When one of Ottawa’s TV stations challenged me to pull together a patio party for 10 people for $100, I eagerly accepted. Trust me – it’s really not that hard to entertain on a budget – it just takes a little extra planning and some careful shopping. I had fun delivering the following tips and tricks to the hosts and audience of CTV Morning Live. One of the things I like best about this party plan is that everything can be prepared ahead of time so you can simply relax and enjoy it all along with your guests. You can watch the segment here, or read my preparatory notes below. I hope you enjoy your next patio party!
- Don’t clutter up your patio or deck with too much stuff that can detract from the natural beauty around you. It’s an outdoor party so aim for something simple and classic.
- One inexpensive bouquet of flowers can be cut up to fill many little vases or empty canning jars. Many grocery stores sell off flowers that are past their prime for half price – what a deal!
- Think mismatched “antique chic” and use what you have – placemats you already own, real dishes (even those old ones you’ve tucked away in the basement) instead of paper plates.
- Cloth napkins always add an elegant touch; I look for large cotton garments at thrift shops and cut them up – no hemming required for a one-time use! You can even find pretty printed sheets at thrift shops and repurpose them as tablecloths.
- Take empty jars of varying heights from your pantry, fill them halfway with water and a touch of food colouring and then float votive candles in them
- When planning your menu, it’s best to stay away from expensive items like cheeses, steak, etc. as these really cut into your budget.
- Shop from the store flyers and you can do very well; there are some items are actually cheaper to purchase pre-made than making at home from scratch.
- Appetizers: Have a jar of mango/lime salsa do double duty as a dipper for cooked shrimp ($7 on sale) and tortilla chips.
- Classic cookout food is timeless and everyone loves it. Pulled pork is not difficult at all to prepare and it’s always popular. Boneless rolled pork roasts in netting are always well-priced – I bought 5 lbs (2.5 kilos) for $15 and two dozen fresh rolls to serve the pork on for just $5. Click here for my Easy Carolina-Style pulled pork recipe which you can even make well ahead of time and freeze.
- Cabbage and carrots are very inexpensive at this time of year so why not make a big batch of coleslaw? I like to use a vinaigrette rather than mayonnaise-based dressing so the coleslaw can sit out longer without risk of spoiling.
- My Jalapeño and Chive Cornbread mini-muffins add a great southern touch to the menu.
- Another bonus of this menu? No condiments required!
- It’s the last thing people eat and remember so you want to offer up something simple but tasty so guests are left with a great ‘last impression’ of your meal.
- Watermelon is inexpensive and always a hit; cut the wedges smaller so they are easier to eat.
- Brownies are always popular; make your own (or buy the yummy two-bite brownies), cut them small and one batch can easily feed a crowd when paired with ice cream. Sprinkle a little fleur de sel or Maldon salt flakes on top to amp up the flavour.
- The classic southern cookout beverage would be Sweet Tea (iced tea with sugar and lemon) – can make homemade super inexpensively!
- You can also make a huge batch of fantastic non-alcoholic punch for about $15; can even spike it with vodka or run within this budget.
- There are some great value wines available for under $10 each so you could pick up a couple of bottles.
- Look for beer on sale – in Ontario, you can easily get 20 for under $30.