Light up the Holidays With a Festive Dinner Party on a Budget

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My holiday mission: a dinner party for 10 for $200 – and everyone will think I spent twice as much.

The following post is from Rachel Sayre at partner site

Now that my new house looks at least minimally habitable, I’ve convinced my fiance that now is the perfect time to show off our house and indulge in one of my favorite things: themed parties. Holidays + 8 of our closest friends + fabulous new house = the perfect recipe for my dream party. The one caveat? I’m on a strict budget of $200.

Have yourself a merry little drink

Trader Joe’s is my friend for holiday magic in a bottle. This specialty grocery chain (in only nine states, sadly) has cheap, good wine. I need three bottles of red for dinner, and I’ll keep them each under $8.

My fiance will be giving tours of our house when friends arrive, so I’ll make sangria for the occasion. For two pitchers, I’ll need: two bottles of cheap red wine (Two-Buck Chuck is perfect for this), a few teaspoons of sugar, two sliced oranges, one can of ginger ale, one cup of cheap rum, and a long skewer of bright red cherries.

Drinks total: $46

Dinner is a beautiful sight

In my mind, a holiday party has a table full of colorful dishes straight out of one of my favorite holiday movies. To make that happen on a budget, I’m skipping a meat-based main dish in favor of lots of dishes. By the end of this cozy feast, everyone will be going home full and happy.

To find the best prices, my sleigh will be making a few stops: Costco for items I’ll need a lot of (like carrots, bread, and spinach), the local farmer’s market for items that are in season, Whole Foods for items I just need a little bit of and can get out of bulk bins, and Safeway for the rest.

Here’s what I’m thinking: hearty split pea soup ($12); artisan bread from Costco ($6); a red and green salad with spinach, red onions, dried cranberries, and salmon ($22); a big plate of sliced tomatoes with mozzarella and basil ($19); a large bowl of kale with cranberries in a balsamic sauce ($8); a big plate of grilled portobell0 mushrooms with glazed carrots and sweet potatoes ($21); one-half of a roasted acorn squash drizzled with brown sugar per person ($5); and a medium bowl of natural chicken, walnuts, and green bean salad ($19).

I’m sacrificing organic for conventional in a few cases, but I’m trying to make those choices judiciously, with an eye toward what produce tends to absorb pesticides less than others.

Dinner total: $112

Maybe just half a slice more

Hands-down dream dessert: creamy, melt-in-your-mouth cheesecake. I found a delicious pumpkin cheesecake recipe on the Food Network that I’m going to test-run this weekend.

Dessert total: $25

That brings my first-holiday-dinner-party-in-my-new-home total to $183. I’ll use some of the leftover cash to turn my lights down low, put up some holiday lights inside, and create a great atmosphere with candles from a dollar store. And, of course, a little mistletoe for above the door.

Now, with my dream party all planned, I hope I’ll be dreaming of sugar plum fairies and eggnog tonight.

For more budgeting tips, including free budgeting tools, visit and follow Adaptu on Twitter!

Stacy Johnson

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