Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hosting a Luau on a Budget

I recently read an article in the SPIRIT magazine (Southwest Airlines in-flight magazine) about a lady in LA who threw a party for $2 per person and it made me think of all the thrifty ways you can throw a party or a gathering without breaking the bank. Here is an idea based on a office lunch we had at SFP back in June, we threw it together in a few days and I don’t know the exact cost per person but I made some stuff up and you have to read to the bottom of this post to see the result. It all started with a pre-marinated vacuum packed pork loin that I bought at Sam’s. I had purchased a couple over the weekend – froze one immediately and planned to make the other during the week but just ran out of nights before I was back on the road again and instead of freezing it up I thought I would be a great base for a Friday summer lunch at the office. I asked everyone to bring a side dish which ultimately cuts down your costs…your friends (if they are like mine) would be all for bringing a dish to a party because we like to cook and experiment recipes on each other…but you may not want to do that with your friends if they aren’t into cooking or would feel put-out if you asked them to a party but their admission ticket was a covered dish…so asking them to bring their favorite bottle of wine or 6 pack of beer would be a great way to shift some of the cost off you and not make your guests be upset about your invitation. The next thing that I usually get carried away with is decorations and before I know it I could blow $100 on fun plates and napkins…I blame you Crate and Barrel and Christa Anderson an former roommate of mine from Chicago who started my fetish for fun napkins…there just so darn fun though! Short of it is, I just think it is fun to decorate for anything and everything, but again with the short notice and not a lot of time (or desire to spend my own money on decorations for an office party) I went searching through the house when I got home. I grabbed my beach towels out of the closet and pulled out some of the leis and plastic coconuts that I had left over from my sister-in-law’s bachelorette party last summer (if you have the room you should throw all your post party decorations in a rubber maid tub, you never know when they will come in handy again). Beach towels make a great table cloth because they are bright and colorful and you can throw them in the wash when you are done and they are ready to go back to the pool or beach.
So now that I have jumped on and off the budget party reservation a number of times, I’ll get back to the main event…the food. So preparing the pork loin was a no-brainer so I won’t provide you the boring details about how I opened the package, put it in foil, then into a baking dish and then into the oven. It cost $8.95 for a 3# pre-marinated pork loin so less than a dollar a person.
One other recipe that I put together for this event was a new cup cake recipe for the occasion that combined the clean taste of white cake with the freshness of store-purchased (oh how I wish I could say home-grown, but maybe someday) strawberries. This recipe would work great with any berries, just use what is fresh and appropriate for the occasion. It was also an easy incorporation of low-cost products to make something that tasted very special, all together the ingredients were about $7 for 18 cupcakes…less than 50 cents a serving that would cost you well over a dollar a serving or more at a bakery or dessert shop.
So with a couple of side dishes (coleslaw salad, Caesar salad, broccoli-cheese casserole, fresh pineapple, etc.) thrown in we were probably looking at around $3 per person…so I didn’t beat the woman in LA in the SPIRIT magazine, but we were able to have a lot of fun without a lot of pressure to spend money on high priced foods.
Here is the recipe for the cupcakes…and a fun picture of them too...they were truly sassy.
Sweet and Sassy Strawberry Cupcakes 1 white cake mix bake per directed with 1/3 cup less water
Add 10 or so strawberries add 2 or so TBS sugar mash up and let stand so juices develop
Add 2 TBS triple sec or orange juice
Bake the cake as decorated on the box. Let the cupcakes cool completely and top with butter cream canned frosting and strawberry slices or a whole strawberry. If you don’t like butter cream flavoring then you can use a white whipped frosting, but I recommend adding a little bit of vanilla or orange flavoring to the frosting to give it dimension. (have a very easy hand with artificial flavorings because a little goes a long way)
Traveling Cowgirl Tip:
Party decorations don’t have to be complicated and expensive, use things found around your home to create a festive tablescape or theme without breaking the bank.

1 comment:

  1. For anyone who is interested, here is the link to the article I was talking about...