Hosting can get expensive really quickly, especially if you are one to be hesitant to ask for help around the holidays. Some times guests forget how expensive it can cost to feed a large group of people, decorate for a party, set up beautiful tables, and all the things that come with hosting. Today, I’m going to walk you through a bunch of different ways you can save on a Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or whatever large meal you want to host!
If you’re doing a Friendsgiving, my biggest advice is don’t make it fancy. Your friends get you and the point of a Friendsgiving is to get together with your friends and spend some time together eating munchies and getting drunk. Other holidays with family is the time to get fancy (if that’s what you want to do). Even if you want to go all out, here are some ways to make the most out of the least.
1. Upgrade premade food
Do not be afraid to buy things premade. Most of the time dishes are more expensive to buy premade, but some times you take a basic edition and take it to the next level. For my Friendsgiving, I made boxed mac and cheese but added some extra butter and milk, some real cheese, and bacon to take it to an entirely new level.
You can do this with things like premade cookie dough, boxed cakes, precooked meat, frozen veggies, and so much more. Not only will this save you money, but it will save you time.
2. Keep your menu simple
You do not need 8 side dishes and 3 types of meat for a meal. I understand people like variety, but you make your life so much harder and honestly, no one is going to be disappointed if you don’t have 3 vegetables, 3 casseroles, and potatoes 9 ways. You need to focus on a few things, make enough for everyone, and keep moving.
You can also keep your menu simple by picking easy recipes. We all know everything tastes better from scratch, but there are super easy recipes for lots of dishes like cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and all the other classics. Pick recipes that take less time or bake at the same temperature and you will save yourself from spending half a day cooking or buying a million ingredients.
3. Use what you have
This tip rings true for both food and table settings. Try to find recipes that use lots of ingredients/spices you keep on hand in your house. This keeps you from needing to buy a bunch of extra things and spending more money.
For table settings, don’t be afraid to use your everyday dishes. I use paper plates to make clean up faster, but also because I have them in bulk from Costco. I just bought a few smaller dessert plates and themed napkins to add some holiday flair to my table.
4. Ask for help
I know for a lot of people this is hard, but this will make your life so much easier. If you want to have a Friendsgiving, but you’re the only friend who knows how to cook, that does not make you responsible for paying for all the food. Ask your friends to chip in some money or buy booze for the party! I’m sure they will be happy to since you’re the one cooking them a big, fancy meal.
If your friends do know how to cook, ask them all to bring a dish. This means less cooking for you and less cost for you as well. Don’t be afraid to see if your friends want to come early to help you cook too. My best friend and I love to cook together! My other friends love to cook as well, but they usually end up drunk and messing things up before we’re done.
This same idea applies to your family. I know it’s harder to ask them for money, but asking them to bring a dish or help cook is such a good idea!
Just remember you’re putting together this meal to spend time with friends and family. Making food for people is so special to me and getting to share time with the people you love is so important. It’s not about the fancy place settings or your elaborate floral arrangement or your hand made napkins from Peru (although that would be amazing). Spend time, share stories, make memories.
Recipes I used for my Friendsgiving food
Preheat oven to 400. Chop the sweet potato into 1/4 inch cubes. Mix butter, sugar, and syrup in a mixing bowl. Toss chopped sweet potatoes in sugar mixture. Oil a baking sheet and spread coated sweet potatoes evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for 18-22 mins and flip halfway.
1 bag of chicken flavored stuffing mix (I used 365 brand from whole foods)
Heat oven to 375. Finely chop celery and onions. Add 1 cup of chicken broth to a small pan and heat with onions, celery, and garlic on high heat, stirring occasionally. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Once the mixture boils, bring down to a simmer for about 8 mins. Remove the mixture from heat and add it to your stuffing mix. Add the rest of your chicken stock to the stuffing mix and mix. Layout a cooking sheet size pan of foil. Form your stuffing mixture into balls and place them in the center of the foil in a rectangle. When all the balls are made, top each with a little butter and then cover with the outer edges of the foil. (basically roll it up into a little pouch, but leave a little bit open for venting). Bake in the oven for 15 mins.
The recipe is on the back of Libby’s pumpkin puree in a can. I put mine in a frozen pie crust to bake.
Mac and cheese
2 boxes of Annies Classic Cheddar Shells
1 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese/Monterrey jack (I used a mix of the 2)
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese (shredded)
Preheat oven to 375. Cook the pasta noodles in salted water till they’re al dente. While noodles cook, fry up some bacon in a pan until extra crispy. Drain the noodles and do not add them back into the pan yet. Make the cheese mix on the box in the pan as the instructions say. Add 2 extra tbsp of milk to the cheese mixture. Add in 1 cup of cheddar and 1/4 cup of parmesan to the cheese mixture and stir till melted. Add noodles to the cheese mixture. Chop the cooked bacon into bits and add it to the mac and cheese and combine. Transfer to an oven-safe dish, top with remaining cheese, and bake for 15 mins or until cheese melts.