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Nov 09

Cincy Chic Treat: Economical Holiday Entertaining

When Monika first asked me to write this blog post with Cincy Chic readers in mind, our economy hadn’t tanked quite so badly. Now, quite frankly, it’s a bit scary. So the post has slightly transformed from Holiday Entertaining Tips to Economical Holiday Entertaining Tips. After all, you can still throw a wonderful party even though your budget is tightening.

Image Credit via Creative Commons

1. Progressive. I wish there were more progressive dinner parties out there. Moving from one house to another is fantastic, spreading out the responsibility of hosting a party so that there is less stress for everyone involved. You can take the progressive theme and spin all sorts of variations: progressive dinner, progressive dessert, or progressive cocktails. (Make sure there is a cab company available if you go with this one.) While it definitely works from house to house, I think this would also be a great way to socialize with your neighbors in an apartment or condo complex – all those people down the hall or down a floor that you’ve seen but never met. A single building progressive party has several advantages, including never seeing the snow and never being more than a stumble away from home.

2. Potluck. Don’t wrinkle your nose. Sure, the name may call up church dinners, but there are so many twists on this old standard. Again, you’re spreading the responsibility by asking others to bring a dish. Here are just a couple of ideas:

  • Dessert potluck. Host a dessert party with everyone bringing a dessert dish. A lot of fun, fewer dishes, and suitable for slightly later in the evening, reducing the number of hours you’re playing hostess.
  • Cheese and wine. A friend of mine recently attended a cheese and wine party. Everyone brought their own cheese and wine and shared. Imagine all those bottles and cheeses lined up in a row. Classy and economical.
  • Wine. Always, you can provide your own food but ask folks to bring their own bottle of wine to share. You can take this a step further and turn it into a blind wine tasting. You’d be surprised at how much fun this is and how it de-mystifies wine a little when you can’t see what you’re drinking. Make sure you have a lot of water available for rinsing, and dump buckets. Ice buckets, vases, and pitchers make great dump buckets with a creative twist.

**Bonus Tip** Ask everyone to bring their own wine glass. It adds a touch of fun (people bring some great glassware) and saves you from two things: losing a glass if one breaks and having to wash countless pieces of stemware.

3. Small dishes and comfort food. My mom used to make tiny little cold cut sandwiches to serve at parties and everyone loved them, perhaps because they were so tiny. But for Mom, they were quick and economical. In fact, comfort food makes for some great mini dishes. Dish out macaroni and cheese into ramekins, make grilled cheese sandwiches sliced into quarters and served on a big platter, or make a bunch of mini cheeseburgers. All can be created easily and on a budget.

4. Fondue. Need I say more? A couple of fondue pots (you can always borrow from friends) and some melted chocolate, melted cheese, along with fruits, marshmallows, and more. You can get creative with fondue and still manage to keep the costs down. Make sure you have plenty of napkins and little [disposable] plates on hand. Station fondue pots throughout the house to keep people from gathering in one spot. The hardest part of a fondue party? Cleaning out the fondue pots!

5. Big drinks. If you’re not requesting everyone bring a bottle of wine, then you’re opening yourself up for a huge bar bill. Kevin and I usually end up spending over $200 on alcohol alone for our parties. There are ways around this – make your drinks in bulk. Don’t offer a bar-full of drinks. Offer a signature drink. In the past, I’ve made sangria, served in martini glasses, as well as crockpot mulled cider. You can make both in bulk cheaply and easily. Limiting the drink choices eliminates the alcohol strain on your budget. The recipe for cider is after the jump, and I’ve previously written about a recipe for a Sangria-tini you can make in bulk.

6. Finally, think small. Not just small foods, but small parties. Have a small intimate party with just immediate family or closest friends. A small dinner party is more affordable, less work, and often more rewarding than 50 people in and out of your home over the course of an evening. Not up for dinner? Kevin and I once hosted a breakfast party where we served quiche and enjoyed 2 bottles of Champagne with another couple.

However you entertain this holiday season, keep in mind what’s important – close friends, family, and a boatload of holiday cheer. Got some creative tips for economical fun this holiday season? I’d love to hear your tips, tricks, and stories in the comments.


Crockpot Mulled Cider

Serves 24-30

6 quarts apple cider
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tsp whole cloves
3 tsp whole allspice
6 cinnamon sticks
3/4 tsp salt
dash ground nutmeg (optional)
Golden or spiced rum (optional)

  • Put cloves and allspice together in teaball. You may need to use multiple teaballs.
  • Put all ingredients, plus teaball(s) but minus the rum, in a crockpot.
  • Cook on low for 2-8 hours. Basically, you’re just heating it all together, which is why it can stay in the crockpot up to 8 hours.

Tip: The longer it’s in the crockpot, the better your home will smell.

  • Stir occasionally to dissolve sugar.

Rum: The rum adds a great kick to the cider, but is optional and should not be cooked with the rest of the ingredients. Let guests add the rum to their mug accordingly, although 1-1/2 oz  is the recommended amount.

Serving: I usually put a big ladle by the crockpot and let everyone spoon the cider into mugs.

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Posted by Michelle at 2:28 pm in Cocktails, Dinner and Drinks, Entertainment, Local, Recipes | Permalink | Comments (4)

4 Responses to “Cincy Chic Treat: Economical Holiday Entertaining”

  1. 5chw4r7z says:

    What a timely post. I’ve just put up the details for the next Cincinnati Supper Club, all it requires is for you to bring your favorite soft or adult beverage and the host does the rest.
    Check it out.

  2. lauren says:

    My signature party every year is the “Ho Ho Holiday” pub crawl. Everyone gathers at my house for a few pre-crawl drinks (Ho Ho Holitinis and usually one other drink choice) and then we charter a couple of cabs and head to Mt. Adams for the night. Everyone has a great time and it’s super easy to host. (Plus, we get to pretend we’re all still in college again… even if we’re hurting the next day!!)

  3. Corning made wine glasses seem to be the best! they are tough and have great designs ::

  4. Dalene Perin says:

    Thanks for that. We’re having a little potluck party next month, for Christmas I guess and I’ve been trying to find something special to take.. found some good ideas at this potluck recipes site. You know, someone should invent a website where you can write what you’ll be taking, and it would check no one brings the same thing!

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