Serving Crowds & Staying on Budget

Holiday season is approaching and that means the hosts and hostesses of the world are planning our holiday gatherings. Whether it’s a Halloween Party, Friendsgiving or Cookie Exchange Party (my personal favorite), it’s time to get your theme together and start planning out the menu. We also know that the holidays usually have us all looking in our pockets to make sure we aren’t spending too much on gifts, gatherings and peppermint lattes.

Here are a few tips and tricks to keep your gatherings within budget:

A Limited & Lavish Bar
If you’ll be serving guest any alcoholic beverages, you don’t need the full bar available. It’s easier on you and your pockets to serve two big batch recipes, typically one being wine focused e.g. sangria and the other being alcohol-focused e.g. Christmas punch.  Men generally drink beer, so make sure to add that to the list. With this sample selection, your shopping list isn’t extensive and all of your bases are covered.

Avoid Sample Sizes
Not only do individual appetizers eat up your prep time, they’ll eat up your budget as well. The best way to serve a crowd is with large, serve yourself portions. Casseroles, meatballs, pinwheels and even some easy to make sliders should be your go-to when it comes to serving crowds. There are so many delicious recipes you can make, so underwhelmed guests will not be a concern.

Beef or Chicken
These two main ingredients are your friend. Once you venture into seafood and pork, your budget will increase. Try to keep your menu centered around these two ingredients. With a little thought, a pack of chicken and ground beef can become 4 different menu options with completely different tastes.

Double Duty Ingredients
The first three tips should keep your budget in control, but if you’re really on a tight budget, you just need to take some time out to plan. Once you have all of your menu ideas, gather them up and take a look at the ingredients. Combine the recipes that have similar ingredients or ingredients that you already have in the house and those are your winners. Buying unnecessary or one-time use ingredients is an expense that can be spent elsewhere.

With extra thought and preparation, you can pull off an amazing gathering with any type of budget. The only ingredients you really need are a handful of friends and a few pinches family and everyone will be full…of love!

Do you have any budget-friendly hosting tips you’d like to share? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Tis the season for…hot chocolate

If there is one thing I actually enjoy about the winter season, it’s hot chocolate. And popcorn balls. Hot chocolate and popcorn balls. But today, I’d like to explore my love for the many possibilities of hot chocolate.

So often the holidays just pass us by. We say we’re going to invite people over, we say we’re going to have a holiday party and then before you know it, it’s New Years Eve! I have a solution for you!

If you don’t have the time to pull together a cookie exchange party, white elephant party or even an ugly sweater party, consider having a hot chocolate party. It’s actually quite simple since you’re only offering beverages and maybe a few cookies or treats to enjoy. Be sure to invite your guests over after dinner time, as to manage their expectations of a very simple and sweet party. It’s all in the spirit of gathering with friends and family and enjoying the holidays. And hot chocolate.

Grab some mugs, invite your friends over and enjoy some of these delicious hot chocolate recipes with your loved ones.

The Classic Twist: Red Velvet Hot Chocolate 

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Inspiration Thursdays…Creative Ways to Label Food at a Party

Beyond the Essentials Event Blog - Creative Ways to Label Food at a PartyAs the host of a party, we deserve to have a good time too! But as someone commented on my recent post regarding hiring a bartender, sometimes our enjoyment is boggled down with serving our guests and answering a slew of questions, including, ” what is this? ” and ” what does this have in it?”.

When hosting an event in your home, usually you are familiar with the likes, dislikes and allergies of your guest list. If I have a guest who is allergic to a particular food item, when greeting them I tell them what on the menu was created with them in mind, and what items they should stay away from. There are usually only one or two guests with severe allergies, so it isn’t a major inconvenience on your part.

On the other hand, ” what is this?” will be asked by everyone. Here are a few creative (and fun) ways to label food for your guests. Continue reading

Splurge…Hire a Bartender

Beyond the Essentials Event Blog - Hire a BartenderA few years ago, I hosted a Signature Cocktail Party at my home. I invited all of my friends to bring their favorite cocktail recipe and serve it up over food and conversation. It was a great time, and I want to host it again, but I think next time, we’ll have someone else do all the work. While I am typically all about saving the budget, sometimes you need to splurge a little. The next time you are hosting an upscale event in your home, treat your guests and yourself by hiring a bartender.

Hiring a bartender will allow you to enjoy your party guests and take a break from tending the bar. Bartenders can also serve as great entertainment. An experienced and passionate mixologist will be shaking and pouring up delicious drinks for everyone. Work with them to create an exciting, colorful and tasty cocktail menu for everyone to enjoy.

Think about having your guests create the menu themselves as well. Create an extravagant bar full of fruit and herbs for your guests to mix and match and create their own signature cocktail.

You don’t have to break the bank on a bartender, recently licensed bartenders are eager to get real experience and will be willing to do so for a low cost.

The next time you’re hosting an upscale bridal shower, housewarming or even a holiday party in your home, consider hiring a bartender to serve you at your own party!

Hosting an Upscale Cookout

The weather is warmer, spring is officially here and it is time for cookouts! Cookouts  are always a great way to catch up with friends and family in a relaxing and casual setting. As a host, of course the great part of a cookout is the low maintenance in the planning and execution of it all. However, while it is a low maintenance event, there’s always room to scale it up, make it a cookout that stands out among the many we will all be attending this season.

No matter the occasion, graduations, Father’s day, birthday or just a get together with friends and family you can turn your cookout into a upscale yet casual event!

When planning your next cookout, keep these simple enhancement techniques in mind:

Presentation, Presentation, Presentation

Keep food cold and decorative using planters.

Keep food cold and decorative using planters.

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Let’s Plan Together… A Cookie Exchange Party

This weekend was the big day! The 3rd annual Cookie Party!

Beyond the Essentials Blog - A Cookie Exchange Party

The table was already getting full and everyone wasn’t even there yet! I had a few presentation platters available for those who didn’t have one and I made beautiful place cards using striped red and white card stock (which reminded me of candy canes) for everyone to write their cookie name and description.

I added to the fun of the photo taking with a few props. I made a santa hat, santa beard and Rudolph red nose (not shown). These were a hit!

Beyond the Essentials Blog - A Cookie Exchange Party

The dips were also a great hit!!! I would definitely suggest having a Dip Bar at your next party or get together. The bar included Chorizo and Cheese, Bacon and Onion, BBQ Chicken and Red Pepper Dip. The BBQ Chicken and Chorizo and Cheese seemed to be the winners of the evening.

It was such and amazing time planning this year’s cookie party. Definitely consider hosting a small scaled one this season or a full planned one for next year! It’s become a tradition for my friends, so I hope it’s a tradition you can bring into your circle.

On a personal note, this week was a big week in more ways than one, my now fiance and I got engaged! I am so happy and feel truly thankful to have him in my life, for now, a lifetime!  While it won’t be in the very immediate future, please be on the lookout for great wedding planning posts.