When you’re entertaining, you need to balance money, time and taste. I just had a grad night party for my eldest and I won’t say it was the cheapest I could have done, but it was reasonable and balanced the time I had available with the money I had available.
My daughter wanted a “simple” barbecue, that is hot dogs and hamburgers. But we were inviting lots of adults, including a few vegetarians and a few who eat no pork. So first off, I bought all-beef hot dogs. I also decided to buy preformed hamburger patties to save time since we had a few other things going on around the same time. I decided to add some chicken breasts and a few portobello mushrooms as well. The hardest part was deciding about how many of each thing to plan on for 45 – 50 people. I figured two hot dogs per person and figured on about half hot dogs, slightly more than half hamburgers, half a dozen mushrooms, and a large tray pack of chicken breasts. (Note: I marinated the chicken breasts in my favorite chicken marinade and split them into two bags. I had one bag left over at the end so just froze them in smaller packs of 2 breasts per bag with some marinade in each bag. I also had leftover hamburgers, still frozen, and leftover hot dogs, easy to throw in the freezer for later, so those will all get used up.) We cooked a bit more than we ate last night but had hot dogs for lunch and green salad with sliced chicken and the leftover mushroom sliced up for dinner.
The menu I ended up with was:
- hot dogs
- barbecued chicken breasts
- barbecued portobello mushrooms
- vegetarian baked beans
- potato salad (homemade and brought by my niece)
- pasta salad with veggies (homemade and brought by my niece)
- Chinese chicken salad (homemade and brought by my girls’ stepmom by request)
- fruit salad
- green salad
For appetizers we had:
- hummus and crackers (brought by a friend)
- chips and salsa (brought by a friend)
- veggies wraps (olives, red peppers, cream cheese, spinach leaves, grated carrots)
- spinach dip (bought at Costco) and French bread cubes
- pretzels and crackers and various dips and cream cheese (my youngest talked me into some raspberry chipoltle sauce we sampled at Costco and I had some wasabi mustard dip I’d bought a while back)
And I bought a large sheet cake for dessert. This ended up at about $1 per person and was far better tasting and looking than I could have done! For smaller groups, I would have made dessert but for larger ones this works out great.
Oh I also made two large relish plates for the burgers which included a head of iceberg lettuce, sliced onions, sliced pickles, and sliced tomatoes. Ended up with leftover onions and tomatoes but those will easily get used up in various things or I can always just chop and freeze the onions.
I haven’t added up the cost but my main point was that you need to balance the time you have available and figure out what things might make sense to buy pre-made. While I normally make our hamburger patties, for a large party I felt good about my decision to buy the preformed ones. Likewise the spinach dip. But I bought fresh fruit and made the fruit salad based on what looked good and ripe at the store (strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, watermelon, grapes and nectarines). A neighbor was kind enough to loan me some fridge space (as well as outdoor table and chairs) so I made the salad up in the morning and refrigerated it till the party started. I did the same with the relish plates for the burgers.
Oh, for the bean dish I took this four bean casserole recipe in the crock-pot and modified it to use vegetarian baked beans instead of the pork and beans and then left out the bacon. It was just as delicious as the original I think and might become my new standard since it’s a bit healthier.
Any of you have tips to share for large parties? This was fun but the largest one I’ve done that wasn’t a total potluck, although I did have some help as noted. I don’t have an extra fridge or freezer as some folks do so the neighbors’ offer of their spare fridge space was a lifesaver. Same with the tables and chairs I borrowed. Oh, we did buy plastic table cloths to cover all the tables so they looked coordinated by the time we were done! We bought a dozen helium balloons and tied a few to each table. We lucked out with fantastic weather and I think the party was a success.