When the weather outside is frightful, our thoughts naturally turn to comfort food, hot drinks and holiday get togethers. But between stuffing stockings and travel expenses, the Christmas season can bust a hole in even the tightest budgets. Host a party? On whose dime? The good news is that turning your home into a holiday hot spot doesn’t have to take much more than that dime.
Seven ideas to entertain this holiday season on a budget
Stick with Batch Drinks and Punch
There’s no rule that says being an amazing host means presenting guests with every refreshment option under the sun. Plan to mix up a batch of sweet, crowd-pleasing rum punch as your in-house holiday cocktail option and when guests ask what they can bring tell them you’ll happily feature their favorite wine or beer.
Looking for a warm drink to combat winter’s chill? The Captain’s Brew serves four and is easy to put together. Add 5 ounces of Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum to four cups of coffee brewed with a teaspoon of cinnamon, a dash of all spice, 2 star anise and a small piece of crushed ginger. Let guests add their own maple syrup and cream to taste. (For other affordable Captain Morgan drinks, check out the brand’s YouTube channel.)
Host a BYOH’D Bash
Slaving away in the kitchen is one way to make a holiday party fit into your Christmas budget but it’s certainly not the ideal way to experience your own get-together. Instead of working your fingers to the bone to put a formal dinner on the table, enlist the help of guests by specifying that yours will be a Bring Your Own Hors d’Oeuvres style bash. You provide the crudités and the cheese and crackers while guests bring the hot apps. You get the laid-back benefits of a potluck dinner with all the style of a chic cocktail experience – and the price is right.
Opt for Seasonal Ingredients
Not only is the locavore movement in full swing, it’s also trendy and budget-friendly. Cold-weather comfort foods made with ingredients like squash and cranberry are festive and celebrate the joys of the season. They also tend to be priced lower than out of season ingredients that were shipped in from warmer climes. Try winter squash empanadas made with caramelized shallots, goat cheese and fresh sage for a finger-friendly app that makes use of the tail-end of Mother Nature’s bounty.
Make It a Cookie Walk
Champagne and dessert become part of the entertainment when guests bring a few dozen of their favorite cookies and a bottle of their favorite bubbly. The first step is arranging cookies on platters around the edges of a table. Pour tasting servings of each bottle for guests to sip while they sample cookies and fill takeaway boxes with their favorites. Keep it casual for the non-bakers or if your crew is clever in the kitchen ask everyone to print their cookie recipes so they all walk away with not just the cookies, but a chance to recreate them.
Whatever you serve, do your best to enjoy the party. Remember that your guests are coming to mix and mingle, not because they’re expecting to be impressed by how much you spent. Having refreshments on hand is a party etiquette must but there’s no rule that states hosts must go overboard. A small buffet, potluck or not, paired with a simple bar of mix-it- yourself options is all you need. After all, the best parties are all about the people. The drinks and the snacks? Should be secondary.