Dining out can be an expensive pastime. Here’s how to re-create the fun of dining out while working towards your savings goals – minus the stress!
1. Don’t go overboard with decorations
Less is always more in the home entertaining space. You can create a striking table setting with minimal elements, it’s just about finding the right look for you. In fact, sticking to a “minimal element” approach will help the food you’ve laboured over take centre stage. You don’t want to take up real estate that should be reserved for dinner with decorations. A simple tablecloth can be the difference between low-key and “low-key fabulous” – they add a sense of occasion. Work out place settings before guests arrive and mark them out on the table with simple handwritten cards to bring another refined detail. Head out to the garden (either yours or the neighbours’) for some greenery as a finishing touch – Mother Nature is the queen of decoration.
2. Set the table the night before
While we’re on the topic of tables, once you’ve got your decorative scheme down pat, action it the night before guests arrive. Nothing brings on panic like an un-actioned item on your to-do list when guests are arriving. It’s easy to push the table setting down the priority list on the day, so getting it sorted the night before will help keep you level-headed in the lead up to arrival time.
3. Get the mood right
“The mood” means different things to different people, but the basics should be the same for everyone: tidy house, cool playlist, chilled drinks (we’ll get to that) and a setting made for food, friends and fun. Tidying the house should be a no-brainer, but it’s fine to take shortcuts. Key zones to focus on are the entry, where your guests will get their first impression of your home, the dining room and kitchen. No shortcuts should be taken on the bathroom tidy. In fact, forget the word tidy and replace it with clean. A scented candle won’t go astray here, either.
If you’re pulling together a playlist for the occasion, why not ask guests to suggest a song or two when they RSVP? It will be a talking point throughout the night. Just keep things somewhere between upbeat and mellow and it will hit the right notes, mood-wise.
4. Choose a main meal designed for sharing
Who can say no to a rustic, big-flavoured dinner? Don’t disregard the tray bake or the one-pot wonder as the main event – especially when it’s chilly. These dishes really deliver in so many ways. For one thing, they can be prepped well ahead of time and simmer away on the stove or in the oven while you’re warming up your guests with nibbles and welcome drinks. The key is choosing a pot or baking tray that can go from stove/oven to table. No need to go fancy, just pick up a fresh one so you’re not plating up on a tray that you’ve had since Christmas 2016. Another great thing about these dishes, especially the one-pot meals, is that you can often turn a cheaper cut of meat into a fall-off-the-bone stew after a few hours slow braising. Plus, this style of menu adds a more communal feel and is a great conversation starter during the plating-up process.
5. Don’t say no to offers of help
We’ve all politely declined the offers to “bring something” by friends and family, but in the interest of keeping your party running smoothly, say yes! That way you can focus on the main event and lose the panic of getting absolutely everything ready. Often outsourcing the nibbles to start or even a dessert option can really take the pressure off. One thing checked off the list!
6. Choose a make-ahead dessert
If you do decide to tackle the dessert, rather than outsourcing it (see above), go for a make-ahead crowd-pleaser. The old classics are always a winner and can be prepped way ahead of time. All you need to do is heat up a sauce and supply the ice cream. Think irresistible brownies, salted caramel tarts or warm apple pie. If the weather’s a little warmer, a cheesecake is hard to go past.
7. Offer a drink that doubles as a cocktail and mocktail
You’ll have the beer and wine, no doubt, but having a drink that appeals to everyone – drinkers and non-drinkers, alike – takes the mood up a few notches. Go for fresh flavours like mint, lime – perhaps even some cucumber – and go easy on the sugary fruit juices. You could go for a base of ginger beer and play with the ratio of soda water based on how sweet you like your punch. It’s easy to make two pitchers of punch, one being the mocktail. It’s a simple way to make everyone feel catered to.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the company. Everyone loves having the night off cooking, so don’t overthink it and it will all come together.
Have you almost hit your savings goal? Make an appointment with an Aussie Broker today.