Host a dinner party for under $20

By Alexa Wilansky

Hosting a dinner party may sound like a lot of work, especially when working with a budget. Instead of thinking of it as a chore, try thinking of it as a gathering of friends and family, all laughing, eating and enjoying each other’s company. The party may not be catered with elegant dishes or entertained with a live band, but that doesn’t mean it has to be dull. Follow these guidelines to make any dinner event special, no matter the occasion.


Stay Classy

Having a budget doesn’t mean going without hors d’oeuvres and impressive main dishes with all the trimmings. Equally necessary to please guests are side dishes, desserts and most importantly, wine. Most of the necessary ingredients can already be found around the kitchen, which helps stay under a $20 spending limit. Rummage through cupboards for unopened crackers, dig through the fridge for that block of extra sharp cheddar cheese and pop the cork on that bottle of already half-consumed wine. The key maneuver is to serve these common refreshments on fancy plates to make them appear classy.

Hors d’oeuvres

Skip the caviar and welcome guests with deviled eggs instead. This delicious delicacy costs a mere 89 cents for a dozen small eggs and $1.09 for a dozen large eggs. Boil the eggs until firm, slice in half and mix the yolk with a touch of mayonnaise and mustard. Add in a little paprika with the yolk and sprinkle a dash on the top as well. Most of these ingredients are already at home.

Don’t Skimp on the Wine!

In addition to that half-finished bottle, offer guests a variety of great quality wine at low prices. A 750 ml bottle of Yellowtail costs around $7, varying by store. A four-liter bottle of Carlo Rossi wine is available at some stores for as little as $10, which will please guests without draining funds.


Don’t be shy asking friends to contribute to the affair. Whether it be a side dish or dessert, it reflects proper etiquette to bring something to a dinner party. Meals from friends will provide extra courses all while keeping the dinner party within budget.

Supply Salad

Oftentimes, a salad is served before the main course comes to the table. Prepare a simple salad made of arugula or spinach for around $3.99. Wash the leaves and place them in a medium or large bowl. Toss in whatever vegetables are in the fridge, or thinly slice a European cucumber for a little extra flavor. Make a homemade dressing by mixing together balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil, a little bit of mustard and the juice from half of a lemon. Drizzle the dressing on the salad and mix until evenly spread. Top it all off with parmesan cheese.

The Main Dish

The main dish is the staple of a dinner party, so create a lasting impression by making it worthwhile. Choose one pound of skirt steak, grilled chicken or a decently priced fish and season with paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and black pepper. Grill in a frying pan with caramelized onions until browned. Spaghetti or lasagna is an easy and inexpensive alternative for vegetarian guests.

Side Dishes

In order to make a tasty side dish, go to any supermarket and purchase couscous for about $1.29. To prepare, bring hot water to a boil in a saucepan and add the couscous. Cover the pan for five minutes and turn the heat off. While the couscous cooks, prepare a sauce made of olive oil, spinach and cut up tomatoes in a skillet. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice. Mix the sauce in with the couscous and serve. Feel free to sprinkle cheese on top.

The Big Finale

Dessert is what people look forward to at the end of a delightful meal. Start off by offering coffee or tea to your guests. Alternatives to extravagant and expensive desserts are various fruit slices served with ice cream, either store-brand or from the freezer. Another cheap dessert is Jell-o pudding, which – at just 89 cents a box – is a quick and simple way to bring something sweet to the table to top of the evening.

By the end of the evening, guests’ stomachs should be filled and glasses empty. Tip that bottle of Carlo Rossi in honor of a successful and penny-pinching dinner party.

Alexa Wilansky can be reached at [email protected]