A Frugal Self Catered Family Weekend

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My brother Dan got married on Tuesday, and in our culture we have post wedding celebrations. To do so, we spent a day and a half together this weekend in another town, and my family managed to pull it off pretty frugally, so I wanted to share with you what we did and how. (I say we, but, unfortunately my family was ill much of the past week, so I didn't do much by way of contributing; it was mainly my mom, sister Violet, my dad, and my sister Lizzy.)

We were 35 people spending the weekend together, eating all our meals together, and you can imagine that the largest expense for that would probably have been catering for that crowd. My mother, at a different event, hosted a weekend for a smaller crowd, 25 people only, and using a caterer who was a friend and therefore gave a discount, she paid $2000, plus more for alcohol and disposables.

This weekend, the entire cost of the food was approximately $425 (including alcohol), $140 for the disposables, and $285 for the hall.
Correction: Violet informed me that the food cost $1000, not $425. When she told me the cost of her shopping trip, I didnt know that there were three others. Either way, still a frugal weekend.

And it could have been even cheaper. Since a lot of things were bought ready made (my mom, sister, and father all work full time, so there is a limit to how much time they had to cook it all), and there were a lot of splurges to make it nice (and not just keep it as cheap as possible, but also tasteful and special). After the weekend, there were lots of leftovers which were taken home and split, so that money covered far more than just the meals at the event.

So, how were the costs kept down?

Well, we knew about the event in advance, so didn't wait to shop at the last minute at expensive prices. My mom, who provided the beef and chicken, bought them when they were on sale and kept them frozen until cooking them up for the event. This made the most expensive part of the meals that much cheaper.
Alcohol was also purchased on sale in advance.

My mom made a French toast like bread pudding with leftover bread from her freezer (and it smelled so good that it was the only gluten thing that tempted me there).

My sister went to some discount stores and bought dips and condiments and spreads greatly reduced. She also got ice cream (Ben and Jerry's!) for very cheap that way.

Vegetables were purchased seasonally, and salads and side dishes made with what was in season. Salads served were cabbage salad, fennel salad, lentil salad, cucumber salad, carrot salad, egg salad, eggplant salad- all cheap side dishes. Tahini dip was made from tahini paste, and served as well.

After the wedding, instead of the caterers throwing out leftovers, my family brought them home and froze it, and then served the leftover chicken, beef, rice, and green beans at the weekend.

I made vegan stuffed peppers (filled with rice and tomato, seasoned Greek style) and a rice casserole, plus baked butternut squash and some date and nut loaves for dessert.

My dad made homemade general tso chicken using seasonal vegetables, and homemade miso soup using his own homemade miso.

My little sister made a whole bunch of cakes and cookies from scratch, including one batch of gluten free cookies.

Non family members who came contributed too- one made a tabbouleh salad and a quinoa salad, and another made two gorgeous professional looking cakes.

Drinks were probably some of the more expensive parts.

We ate our meals at the local recreation center's banquet hall. It's not fancy, but it was spacious enough to seat our crowd comfortably. We set up and served and cleaned up ourselves, taking turns so everyone could have a break to eat, and no one was doing all the work. (Though my mom and my sisters and my brother in law did end up doing most of it.)

For sleeping, we were hosted by my sister's neighbors and friends, since the weekend together was in her neighborhood.

As for entertainment... just being together with the entire family, plus friends, isn't something that happens often, and that is entertaining and fun on its own! However, my sister prepared a whole bunch of wedding related games that we played, and my siblings brought along board games they had at home. (Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride, anyone?) So that was free.

I think it is pretty awesome that we were able to have a really enjoyable family weekend together for very low cost, working out to $40 per person for the entire weekend. And the best part about it- despite keeping down the costs, it still was able to be done in a way that no one was overworked or stressed out, but we all felt pampered and had fun!

And now, lucky me, I came home with quite a few containers filled with food (pictured above), and I have enough food to last my family at least a few days, lunch and supper, so I don't have to cook, and I can continue to take it easy. Everyone returned with leftovers, not just myself.

When you have family get togethers, how many people end up coming? What do you do to keep down the costs while maintaining your sanity?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal

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