with cabinet/pantry space. If this is the case, you can keep a small box in your laundry room or a hall closet. As long as it's sealed it should be fine!
Another example, we are planning on hosting Friendsgiving again this year. I have pretty much already planned it out and I have my list made of things we need to get. I know that this year, instead of using real dinnerware we are going to use plastic plates. Friendsgiving is planned for mid November, but I will start buying items like the plastic plates probably around end of September - early October. Friendsgiving is always a little fancier than our other dinner parties, so we will use cloth napkins. I have found a good deal on them on Amazon and I'll probably order those at the end of next month. Planning ahead and buying things ahead of time help me 1.) Save money and 2.) Not to forget anything. 3.) Saves time. Once I buy something at the store or it delivers then I cross it off my list of things to get. So when the week of our dinner party rolls around I'm not making five stops at different places everyday after work, and I should only have perishable food items left to purchase.
That was a long post! So here is a breakdown of all that up there...
Is there anything that you would add to this? Any questions? I hope this information is useful for you, I've enjoyed breaking it all down so far!