Fun and Frugal Dinner Parties

This is a guest post from Anne over at Unique Gifter. Make sure you give her lots of love and check out her great site for amazing gift ideas! 

Source: Flickr

Hosting dinner parties is a wonderfully fun way to spend time and one that I particularly enjoy.  That said, they can easily break the bank!  My spouse recently came home with a $45 chunk of lamb, the fact I dislike lamb aside, that is one pricey hunk of meat!  It is commonplace for such things to be the centerpiece of a meal, but it absolutely not necessary.  Here are some alternatives, that will still be crowd pleasers but also manage to be frugal and easy to pull off.

Tip 1: When people say “what can I bring?” take them up on their offer!


This is the easiest and most affordable way to have a gathering.  Plus, it’s lots of fun to see what everyone brings.  This Thanksgiving, we had a potluck where I provided the turkey and stuffing and everyone else brought the rest.  If you are organizing the event, make sure to ask if anyone has bad allergies.  It is usually easiest to let everyone know that there’s a _____ allergy and avoid the food altogether.  An easy way to organize these days is by setting up an event on Facebook.  Simply post a list of things, such as appetizer, side dish, dessert, salad, main, bread, etc. and have everyone pick one and post which they have picked.  You could also ask them to post what they plan to bring, but that can take the fun out of the surprise!

Want to spice up your potluck?  Pick a theme!  Here’s a post with 10 fun potluck theme ideas, including picking a letter of the alphabet that every dish has to start with, their example is C.  Foods: chili, chowder, chicken, carrots, cauliflower, calamari, chips, cucumbers, corn, couscous, cake, coconut, cookies, curly fries, chocolate and candy!!


A fondue can be both affordable and simple to execute.  You can do an oil fondue, which will only cost a few dollars in oil, and/or a beer fondue or two.  A cheddar and beer fondue should only cost around $15 for the main ingredients, or the (delicious) packets at the grocery store are ~$10 each.  Bread is a few dollars per loaf, for good bread, throw in some chopped veggies and cooked baby potatoes, and you’re golden!

At my local cheese shop, you can rent a fondue pot for the evening for $5 or $10.  All you have to provide is the fuel, which you can pick up at Dollarama.  The rental is even free if you buy a minimum amount of fondue cheese from them.  Try calling a cheese shop or a kitchenware shop to see if a rental is an option for you.

To make a fondue even more affordable, plus have it require less chopping on your part, you could ask your guests to each bring a specific dipper.

Naturally, finishing the evening with a chocolate fondue is preferable!  An important note on fondues: Growing up, the rule in my house was if something fell off your fork, you had to kiss someone!  Feel free to implement that or to let it slide.  I guarantee that it’s fun, especially after a few glasses of wine 😉


Perogies, or however you choose to spell it, are delicious.  They also happen to be affordable and simple to serve up to a large crowd.  A co-worker makes them in a crock pot and they are both heavenly and deadly.  (Hint: her method includes cooking in creamo!!!!)  If you are really, truly, inspired, you can make them from scratch.  They taste much better, but will take you forever, unless you have been practicing for your whole life!  Have your guests bring a salad to go with, grate some cheese and put out some sour cream.

Source: Flickr

Baked Potatoes

Have you ever heard the saying “cheap as chips?”  Baked potatoes are affordable, easy to make and FILLING!  Plus, you can address a huge crowd of picky eaters by offering a variety of toppings.  Once per semester, I have all the co-op students at work over for dinner.  This is my plan for the next time!

Do you have some crock pots?  Put them to work with some chili as a topper.  Grab some synthetic (or real) bacon bits, chop up some green onion, grab some Greek yogurt or sour cream, make some broccoli in cheese sauce, heat up Cheez Whiz if you can stomach it, dice chicken, chop avocado, dice tomatoes, put out salsa, fry mushrooms, bake beans…. You name it!  Here are 101 Baked Potato Topping Ideas to peruse.  Add in a salad, maybe some fruit salad for dessert and you are set!

If anyone wants to invite me to dinner where they serve baked potatoes with crab topping, I’m there!  You could even top with caviar, but that’s kind of the opposite of the idea of this post.

Catherine’s note:Thanks so much Anne, I personally love a good pot-luck, there’s always something for everyone! And I love baked potatoes more than any Irishman I know. Seriously so good!

Anne writes about fun and creative gift ideas over at Unique Gifter, with a splash of savings advice and a healthy dose of sassiness.  Pop on by to see some ideas on how to make giving cash a creative gift or get some stock ideas percolating by reading my list of 400+ mostly affordable stocking stuffer ideas

***Remember to enter the $100.00 giveaway! Ends December 15th!***

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  1. Good tips! We love potlucks as well. I think it saves on the cost for most involved and it can save time as well so you’re not preparing an entire meal. I like them because you get to have some variety.

