Last year, I went to dinner with a couple friends I hadn’t seen in a while. “We should do this more often!” we said, and one of the girls suggested we follow through – we’d continue to go out to eat the first Wednesday of every month.
This sounded great, but also expensive given my tiny restaurant budget. So, I was relieved when the friend suggested having a rotating dinner party each month instead of going to a restaurant.
I’m not really a cook, so I was a little spooked during the first dinner party at my friend’s house, where everything was homemade and pictures were taken for her food blog. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find myself mostly capable, even if I do try to choose desserts and salads that I can make ahead of time so there are fewer opportunities to screw up!
What I was unpleasantly surprised by was the cost of making a “fancy” dinner.
Here is the menu I put together the first time I hosted:
Cafe Caramel Fondue
Creamy Restaurant-Style Tortellini
Cheesy Garlic Bread
Individual Grand Rasberry Trifles
Francis Coppola Merlot
Notice that there is no meat in any of these dishes, but I still ended up shelling out close to $100, plus the half day I took off work to cook and clean!
Obviously, I needed a lesson in fancy-schmancy dinner party budgeting. So, one year and three hosted dinner parties later, here’s the menu I’ve put together for this month:
Bruschetta and Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Italian Garden Salad
Banana Split Pie
Iced Tea (We’ve pretty much stopped serving wine since we live so far apart and can’t drink a whole bottle)
While I’ve done much better this month by purchasing the chicken and cheese on sale a few weeks ago and freezing it, choosing the pie based on a sale on strawberries and omitting the pecans, etc., total cost is still about $35, not counting the things I already had on hand like milk, tea and salad dressing. Sure, it will feed five people, but I usually spend much less than $7 per person.
I guess the good news is that I’ve finally reached the break-even point for dinner parties versus restaurant meals. $35 every three months vs. $12 every month…?
Of course, now, we’ve decided to alternate restaurant visits and dinner parties. I wonder why?