Making and Hosting a Large Dinner Party on a Budget

I recently threw a dinner party for a bunch of guests. 25 people specifically, a mix of kids and adults. Originally we were going to have another 7, so I prepared food as if there were going to be 32 people. And while I wouldn't say the entire meal was cheap, per se, once you divide it by how many people came, it actually was quite the frugal meal. I spent $182 for everything for the meal, but I also really over cooked, and had enough for two other meals for my family with the same food, which brings down the cost per person even more.

The cost breakdown was $114 for the food, $45 for the disposables, and $22 for the wine. I didn't include the cost of some vodka we used for cocktails that I already had at home. I decided to use nice disposables instead of cheapo stuff, so this cost more money. I didn't use super high end disposables either (that look like real dishes), I went middle of the line with this. For the wine, I bought wine on sale, which cost between $4.25 and $5.60. Guests also contributed a few bottles to the meal. 

On the menu was miso soup, poke bowls, cocktails, and wine.

I'm going to do the easiest to the hardest.

For cocktails we did simple things. Orange juice with tequila and pomegranate syrup. I thought this was a tequila sunrise, but it was a bit tart. I didn't realize that grenadine isn't plain pomegranate syrup, or molasses, but also has sugar and other ingredients mixed in. Oh well. It still was delicious even if not an official tequila sunrise. We also had vodka with bitter lemon and cranberry juice. I'd also intended to make something with pineapple juice but I forgot that we had pineapple juice so we skipped that. I also had a sparkling alcoholic cider that we served, as well as the wines, a mix of muscat wine, emerald riesling, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon. Of course this was just for the adults. Kids got juice and soda.

Miso soup was super simple. I used my father's homemade miso to season a vegetable soup made from carrots, zucchini, onions, and fennel. Some people added some wakame to their soup.

For the poke bowls, I made a lot of sushi rice using calrose rice. I made way too much, 6 kilograms of it. I should have just made two, tops 3. I still have leftover rice and the dinner was last week. I seasoned it with a vinegar sugar mixture as I would for sushi.

The toppings I included were the following:

  • Julienned carrots
  • Julienned cucumbers
  • Thinly sliced red and yellow peppers
  • Cubed avocado
  • Julienned pineapple
  • Bean sprouts
  • Rehydrated shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • Rehydrated wakame
  • Chopped nori
  • Raw sushi grade salmon
  • Smoked salmon lox
  • Surimi mock shrimp and crab
  • Chicken breast for the non fish eaters

Then were the sauces
  • Gluten free and gluten soy sauce
  • Sweet chili sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Terriyaki sauce
  • Spicy mayonnaise
Other than the first soup course, everything else was self serve passed around the table. (Picture taken before the rice was put on the table.) It was a hit, and best part of it was that it really was not a lot of work to cook. Yes, chopping the veggies was a bit time consuming but a mandolin makes that a lot quicker so it wasn't bad. All I actually cooked was the sushi rice and the soup.

Everyone had a grand old time. I was thinking of having some music playing in the background, but there were so many people and in not the largest area that the hubbub of all the kids and adults was enough noise so I left that out.

In order to make room for everyone, I took my couches out of my living room/dining room, and then explanded my table all the way and used another two folding tables to seat everyone. Turning the tables diagonally ended up making there be more room.

I was beyond exhausted and in a decent amount of pain (thank you EDS and chronic pain) after that dinner party, but it was still worth it for the wonderful memories with good friends. Once a year I'll do something this large, but that's my limit.

Do you ever make dinner parties? What is the most amount of people you'd host for something like that? What would be on your menu? How much would your budget be, either for the group or per person?

Penniless Parenting

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


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  1. Love this. Hosting is work, but I agree -- you're creating memories and it's such a good way to get people to join together and slow down, catch up etc. I would love to host more, but my husband isn't into hosting as much as I am 😩

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