How to Entertain On a Budget

You guys! Summer is here! Well, mostly. We’ve been having a very wet spring and I don’t think we’ve gotten two consecutive days without rain in a month, but summer is here!

And you know what that means! BBQs!

I love hosting parties and I love having people over for game nights and informal get togethers. I feel like that episode of Friends where Monica and Rachel lose their apartment to the guys and have to move across the hall and Monica goes crazy trying to make the apartment nice because she’s “always the hostess.”

I love that shit! I love having people over and feeding them full of comfort foods and making sure they have a full glass and all that jazz.

But sometimes having people over can extend your food budget. Particularly if you budget to zero every month and don’t have a ton of wiggle room.

So, I thought I’d put together a list of my favorite tips for keeping your party budget low while still throwing a pretty good shindig.

1. Buy things in advance!

There are a couple things I always keep in my house to make sure that I’m ready to host people at a moment’s notice! These are staples that won’t go bad, but that can be whipped up into a decent meal in no time.

  • I love to have those Suddenly Salad pasta salad kits in my house. For $1.50 and the cost of some olive oil you can have a pasta salad ready to serve as a side dish for your BBQ in minutes. Throw in some diced up pepperoni or ham or any vegetables you have left in your fridge and it becomes even heartier. Plus doctoring it up makes it feel fancy.
  • Baked beans. My grocery store had the big 28 oz cans of baked beans on sale 2 for $3 and I bought a few cans to stash in the pantry. You can heat them up for a side dish or you can cook up some bacon or turkey bacon and crumble it on top and pop it in the over for a fancy casserole.
  • If plain potato chips are on sale, I’ll buy a bag or two of those to stash in the pantry. People love munching on chips.
  • Deviled eggs! Eggs are so cheap you guys! And did you know you can hard boil them in an air-fryer? True story, 16 min on 250 degrees, then dump in an ice bath. Perfect hard boiled eggs. Most people have mayo and mustard in their fridge. And deviled eggs are the perfect appetizer.

I’m sure everyone has that “go-to” appetizer or side-dish that they always bring to parties. Figure out what yours is and just make sure you keep the ingredients for it hand. Viola. Instant party food.

2. Ask people to bring stuff!

I love having people over! But when they ask “what can I bring?” I always take them up on it! I’ll ask them to pick up a case of pop, or a side dish or a dessert. If you have enough people coming over all you need to provide is the meat for the grill and then let other people do the rest of the work! Easy peasy!

PS – do not feel guilty about this! I used to always tell people “don’t bring anything! I’ve got it!” and then I’d go crazy and make 13 appetizers and 7 side-dishes all by myself. After one to many melt-downs in the kitchen (usually the day before a holiday), I’ve started taking people up on their offer to bring something.

I think it really clicked for me when I realized how much I liked bringing stuff to a party – a new appetizer or recipe that I wanted to test out on people. I figured if I liked being able to bring something as a thank you to my host, then other people might like it too. So now I just say, “please bring something sweet!” when people ask.

3. Shop at Aldi’s

Yes, yes, I’ve posted about Aldi’s before, but it is truly the best place to stock up for a party for cheap. I buy their frozen Angus burgers which are about $6 a box for 6 burgers – compared to the frozen Bubba burgers at my big box store which run $12 a box! It’s a no brainer.

Other things I buy at Aldi: napkins, paper plates, and plastic cutlery. More expensive than the dollar store, but more quantity and better quality. Still cheaper than Target.

They also have the best fudge brownie mix I’ve ever had. I don’t know why these box brownies are so good. But they are the BEST. Every time I make them someone asks me where they’re from and I always tell them Aldi’s. I keep two boxes of these in my pantry at all times for quick desserts.

And, if you want to make a killer charcuterie board Aldi is your best bet! Flavored goat cheeses, prosciutto wrapped mozzarella, a variety pack of crackers, some dried fruit and a salami sampler and you are good to go. All of this will be so much cheaper than if you went anywhere else for the same ingredients. I’m telling you.

4. Relax

Look, presumably, you’re having people over because they’re people you enjoy seeing and who like you for you. Don’t worry if you don’t buy the “good beer” or if you serve macaroni salad out of a tub.

Just relax and have fun. People come to BBQ’s and game nights in order to see their friends and have fun. No one is like, “you know what sounds good? Some Settlers of Catan and a filet mignon.”

Well, some people might be like that but I prefer the people who are like “You bought frozen churros at Aldis? Let’s do it!”

So just relax and try to have a good time. Enjoy the fact that you have a roof over your head, the means to provide a meal for your friends, and that you have time to spend with those loved ones. Those are the most important things in life, after all!

What are your BBQ go-tos? Sound off in the comments or drop me a line at

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