Memorial Day weekend kicks off the outdoor entertaining season. Hosting a frugal al fresco party is simple if you stick to the basics, says Jeanette Pavini, household savings expert for coupons.com. Her tips including shopping the sales, avoiding convenience foods and skipping the soda.
Memorial Day officially kicks off the outdoor entertaining season. We eat, drink and play al fresco on decks and patios, in yards and parks.
Grilling out and picnicking can be an inexpensive way to entertain, especially if you follow cost-cutting advice from Jeanette Pavini, a household savings expert for coupons.com.
In a phone interview with The Canton (Ohio) Repository, Pavini said the first thing to cross off the shopping list is bottled water and pop.
“Drinks definitely add up,” she said. “Bring out pitchers of water. Offer drinks that can be made in quantity, like lemonade, ice tea and Sangria.”
And when it comes to ice, DIY.
“Don’t waste your money on ice — make your own. I hate the thought of paying for what is just water,” she said.
Planning ahead, watching for sales and using coupons helps cut costs as well.
“If you’re buying liquor, take advantage of those mail-in rebates. It’s as simple as saving receipts and sending it off,” she said.
Instead of the grocery store, check dollar stores for low priced picnic supplies, and home stores for charcoal. When planning your menu, avoid convenience items.
“Precut is always going to cost you more — fruits, veggies,” Pavini warned.
If your party is too big for the backyard, find a larger, but still free, site.
“Many picnic areas are free. If you call the park, many will let you reserve tables and barbecue pits,” Pavini said.
When it comes to entertainment, the oldies are the goodies.
“It’s back to basics — at parties, pin the tail on the donkey,” she said. “At parks, baseball or other games.”
HOW TO CELEBRATE ON A BUDGET
With a bit of planning and ingenuity, you can throw a big party on a small budget. We scoured websites such as www.realsimple.com and www.goodhousekeeping.com for frugal advice on food, decorations and entertainment for summer parties. Here are a few of our favorite tips.
Save on stamps. For informal gatherings, more and more people are using free online invitation sites or sending out invites through social networks or email. This saves on stationary and postage. Consider including a rain date on your invitation.
Get a co-host. Sharing the expense of a party with another person or couple is a great way to save money and time. And prepping is more fun when done with a friend.
Cut food costs. Hold a wine and cheese party on the patio. Ask guests to bring a bottle of wine in a plain bag, then do a blind tasting. Or host an al fresco brunch. The weather is cooler in the morning, and the food is cheaper and easier to prepare. Nobody will expect alcohol, which can be a significant savings on your food budget.
Tablecloths. If using different sized and shaped tables but want a uniform or theme look, buy discount fabric for $1-$2 a yard to drape tables in the same design. Alternatively, buy flat sheets at a discount store and cut to size. For a formal look, drape tables in a plain color cloth, then top with a smaller, patterned cloth.
Dishes. Skip the expensive disposables. Use your regular dishes or reusable plastic ones and your regular flatware. Mismatched dishes work well when dining outdoors. Pick up interesting plates and bowls at flea markets or garage sales.
Use what you’ve got. A loaf pan is the perfect size for holding a row of hamburger buns. A mesh colander can serve as a bug guard over a plate of food. Foil cupcake liners make pretty and reflective holders for votive candles or tea lights. If it’s windy, use jelly jars.
Garden theme. Use cheap terra cotta garden pots as holders for silverware, napkins or condiments. Or line a large pot with napkins and use it to serve chips. For centerpiece, tuck three potted herbs into a basket. After the party, plant the herbs in your garden.
Games. Go old school for cheap entertainment: Softball, croquet, bocce ball, badminton, Frisbee. Or team up for relay races.
Party favors. When you make your barbecue sauce or salsa for the party, make extra. Then send everyone home with a jar of it.