Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Entertaining with Brittany of Marie Callender's Meals

I know it's only Monday, but it's never too early to think about the upcoming weekend. If you're thinking about throwing a backyard BBQ or outdoor dinner party, there's plenty of time to send out a few invites and make some plans. Brittany of Marie Callender's Meals has some budget-friendly entertaining tips to get you started.

Beer popsicle from Bakers Royale, Rooftop party from Jess Lively, Bruschetta from Fiscally Chic,
Nautical crab boil party from Design*Sponge, Clubhouse turkey burger from Iowa Girl Eats

After a long and arduous winter, summer has finally arrived. That means flip-flops, sundresses and all the BBQ your heart desires. From cook outs and picnics to outdoor dinner parties and mixers, the summer is one of the best times to entertain; and it starts to add up quickly. Food and party supplies can get pretty expensive, but with some creativity (and little common sense) you can save quite a bit on summer entertaining.

Always Get a Head Count

If you don’t want to be stuck if an extra five pounds of potato salad and twenty cheeseburgers too many then be sure to get an estimate before you grocery shop. You can also minimize unnecessary spending by taking into account what different people will eat. Find out how many vegetarians will attend, how many people will bring their children, who doesn’t eat red meat, etc. Such thorough meal planning may seem like a lot of work, but it will help insure that you have something for everyone without going over budget.

Use Seasonal Produce

This is a good rule of thumb for cooking year round. You can save quite a bit of money by purchasing seasonal produce at the grocery store or local farmers’ market. Try grilling recipes with summer squashes, artichoke hearts, eggplant, red onions, sweet potatoes or peppers. Most of these veggies can also be roasted in the oven. Loading up on fruits and vegetables will not only save you money, but it’s a healthier alternative to some of the more traditional (and caloric) BBQ side dishes.

Make Your Own Marinades

You can save quite a bit in the long run by buying the spices and oils to make your own dressing and marinades, rather purchasing ones that are premade. It also gives you the opportunity to experiment with more flavors. There are a handful of ingredients you should have on hand all summer to do so, including: sea salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, soy sauce, sesame oil, cumin, brown sugar, Italian seasoning, lemon juice, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Chances are you already have half of these items in your pantry, so it will just be a matter of experimenting with different recipes or concocting your own!

Be Smart about Stock Piling

So many frugal living gurus push the practice of stock piling, but if you’re buying products that will sit in the pantry until they expire, than it’s a waste of money. If you do a fair amount of entertaining then stocking up on popular products can save you a lot in the long run. Keeping extra burger patties or dessert pies in the freezer will save money buy buying in bulk and help you avoid emergency grocery runs. But be weary of stocking up on things, simply because it’s on sale. If you don’t think you’ll use it, don’t even think about buying it.

DIY D├ęcor

Decorations can add a lot to the ambiance of your party. Be it an assortment of flowers or interesting lighting, you can really transform your home and make it even more memorable. But rather than spending a ton of money at a party supply store, spend a small amount at a craft or hardware store. There are numerous ways to upcycle household items to create interesting decorations. For example, spray paint wine and beer bottles to create small vases or make your own paper lanterns for fun outdoor lightening.

Brittany writes about frugal living and family meal ideas on behalf of Marie Callender's Meals. For more about easy meals, like chicken pot pie and comfort bakes, visit www.mariecallendersmeals.com.

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