To be twentysomething is an awkward time for entertaining. As we graduate college and begin to work in "the real world," there is a yearning to transition from keg parties into dinner soirées. However, though the desire is there, often the bank account is not. Here are some ways to do in the kitchen what twentysomethings do best: fake it until you make it. (In other words, host a fabulous dinner party for four and still be able to make rent this month!)
When you decide on your dishes, find ingredients that echo each other from appetizer to main course (and even to dessert). This will create shopping overlap and encourage you to use fewer ingredients in a greater variety of ways. (It will also reduce wastage of a larger range of things!)
Work off of recipes and write down each ingredient on your shopping list. When you see everything in front of you whilst sitting at your kitchen table, you might realize things you already have in your pantry or other ingredients that will act as a suitable substitute. (For example: the recipe calls for 3 cloves of garlic, but you remember that you have some garlic powder in your spice rack.)
Leave your credit and debit cards at home to avoid temptation! (Ed. note: In addition, I'd add that you should eat something before you go food shopping. When your stomach is full, you're less likely to buy something impulsive that's a waste of money.)
(Or better yet, grow herbs and vegetables yourself!) Instead of going for the pre-washed head of lettuce and the boneless, skinless chicken breasts, the untouched, rudimentary versions of these ingredients will be much cheaper. It may take a bit more prep time in the kitchen, but your wallet will be sighing with relief!
Things like Arborio (risotto) rice and even barley are inexpensive but easily dressed up with a great variety of flavors. It's wise to skimp on the foundation ingredients, because they are merely the backdrop for quality flavors! What differentiates generic from name brand will be undetectable with the right flavorings. Plus, with grains, a little goes a long way. You might even be able to offer seconds to your guests!
What are you favorite ways to host a great dinner party for less dough?