Planning a dinner party on a budget

Published on September 10, 2015 9:56 am, by

We’ve been throwing this topic around the office a little.  Everyone has different ideas about what’s acceptable and what’s not.  Do you ask your guests to contribute to food or do you do it yourself?

This post is all about helping you plan your dinner party, so you can do it on the cheap particularly when you need to provide and prepare all the food.  Some people like to provide the drinks too, and that’s OK we’ll do a section on that to help you out.

Remember Google is your friend.  Recipes galore are available at no cost.  I also like to look at Pinterest for inspiration.


Entrees can range from a bowl of chips to tapas to an antipasto plate.

We like to experiment a little with entrees.

A recent favourite that was light and well liked was using cucumber as a base and making bite size snacks.  We put either tuna or feta cheese and a sundried tomato on top.  They were very tasty and easily restocked as they disappeared fast!

Another is making up some pizza dough, making your own basil pesto and scraping olive oil and pesto on the dough and popping in the oven for long enough to cook the bases.  Cheap, easy and soaks up some of the pre-dinner alcohol.

Main course

Without a doubt the office favourite is a roast meal.  For value, taste and ease of preparation it is hands down the winner.

Meat – check out the grocery store catalogues and go with what’s on sale.  Ordinarily roast chicken and roast pork will be cheaper than lamb and beef.

Vegies – Go seasonal.  Lots of vegies can be roasted.  Consider potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, fennel, parsnip, carrots, onions, garlic – need I go on?

Other veggies – it’s always nice to have something fancy in the vegie space.  Again check what’s in season.  Some favourites are cauliflower cheese and parmesan roasted broccoli.  Don’t roast the potatoes, but mash them with some of your favourite herbs.

Bread – not required, but pop some garlic & rosemary on some bread rolls and it’s a winner.

Gravy – google for recipes using the liquid and fat from the roast or buy a couple of sachets and drain the liquid in for extra flavour.


First things first.  Check your cupboards, pantry, and freezer and see what’s available to use.  We had a win recently making the yummiest chocolate cake only having to purchase some chocolate.  Everything else we had.  We’ve also learnt that you can exchange ingredients successfully.  We exchanged flour for coconut flour to make it gluten free.

Another win was an amazing blueberry cake, made with yogurt, frozen berries, lemon and ingredients that we had in our pantry.  Remember google is your friend.  If you type in dessert and your ingredients you could luck in to a yummy dessert that uses what you have.

Some relatively inexpensive ideas are citrus tarts or cake.  Who doesn’t like a nice fresh cake?  Dessert can also be lots of fun.  Whip up a mousse.  Or bake some cookies and put 2 together with ice-cream in the middle.

Right now the perfect dessert could be fresh strawberries with some chocolate sauce.  Or make your own sundaes with strawberries on top.  At less than $2 a punnet, they are the perfect dessert accompaniment or star.


I would say it’s the norm for visitors to rock up with at least one bottle of wine in hand, so a nice option is to start the evening with a punch or sangria and let your guests take care of the wine for the evening.

Again, check your cupboards.  An easy starter drink is punch, different varieties can be made with different spirits.

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Jen is an experienced banking professional who loves wine, coffee, finding a bargain and of course her three beautiful children. Since Jen's first budget led her to buy a home at 20, Jen has passionately helped others to make better decisions with their money.

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