Hosting a meal sometime soon? You probably have a million things on your mind, from what recipes you’ll make to how you’ll decorate the table, and definitely how much money you want to spend. Trying to impress your guests while still being cost-effective can be difficult, that’s for sure. But according to Chef Sarah Glover, you don’t have to break the bank to serve a delicious dinner (or breakfast or lunch).
Glover, who has partnered with THOR Industries (THOR), believes that good food has always been a catalyst for human connection (especially when it’s possible to eat outdoors). But whether your meal is by a bonfire or in the comfort of your home, saving cash while cooking for loved ones is always a plus. Below, she tells FirstForWomen.com her best money-saving tips when cooking for others.
Consider a breakfast party.
Breakfast tends to be less expensive than lunch or dinner — especially if you choose your ingredients wisely — and could be a fun twist on a regular dinner party or a way to let kids who go to bed early in on the fun. Glover likes to have potatoes or sweet potatoes, and of course, eggs. “Eggs are filling and cheap and can be used in a thousand different ways,” says Glover. “A few different types of greens can turn some meat scraps and eggs into a bountiful breakfast feast, topped with a bit of sharp cheese or hot sauce.” Plus, who doesn’t like breakfast?
Try making vegetarian dishes.
Glover says you can get more bang for your buck subbing out meat for vegetables with a starch and a protein, like brown rice, cooked beans, quinoa, or potatoes. “Plus, people love eating starchy foods, so they’re a great way to inject some comfort into a recipe while also stretching it for a larger number of people,” she explains. You can still make popular and easy-to-share meals like paella, but with veggies in place of pricey seafood. “I love making a giant batch of paella with whatever I have on hand,” says Glover.
Or go for sausage.
“Sausages are a great, inexpensive meat option, because they’re flavorful, easy to cook, and they come in infinite varieties,” says Glover. “[I like to] grill up a bunch of different kinds of sausages and serve with salad and lots of mixed potatoes.” Another tip: sausages work great as an appetizer. Just slice them up and serve on a plate with tooth picks and a ramekin of yummy mustard.
Make simple and smart swaps.
“Use whatever fat you have on hand — so if you’re out of extra virgin olive oil, use butter instead, or vice versa,” says Glover. If you’re really craving seafood, smaller fish like catfish and tilapia tend to be more affordable than big fish like tuna and salmon. Also remember, when it comes to fruits and vegetables, whatever is local or in season is always going to be a better deal than something that had to be shipped in.
A little seasoning goes a long way.
You don’t need to buy a bunch of pricey spices or a multitude of cooking oils to make your meals sing. “Salt always helps,” says Glover. “Buy good olive oil. If it’s local, that’s even better. A complex flavor in your oil makes everything else sparkle just a little.” Always make sure to pre-heat your pan until it’s nice and hot so that your food caramelizes. “Try keeping things fresh and don’t overcook them,” says Glover. “I love canned tomatoes for a quick hit of acid and sweetness in my dishes.”
And don’t forget to have fun while you’re cooking! A big smile can turn a good meal into a great one, no matter what it is you’re whipping up.