You may recall that we’ve stated numerous times on the Refined Side that you don’t need to have piles of money to live a luxurious life (although it doesn’t hurt in the least). We didn’t just say this because we think it’s true – we say it because we know it’s true. There are so many ways that you can live La Vie En Luxe without breaking the bank, and today we’re going to cover some of our favourite brink-of-bankruptcy entertaining ideas that you can impress with while spending virtually no money at all.
Tip #1 – Shop the Specials & Use Only Seasonal Produce
I once hosted a dinner party where I declared to the guests that the dinner would be a homemade lobster ravioli. While I knew lobster was expensive, what I didn’t know was that lobster at that time of the year was extremely expensive as there are simply so few fresh lobsters that the stores and fishmongers can charge an arm and a leg (claw?) for them. I have several friends who love to host dinner parties who watch the store flyers to see when a particular cut of beef will go on sale or will watch to see when the stores start to advertise a specific ingredient that they can take advantage of. Another veteran tip is to do your homework of what is in season. Strawberries, for example, are one of my favourite fruit when they are fresh and available cheaply in the supermarket. Off season, they are a fortune and the cardboard and tough berries taste nothing like the juicy, ripe sweet berries from the summer. Sticking to seasonal produce lets you get higher quality (another of our definitions of luxury) ingredients and at a fraction of the cost.
Tip #2 – Homemade Saves Money
Consider for a moment the best bread you have ever tasted. Chances are you got it freshly made from a bakery and the memory of the warm bread is enough to send you to the travel agent to book your next flight to France. While that may just be me, the French have a leg up on the rest of us with their fresh baguettes in the morning. For pennies (OK, quarters and dimes) you can bake a home-baked bread that instantly takes your dinner up a notch and you don’t even need to spend a fortune on the artisanal breads at the market. You can also not go even remotely wrong with cooking up a large pot of pasta – and there is nothing that seems to impress people more than homemade pasta, which is surprisingly easy! I make homemade pasta lasagnas and freeze them so that I always have a tasty and delicious meal on hand for impromptu dinner parties.
Tip #3 – Serve a Cocktail not the Bar
Alcohol is expensive! One of the best entertaining tips I have is to make a large batch of a “special” celebratory drink to have on hand when people enter your fête that you can control the ingredients of rather than having to worry about keeping a stocked bar at the ready for requests. When you are making a cocktail, the blending of flavours tends to allow you the ability to use less than the best to obtain a similar result. My personal favourites are champagne cocktails, in which I substitute a sparkling wine or prosecco for the champagne and can barely discern the difference when there are other ingredients blended in. When I was younger and on a more reserved budget, I would also have a couple of bottles of good but inexpensive wine on reserve in the event that someone asks for something other than your cocktail and hope that and since people generally arrive to parties or events with something in hand you can add a bottle of vino (or two!) to your supply.
Tip #4 – It’s the Little Things
If you take the time, you can easily find little ways of adding something to your home as décor very inexpensively for your gathering. I have used pinecones that I found outdoors as decorations for fall or winter events (just make sure they’re really clean and dry) and gathered huge heaping armfuls of wildflowers that were on the side of the road which look overwhelmingly luxurious when displayed in the proper vase. A friend has a signature decoration style of gathering large chunks of parsley and tying them with twine as decoration for plates when you have dinner at her home. The parsley is known to help bad breath after a meal and she cuts it out of her indoor herb garden so it costs virtually nothing. My mother-in-law serves espresso coffees at her house with curls of lemon peel on the top of the coffee, which instantly takes it from a cup poured carelessly from the machine to an experience.
Tip # 5 – Never Apologize
Julia Child famously said to never apologize if a meal doesn’t turn out the way you had intended in the kitchen. This is also the case if you’re entertaining on a budget! Don’t apologize to guests for not having a huge bar selection or that the cut of beef you wanted was out of your price range (true stories), but embrace the true reason why they are in your home, attending your event. Luxury is about all kinds of things and one of the fundamental pleasures of life is spending time with those you love and whom you want to spend time with. In the grand course of life, no one will remember that you served a sparkling prosecco rather than a Dom Pérignon with your toasts – just that you took the time to put some thought into your event and invited them to share part of your day with you.
What are some of your favourite budget entertaining ideas? We’d love to hear!