Sunday, October 24, 2010

Top 9-Holiday Entertaining Tips!

Hello All-

My savvy holiday savings team is currently working on interviews with me so as I wait to find out all the things they are doing to save money we will take a break from interviews this week. However, next week be ready to see some real life examples of how my team is saving $ this holiday season!

I have had a few Facebook friends ask for tips on entertaining and how to save $ on holiday meals. I think I have about 9 tips that I think might make your holiday entertaining easier and more enjoyable!

Tip #1- If you plan to have people over to your home (bless you, it's a lot of work!, but a lot of fun too). My #1 tip is plan ahead! I know you are probably tired of me saying this, but it helps keep you sane and helps you actually enjoy the event. I typically find myself waiting until the last minute until my events because I am so busy, but this year for my annual Halloween party I planned ahead and it made things so much easier. I started on Wed with prep for a Saturday event and it made the day much easier as most of the work was spread over 4 days instead of just the morning of the event. Save yourself time, spread out the duties and make your event fun and enjoyable!

Tip #2- Make your guest list and plan the menu at least 30 days (or more!) ahead if possible. This allows you to make sure you have the budget figured out for the correct amount of people and can start purchasing any food items or paper goods that will be needed for the party. Stick to your budget! Holiday events can quickly spiral out of control if you don't have firm attendee #'s and a menu figured out.

Tip #3- Take a tip from the pros at any major hotel or restaurant venue. What dishes are cheapest when running a catered meal? A buffet or sit down dinner? A buffet. What's cheaper pasta or high end meats? Pasta! So, take a tip from the pros and your wallet....people don't care as much as what you serve as much as they appreciate that you are enteratining so they can sit back and enjoy! I have experienced that sometimes the most memorable dinners were those that weren't "traditional" holiday fare or that you provide an experience around another culture. If you do a pasta spread...maybe incorporate in some Italian traditions or if your family fares from a faraway land...bring that in somehow into the non-traditional food buffet, but it will still be cool and nobody will know you saved $ that way! A buffet spread will allow people to pick what they want and not be required to eat only 1 option. Some of my favorites have been a pasta bar with all types of sauces and toppings. This works well for people who have dietary restrictions or picky eaters...they simply put on what they want! A baked potato bar is always another great holiday hit because it is a nice warm dish and people can choose their own toppings. My aunt one year made "haystacks"...basically tortilla chips and we had about 12 options of toppings to put on them. It was delicious and CHEAP! Everyone talked about that meal as we really enjoyed not sitting down to a formal turkey dinner, but we all got to personalize our meals and it was different and fun!

Tip #4- If you have a large crowd or a diverse crowd or you simply have the biggest house for hosting, but don't have time to prep all the food for everyone a potluck is a great way to save money and allow all the attendees to participate and ease up the costs on you. If you are hosting at your house...this is a fair request to have others chip in! To make this easy, you could do a few things. You could ask last names with A-L to bring desserts and M-Z to bring side dishes. I have been to a few parties where the letter of your last name had to be the first letter of the dish...this was hilarious! Since I was "H", I could bring hot dip with chips or something with ham, etc....that is kind of a fun way to make a potluck fun! Another thing you could do if you want to be a bit more specific in what you get you could tell guests it is a tradtional theme, Italian Theme, Far East theme or Mexican theme and to bring foods from that region. This keeps the food items flowing well within a certain group of foods and everything will flow a bit better. It is really up to you and how adventurous you are. A full table of desserts? It is the holidays, but these tips can ensure that you get a balance of food items!

Tip #5-One of my favorite dining ideas was one we did a lot when I was growing up! Progressive dinners can be a very fun way to keep costs down and share the experience of dining at multiple places. This is usually best for groups of 20 and under, you get too many people and it can be too much work. Ideally you find 3-4 houses of people attending that live fairly close to each other. Each person or family has 1 course at their house. You start at one house for apps, 1 house for soup/salad, 1 house for main dish, 1 house for dessert. These could be certainly combined as your needs require, but it is really fun to eat and then move onto the next house. Kids love it, just make sure to tell them when you will be moving on so they don't get too involved in playing and have to stop mid-point!

Tip #6-Party goody bags? Think things kids can really use in the future. You can find really fun stuff like pencils/stencils and worthwhile gifts at $1 store. Skip candy and unhealthy will get plenty of that this holiday season!

Tip #7- Hostess Gifts, should you give them? In a word...yes! There is nothing better than working your buns off to get a party ready and then having your guests acknowledge this hard work by presenting you with flowers, wine or some other nice (cheap!) hostess gift. Immediately display flowers...not mathing your decor? Slip them in the bathroom...they will jazz up that space! If you get a gift you just won't or can't use, then stick a piece of tape on the bottom with who gave it to you and re-gift as a hostess gift at a party that the person won't be at or give to service professional (mail carrier, hair stylist, etc). Regifting is not a taboo topic to me, if you won't use it give it to someone else who will truly enjoy it!

Tip #8-If you have a large family or a bunch of extended families that get together at the holidays consider keeping the gift giving simple! I offer 3 tried and true tips for this!
1) Draw cuts down on gifts you have to buy and cost overall, just make sure to set some guidelines around cost so that everyone feels they got a fair return.
2) Do a group ornament or other type gift exchange.
3) Don't buy gifts, but do an experience party (schedule a round of Laser Tag or miniature golf, paint pottery at a local studio (BrushFire!) or volunteer your time at a food shelter, carol at a nursing home or do some other type of service gift...those are so helpful around the holiday!

Tip #9-If you host an annual party consider purchasing your paper goods or items you always need at your party post season and store in tubs. This way you get a good deal and you don't have to think about those tasks the following year, just pull out your tub and you are ready to go!

Happy Saving!

Summer H.

No comments: