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on a b
by Patricia Virella
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A dinner party always sounds like a good idea. The combination of flowing wine, non-stop conversation and wonderfully appetizing food seem like a no-fail, 100% guaranteed recipe for a marvelous dinner fete. Start actually planning one, however, and you’ll soon find that it’s a bit more involved than that. Who will you invite? What should you cook? To theme or not to theme? The dilemmas abound. But most important of all, there’s one big question that needs to be addressed before all others: How much can you afford to spend? Unless your wallet’s bursting with cash, there’s just no avoiding the budget issue. Fortunately, entertaining guests on limited funds doesn’t have to mean looking like a cheapskate. Check out these tips and tricks for throwing a dinner party on the strictest of budgets — and doing it so well that your lucky guests will never guess they’re getting less than the full-on gourmet treatment.

first things first
I once threw a wildly successful dinner party for six people with $40.00 — and that’s with a lot of experimenting with new dishes. The trick to being able to cook like an epicure without going flat broke? Deciding on my budget first, then choosing how many guests to invite after, and not the other way around. After all, it’s always better to feed a few friends well, than to serve a ho-hum meal to everyone you know.

After you’ve decided how much you can afford to spend on your dinner fete, figure out how many people you can realistically feed with your budget. You should estimate that each person will cost between $5 -$10. (The precise amount you’ll spend per guest, of course, depends on what you cook, and if you’re providing any alcoholic beverages.) If you’re on a small budget, opt for a nice, intimate dinner party. Start with $30.00 or even $20.00 and see how much you can stretch your dollar while still preparing a great meal. Hosting a string of smaller dinner parties spread out over a generous period of time allows you to entertain all your favorite people, without putting a huge dent in your bank account.

how to save
Now that you know how much you can spend, and how many mouths you’re feeding, you’re ready to start planning the meal. The challenge here, of course, is to squeeze the maximum amount of fabulous meal that you can get out of whatever sum of money you can afford to invest in your fete. There are many generic ways to save — clipping coupons, looking at store circulars — but it’s entirely likely that these tactics may not provide you with the savings you need. Fifty-five cents can only bring your total down so much. If you’re looking to save $5.00, even $10.00, you’ll need to know a few secrets of the budget gourmets.

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