If you don’t entertain a lot during the year, having company for the holidays can leave you scrambling for serving dishes and additional china and glassware. Besides borrowing serving dishes from friends and family, you can frugally and strategically purchase serving dishes to use year after year for holiday meals.
About ten years ago, I started using real china and silverware for our family birthday parties to save money and to cut down on the waste our parties created. Initially, I bought additional pieces when I found them for a cheap price. Over time, I came to realize that I wanted my entertaining supplies to be as coordinated as my everyday dishes and glasses.
Frugal Holiday Entertaining
Start with the menu
If you have a basic menu you serve each year, then you’ll know what types of dishes you need. For folks preparing a meal for company for the first time, here’s a basic run down of what your menu will look like
Basic holiday menu for planning
- Appetizers (always optional)
- 2 to 3 Side Dishes
- Salad (usually optional)
- Dessert (could be a pie, cake, or a tray of small desserts)
- Coffee or Tea
- Water or Other Cold Beverage
Party Preparation Lists
To help you prepare for your party, I have 2 party preparation lists. You can use them to prepare 2 weeks in advance, or shorten the prep time to a week in advance.
Large serving platters
We have 2 large serving platters, one slightly bigger than the other. While these are the perfect size for a turkey, they’re also great to use as deli trays or dessert trays. I occasionally find them at thrift shops. Bed Bath and Beyond always stocks serving platters before the holidays; you can use a 20% off coupon or the $5 off coupons to save money on the platter. If you’re really stuck, you can find aluminum serving trays at the dollar store for a dollar or 2.
I have a collection of about 10 different trays, many of which double as decor items in my home. I have found all of them at my local Goodwill store except for the hexagon glass tray my husband and I received as a wedding present. I prefer white ceramic trays or silverplate trays since they go with all of my china.
While I find it handy to have an appetizer tray that includes a bowl in the middle for dip, this isn’t a necessity. If needed, you can grab a large aluminum tray, cover it with a table runner, large napkin, or piece of fabric, and place a bowl in the middle of the tray for dip. A wooden cutting board can serve as a cheese and cracker tray. Serve the crackers in a shallow bowl if the cutting board isn’t big enough to hold the cheese and crackers.
As a fan of all things Pyrex, I keep a small collection of Pyrex bowls of various sizes on hand. Since Pyrex bowls are oven-proof, I can use the smaller ones for hot dips for appetizers. I find my Pyrex bowls at thrift stores for about $3 to $5. I also have a few glass Anchor Hocking bowls for mixing baking items which can also double as potato, pretzel, and salad holders. While I found my bowls at Target, you can shop for them at Bed Bath and Beyond and use coupons to save money.
Reluctant Entertainer, The: Every Woman’s Guide to Simple and Gracious Hospitality – Fantastic resource if you struggle with entertaining
My new favorite way to acquire plates for entertaining is to buy the white ones from The Dollar Tree. They’re big enough to hold plenty of food and not fall off someone’s lap. They don’t discolor in the dishwasher, a problem with old china, and they’re cheap enough to be replaced if one is broken.
Before finding plates at The Dollar Tree, I had a collection of smaller plates, probably lunch size, that I found at a local thrift store for $.10 per plate. Yes, you read that correctly. Unfortunately, these plates were a little too small for dinner, however, they would be prefect for lunch or brunch.
If you want holiday-themed plates, watch for sales around the holidays and clearance after the holidays. You can pick up sets of 4 and 8 table settings for huge discounts.
Currently, I have a collection of plastic Ikea cups for kids and adults for parties. For company dinners, I have a mis-matched collection of water glasses which I have collected over the years from thrift shops. Ideally, I’d like to invest in a set of water glasses from the dollar store, however, I haven’t found a pattern I like yet.
You can always pick up silverware and additional serving spoons and forks for almost nothing at thrift stores. I lucked out because my mom bought a lot of silverware for my sister’s bridal shower, and she passed on the silverware to me. Most of my serving utensils came from Bed Bath and Beyond thanks to watching their clearance bins and shopping with coupons.
Storage of Entertaining Supplies
I have a dedicated area in my basement for storing our entertaining supplies. I keep everything in boxes or wrapped in plastic to keep them as clean as possible.
– Barb, currently pinning at Entertaining