Banquets on a Budget

Entertaining is fun, and it doesn't have to be expensive. Good, simple food can be tasty, and still go a long way. Try these ideas for frugal feasts and you’ll keep the crowds happy.

Mexican fiesta

Mexican food is very on trend, and with this style of cooking you can create cheap party food with big flavours.

  • Make your own spice mix – combine 2 parts paprika, 2 parts cumin, 1 part coriander, 1 part oregano. Chilli or cayenne optional! You’ll never buy another over-salted and expensive flavour sachet again.
  • Rice and beans are Mexican staples. Use them to bulk up meaty burritos or tacos, or go fancy vegetarian with spicy burritos that make for an authentic yet affordable spread.
  • Guacamole is pretty critical to any Mexican fiesta, but avocados can be pricey. Use a mixture of avocado and sour cream, plus the traditional lime, salt and pepper, to make it go further.

Curry in a hurry

Curries and other one-pot-wonders are perfect meals to feed a crowd.

  • Cheaper cuts like gravy beef and chops are ideal for curries. They’re very flavourful and a long, slow cook will leave them melt-in-your-mouth soft.
  • Dhal is a curry often made with lentils. It’s cheap and very quick if you use canned lentils.
  • Find a bulk-food store near you. They have big containers of dry foods like spices and cereals for good prices. You pay by the scoop, so you don’t have to buy a whole packet of each spice if you only need a teaspoon or two.

Primo pasta

Italians do family feasts right!

  • Bulk up a meaty pasta sauce with grated zucchini and carrots or a can of lentils.
  • Basil, parsley and oregano add wonderful Italian flavour and are easy to grow at home.
  • Making your own garlic bread is simple and will have the house smelling amazing for your guests. Soften butter or margarine, then stir in crushed garlic and some herbs. Use this to butter your choice of bread. Wrap the garlic bread in aluminium foil and bake in the oven till it’s warm and crusty.

 Low and slow

With a few tweaks, slow-cooked food can go from Nan’s casserole to a real show stopper.

  • Brighten up a hearty stew with a drizzle of something fresh. This could be a squeeze of lemon, some yoghurt or fresh herbs. Or even a dressing made of all three!
  • Use meat on the bone. The bones will flavour the whole dish and the meat will fall off the bone after a few hours on the heat.
  • Spend some time on the side dishes. Crispy roast potatoes, warm bread or some garlicky greens are a beautiful accompaniment to a hearty stew.

Snacks and nibbles

Ready-made snacks can be expensive and pretty unhealthy. These finger food ideas are light on both the wallet and the hips!

  • Toss nuts in a little curry powder and put in the oven on a low heat. Spicy and delicious!
  • If you’ve got a blender or food processor, making dips from scratch is a breeze. Try: beetroot and feta; sweet chilli and cream cheese; or traditional hummus.
  • A fruit platter makes a fresh and colourful centrepiece. Use cookie cutters to create bite-sized pieces in fun shapes.

All the best trying out some of these tips at home. We’d love to hear how you go! 

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