Host a Dinner Party for under $40

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by Robin

Earlier this week I spoke at a local food event about Cooking with Your Kids.  It went well and I really wanted to share some tips and tricks with you here - you know to manage the mess and keep your cool while cooking with eager little ones.  (Not always easy things to do.)  Well, the post is written, but some behind the scenes blog coding stuff (that I have nowhere near a clue about how to fix) has made the post I wrote go funky.  So, it's coming!

First, Ed needs to get home from his Business Educators conference - he knows significantly more about code than I ever will, or want to.

Ed's been away two days - which I forgot about when I made this week's menu plan.  So yesterday, after a long day at work, I treated the kids to dinner at their favourite fast food joint.  I had a Harvey's coupon, so it was not such a costly slip up.

Had we made our meal planning appear ultra-perfect in the past?  Nope, we mess up from time to time, but we roll with it.  The key is to give yourself some grace and get back to it.  If we dwell on small errors it can be hard to get back on course.  It's not an all-or-nothing sort of thing.

This week we shared some ideas for an inexpensive, real dinner party at The Loop:

Host a dinner party for under $40

Entertaining can be fun, but it can also be costly. With a little planning and creativity, an impressive dinner party doesn’t need to be expensive. Here are some ideas, course by course, to make an evening for friends that won’t put you into overdraft. We’ve planned a dinner party for six for less than $40, including wine and dessert.

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Entertaining can be fun, but it can also be costly. With a little planning and creativity, an impressive Dinner Party doesn’t need to be expensive. Here are some ideas, course by course, to make an evening for friends that won’t put you into overdraught protection.

Here we’ve planned a dinner party for 6 for less than $40, including wine and dessert.

  • Just say “Yes”: Cost $0. You know when guests say, “Can I bring something?” Take them up on it. No one likes to show up empty handed – let them contribute to the evening. You probably shouldn’t ask them to cook the main course, but don’t shy away from a salad or dessert. Maybe they live near a cool bakery or have a great recipe – they just might love the idea of bringing a favourite treat to share.
  • Songza for Music: Cost $0. You’ll have more important things to do than sweat over your iTunes playlist. Just download the Songza App, or pull up their website on your computer and let their “Music Concierge” do the heavy lifting. They even have an “Entertaining Cool Friends” playlist category. Assuming your friends are cool, of course.
  • Wine: Cost $2-$10. Often our dinner guests bring wine, but if you don’t want to count on that check out this video by The Loop’s Ray Isle on how to a pick good, inexpensive bottle. If you have some lead time (say 6 mos. worth), try our tips to make your own wine from kits for $2/bottle.
  • Artisan Bread: Cost $.50/loaf. This homemade Artisan Bread recipe is amazingly quick to make (you could actually be throwing it in the oven as your guests arrive, so they can smell it bake), and way cheaper than a store-bought baguette. Tweak the recipe for garlic bread or naan and work some appetizer magic, too.
  • Salad: Cost $6. We love taking Baby Spinach and tossing it with some oil and balsamic, in-season berries or canned mandarins and some sliced almonds or sunflower seeds. Easy, low prep, low cost and unique enough to be dinner-party fare.
  • Vegetable Side Dish: Cost $5. Susan Semanak has a great collection of Roasted Root Vegetable recipes. Why root veggies? They are almost always available at a super cheap price and roasting them makes them amazing. You’ll probably find a recipe here that will make its way into your regular rotation.
  • Main Course: Cost $8. Shop your flyers and see what cuts of meat are on sale. Pork Tenderloin is a high end cut and can be found for amazing low sale prices. To get an idea of the recipe options it gives you, check out Ontario Pork.
  • Side Dish: Cost $2. Keep it simple – Rice or Pasta, tossed with some simple spices (take your cues from the meat dish) will complement the meal and make sure you have options for seconds.
  • Dessert: Cost $8. Individual desserts have a huge “wow” factor, but don’t really take much more effort. Consider baking a simple Brownie recipe in individual ramekins and serving each with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of raspberry coulis. A basic dessert suddenly becomes a feature dish. (Just remember to reduce the cooking time for the dishes.)
  • Decorating: Cost $0. Punch up your table with some fresh cut flowers from your yard or a simple bowl of green apples. Keep a pitcher of ice water on the table, but serve it in fancy water glasses. Lots of simple/inexpensive things can be beautiful with a small twist. 


  1. Those are great tips! I especially like the one of keeping a pitcher of ice water on the table. Such a nice touch that doesn't cost a thing. :) (Except I need to get a pitcher, haha...)

    1. Thanks for your comment, Kelly! You know what our number one tip for an inexpensive, enjoyable dinner party would be? Just invite true friends - people you don't need to impress. (That, and have ice water.) :)


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