It is the season of holiday parties and get togethers with family and friends. Of course we have the major family parties, but during the month of December, there are many last minute drop in guests and of course we don’t want to disappoint! The key to being able to whip up a family sized party without a huge budget is using a few great tips! I thought I would share them with you today and show you how I was able to put together a complete dinner for 15 people in 2 and a half hours and on a budget! That is including table decor, food and a complete dessert bar!
1. Take a little help: When you want to feel like you are ready for anything, you need to plan ahead and take a little help from the store. Stocking up your freezer with great appetizers, small bites and large party size meals means you are ready for anything! I love these Stouffer’s Party Size Entrees (Macaroni & Cheese and Lasagna) because they are delicious and feed a huge crowd. Digiorno Rising Crust Pizzas are also a great crowd pleaser that you can keep on hand in the freezer. Plus holiday treats and ice creams like Edy’s/Dreyer’s Limited Edition Slow Churned Ice Cream in Eggnog and Peppermint mean you can have dessert ready in no time.
2. Make it your own: Just because you are taking help from the store doesn’t mean you can’t add a little something to it and take all the credit! Throw some herbs on the lasagna when it comes out of the oven or add a basil and tomato salad to the center of a pepperoni pizza. Or, my favorite- cook off some bacon and mix it into macaroni and cheese and then transfer it to your own casserole dish, top with more cheddar cheese and the rest of your bacon and pop it back in the oven. When it comes out, your guest are sure to be impressed that you were able to whip this together in no time!
3. Pick your battles: I always prefer to use real plates, glasses, silverware and napkins whenever I can, but when you are having parties every week, the dishes can be daunting! For this reason I always use the real plates and glasses, but I choose to pick up some disposable silverware because I find it to be the most annoying to clean. Plus, I generally do not have enough for the larger parties on hand. I do prefer the silver plastic ware that is designed to look real so I get the same affect with none of the work.
4. Think outside of the box: I am all about affordable parties and saving money, who isn’t?! I do like having fabric napkins whenever possible but those are not cheap! You can end up paying a few dollars a napkin and that eats at the budget quick! But here is my little secret I discovered for this party. While I was at Walmart picking up everything for the party, I found these 18 packs of wash cloths for $4. Can you believe that !??! I have never seen a more affordable napkin and the wash cloths really added some texture to the table and, let’s face it, worked way better than any other cloth napkin would. Now, this would not fit all themes, but it totally went with my rustic winter table scape!
5. Utilize old decor in new ways: There is no reason to feel like you need to reinvent the wheel for every party. I spray painted the branches for the Hanukkah party I had a week or so ago and just added a burlap ribbon to the vase and put it on this table as well. The tables still look completely different but I was able to save myself some time to work on the centerpieces.
6. Take time to DIY one portion of the party: In my opinion, there are only a handful of parties where everything from decor to menu is made completely from scratch and those are parties on holidays; such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter and Passover. All other parties, I like to focus on one wow aspect and the others I take a little help on. For this party, since I was able to take the stress out of the menu and the food, I chose to work on a fun glitter tree centerpiece while the food was in the oven. These were super simple to make and only used paper, spray adhesive and glitter. I folded the paper to make a cone, glued the edge and trimmed it down. Then I used spray adhesive and covered the whole cone and sprinkled it completely in glitter. These are simple, quick and easy to make and not only do they sparkle and shine on your dinner table, but they sit nicely on mantles and end tables after the party is over.
7. Don’t be scared to pull from around the house: Right before party time, nothing is off limits. If it will help finish off the table, buffet or meal, I will grab it. With this table, I felt like it needed one more aspect and I had two extra cones trees- that is when I noticed my large candlesticks from my mantle. I quickly grabbed them, put them on the table, added the trees and sprinkled some cranberries to bring it all together. Plus, whenever you can do this, you are saving money because home decor is free decor!
8. Sprinkle something: I am a fan of something running down the length of the table to bring it all together. Of course there is a table runner underneath the centerpieces ( I have used anything from painter’s brown paper roll to doilies, to fabric scraps to a mesh roll like this time) but something sprinkled down the table just adds a little something extra. On Hanukkah I did gelt, on fall holidays I do leaves or acorns and I always do cranberries for Christmas.
9. Make dessert easy: In our house, dessert does not come until all the dinner dishes are dealt with and after sorting dishes, no one wants to deal with a temperamental or complicated dessert. For this party I did a build your own sundae bar which was great because I could set everything up ahead of time and just at the last minute added the sauces and ice creams to the ice buckets. It was awesome, super easy and everyone got exactly what they wanted. I added fun touches like Nestle chocolate, peanut butter and white chocolate chips- divine with these great holiday flavors. Since there were so many kids, I had to have some Butterfinger bells too!
10. Always, always plan ahead and prep! Do whatever you can before the party. Set the tale in the morning so you can enjoy the afternoon with the family while the food cooks. Craft throughout the week so you can include the kids. Plan the menu so you can do the shopping during your normal trip to the store. Make a list and you will feel much more organized about the whole thing!
I hope these tips help you plan your next holiday party with ease!!
Keep up with Nestle to get more great ideas!
Also, check out the Live SoFab Holiday Digital Magazine which is featuring Nestle and has more great holiday tips!!
What is your favorite holiday planning tip?!?