Simple ways to cater your party on a budget

Whether you are planning simple nibbles for a few friends or a formally catered event on a large scale, here are some quick ways to save on the costs of party food without skimping on style.

Simple ways to cater your party on a budget

Easy ways to save

Choose and serve food in the right way and you can provide a sumptuous spread while sticking to your budget.

  • Save with spreads and dips: Make expensive ingredients such as smoked salmon go further by combining them with dressings, cream cheese and vegetables in dips and spreads. Serve spreads with crackers and breads, or use them as fillings for puff pastry shells and wraps.
  • Two for the show: Even at a formal sit-down meal you can drop a course and serve two rather than three. This suits many people's appetites, and as long as the serving is leisurely your guests will still enjoy time at the table. Either serve a main course and dessert with a good selection of bread to start, or appetizer and main course only with chocolates and coffee to finish.
  • Avoid too many choices:  Most people will have one or two slices of meat, but if they are offered fish as well they may choose both — and then eat only some of each. Ask each guest to choose a main course — either the meat or the fish — then serve the main dish on individual plates.
  • Serve on a platter: For a sit-down dinner, serve side dishes family-style on a platter that can be passed around then set in the middle of the table — rather than portions on individual plates. This makes dishes go about 20 percent further.

Calculating quantities

Get your quantities right and you will avoid wasting food or appearing stingy.

  • If you are serving finger food alone, allow eight to 12 pieces for each person.
  • 450 grams (one pound) of pasta serves four to six people at a sit-down meal or eight to 12 at a buffet.
  • For a mixed buffet, allow 110 grams to 170 grams (four ounces to six ounces) of meat, fish or cheese for each person.
  • A sit-down meal should contain 140 grams to 170 grams (five ounces to six ounces) of meat or fish for each person and three vegetable dishes.

A mouth-watering menu you can afford

You can serve a simplified but still impressive menu when you base it around seasonal and other inexpensive ingredients, and cuts out unnecessary extras.

  • For example, serve seasonal vegetables, shrimp instead of scallops, stuffed chicken breasts instead of duck, and great coffee, homemade desserts and fresh seasonal fruit instead of liqueurs and custom cakes or pastries.

Throwing a great party with delicious food doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. Follow these easy tips and you'll be surprised by how far your catering budget can stretch!

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