  2. We have two potluck Christmas parties that we’ll be attending this weekend! (It’s gonna be a busy weekend…)

    I definitely love the ideas – another one that was a huge hit and for the volume it made surprisingly cheap – stuffed shells! I fancied them up with canned artichoke hearts in the mix and everyone raved. For less than $30 it made enough for a 6-person party as well as leftovers for lunches for us for a week.

  3. ohhh…..these are all good ideas. I love potlucks. That is usually what I end up doing with friends!

  4. I love potlucks! Unfortunately my friends seem to be getting lazy and bring store-bought non-substantial food like chips to them. We also threw a potluck one time where every single guest brought a dessert – good thing we had cooked 6 main dishes! I think my group of friends really needs some guidance in what to bring.

  5. I have been to a few parties where we all chose a recipe and cook it together. We made sushi once, and an elaborate cake. It is nice because everyone brings ingredients and you don’t have to prepare everything on your own. In the same line of fondue a friend has a 6 crepes machine that we place on the center of the table and everyone prepares his own crepe with different toppings. The dough is just eggs flour and milk so very affordable.

    • Sushi parties are SO GOOD! That said, I usually find that they get a bit pricey. Splitting the ingredients out is definitely a good way to go with them though. 6 crepes at once? That would be awesome. I had two French housemates for a bit and we would have crepe dinner nights, so delicious!

      • They are small crepes, like the crep’party from Tefal, but at least everyone gets to eat at once, when I cook them in a big pan I make them one by one and usually don’t enjoy my meal.

  6. Every Christmas we host a baked potato bar at our house and it’s always a hit! People love it and it’s very inexpensive to have several different toppings!!!!!

  7. What a delicious post!!

    I love them all. Potluck parties allow you to try stuff that you may not have ever thought of making before. My husband and I love fondues, all kinds, meat, swiss cheese, chocolate. And Perogies were a family staple in our house as a kid. My parents made them all the time. Some flavors were boiled and served with fruit and sour cream and some flavors were fried up with bacon and onions.

  8. Great ideas! I love potlucks!

  9. We have a George Foreman grill, which I love. When we have a people over, we usually do a quesadilla bar. Cut up some stuff , a bit of cheese, and meat and eveyone loves it. You can even have people bring an ingredient and you provide meat and cheese.

  10. Love perogies! Gotta cook them with lots of onions and a side of sour cream! They make a great snack to have with a cold beer while you’re watching football!

  11. These are all great ideas! I’m a huge fan of pot luck style gatherings, as there’s always a ton of food but very little effort for each individual guest. Once we had a party and it was “pot luck beer” where we filled a canoe with ice and everyone mixed their different types of beer into the canoe. It was great! (not recommended for different types of mixed drinks – that’s a recipe for illness).

    • I have never been somewhere with the canoe and ALWAYS wanted to. A potluck beer would be super fun, that’s a great idea! There was sooo much food leftover from my work potluck on Monday!

  12. Justin@TheFrugalPath says:

    We love potlucks. Usually my wife makes Cheesy potatoes. They usually go over pretty well since most people, myself aside, love cheese and potatoes.

  13. Potlucks are our frugal dinner party of choice. We partner it with a crap from your basement gift exchange to complete the frugal evening 🙂

  14. Love the baked potato idea – I’m going to have to use that at some time. We almost always do a potluck when our friends come over, and it’s become a bit of a tradition in our little circle.

  15. My wife and I like to entertain and there are countless ways to feed your guests without breaking the bank. We cook from scratch which leads to more delicious meals and it’s insurance for your health, as well.

  16. Baked potatoes are always a winner! I’m also a big fan of potato salad.

    We tend to think of dinner parties as a way to splash out on nicer ingredients and experimenting with dishes, though 🙂

    • Experimenting is definitely part of the fun. We have wicked expensive dinner parties at times, as well 🙂 Especially if my spouse is involved, but I try to encourage cooking, not discourage it, and that usually literally comes with a price tag.

  17. We love potlucks add well. It makes holiday party cooking so much less stressful.


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  2. […] Fun and Frugal Dinner Parties on Plunged In Debt […]

  3. […] party during the holidays or any time of year. (For more tips, check out Anne’s post from Plunged in Debt). It’s easy to call the caterer, but by planning and doing it yourself, you can save some […]

  4. […] Catherine at Plunged in Debt shares some great ideas for Fun and Frugal Dinner Parties […]