Seasoned entertainers will tell you that the key to a successful gathering is an organized hostess (or host). First item? A guest list. Figure out how many of your closest friends and relatives can squeeze into your house (and budget) and plan your party accordingly. Buy whatever food items you can afford to in bulk, including beverages, and you’ll save big. Make a shopping list and stick to it, and you’ll leave the store with your budget – and sanity – intact.
Arguably the star of any gathering, an assortment of delicious dishes needn’t cost you next month’s rent. Once you’ve decided if you’re going with a buffet or sit-down dinner or even just heavy hors’doevers (sometimes more fun), you can start cooking – literally. Many dishes can be prepared in advance, frozen and defrosted the day of the party, freeing up time for other party preparations. Baked goods especially have a long freezer life and thaw perfectly. Avoid freezing cakes with whipped cream or soft fillings, as they’ll get soggy as they defrost. Cheesecake, however, freezes and defrosts nicely.
Decking the halls on a budget can be fun and easy. From creative centerpieces made with fresh flowers to votives filled with ornaments you have around the house, or even oversize peppermint lollipops stuck in a clear or colorful vase (a personal favorite), simple works well when it comes to holiday decorating.
“We see people come in with all kinds of ideas for their parties,” said Gary Moody, owner of Party’s 4 U in Brentwood. “And we also see a lot of people who come in and say, ‘I’ve got $50 to spend. What can I get?’ In those cases we spend some time with them, brainstorm some ideas and help them get just what they want.”
What can I bring?
When guests call to ask what goodies they can arrive with, don’t turn them down. An extra side dish or appealing appetizer or two not only makes your work easier; it adds a sampling of new taste treats. And remember: even if you don’t need any culinary contributions, a bottle of wine or other spirits are always welcome.
Reason for the season
In the end, your guests won’t remember how many table decorations you put out, or whether there were enough candy canes to go around. Remember, they’ve come to celebrate the holidays with friends, family and loved ones. A happy, calm and attentive host is the best gift of all.
For local deals on your holiday party, check out some of the following:
• Party’s 4 U, 3901 Walnut Blvd. in Brentwood, 925-516-8102.
• Dollar Tree, 305 Deer Valley Road in Antioch, 925-778-1765; 51 Sand Creek Road in Brentwood, 925-516-5629.
• Target, 5769 Lone Tree Way in Antioch, 925-752-0002.