Easter party ideas to decorate for the event don’t have to cost a fortune. The Easter holiday is a time for family, bunnies and spring. It’s the perfect opportunity to incorporate fun spring colors into your outdoor dining experience for
One of the best ways to save on any holiday dinner is to buy when your favorite foods and ingredients are on sale. The key to making this type of cost-saving shopping trip payoff is to have a plan and
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If your life is anything like mine, then you likely have a lot of holiday gatherings throughout November and December. Most of these ask you to bring some finger foods and a meat and cheese tray seems like a smart choice at times. It doesn’t require any cooking on your part. However, those meat and cheese trays you buy are the grocery store on the plastic trays are puny and expensive.
The solution? Create your own meat and cheese trays for the holidays. Trust me, this will take you about ten minutes and you’ll save at least 50%.
Steps to Make a Holiday Meat and Cheese Tray
When I say “meat and cheese,” I don’t mean the lunch meat for sandwiches. I am talking about hors d’oeuvres. This is a dish that will be well received almost anywhere, so is a good choice to take for pitch ins.
Step # 1: An Amazing Tray
Your first step to creating a beautiful meat and cheese tray is to find an amazing tray. You have a few options with this and it might play into your overall pitch-in personality.
- Buy a truly beautiful vintage tray at a yard sale or use one that has been handed down through the generations. The concern here is that you might go off and leave it, but if you are attending a family function it is probably fine. You can always get it back.
- Buy a simple but lasting tray from an inexpensive store, such as Old Time Pottery for about $10-$20. You’ll use this tray again and again, but again you have to worry that you might leave it behind.
- Use a cutting board you have on hand. The age doesn’t matter. The more beat up, the more character.
- Go to the dollar store and buy a holiday themed plastic tray. The benefit of this is that you can leave it behind and you’ll only be out $1. This is usually my choice. If I can remember to take it with me, I do. But, if I want to leave early and people are still milling around, or if I forget it, it is not a huge deal either.
Step # 2: Buy the Meats and Cheeses
Even though you might be tempted to go to the deli area of your grocery and buy some really unique cheeses to add to your tray, this will run the cost of your tray up. Think about what is typically on a tray you buy:
- Two types of basic cheese cubes (let’s say cheddar and pepper jack)
- Summer Sausage
To make this even less expensive, I do a couple of things. Cheese and processed meats both keep for a long time. I watch for sales. For example, I recently got blocks of cheese for $2.00 each, little beef sausage links for $4.99 for a package (I’ll use it twice for this) and pepperoni’s for $1.99. I did pay full price for some Ritz crackers, because I didn’t plan ahead on those, but you can catch these on sale or use a different type of cracker.
Step # 3: Prepping the Cheese
Since you’ll be buying blocks to save money, you’ll need to cut the cheese. One key to making this dish stretch is to not cut hunks of cheese. Instead, cut into small cubes. You may even be able to use the cheese more than once as I did and stretch your money further. If you have leftovers, you family can always eat the cheese as snacks.
Step # 4: Place on Tray in Zones
Someone I know told me they like to buy the trays at the store because the meat and cheese is “arranged so nicely.” I hope all of my very frugal readers are aware that no one really cares all that much. As soon as the first couple of people take pieces off of that tray, it is no longer neat anyway.
However, you can certainly arrange your tray nicely. Figure out zones for cheese, meat, and crackers. What I do is I first outline the zones. So, if I want say cheddar cheese in one zone, I outline the shape I want with cubes. Then, I fill it in. And so on.
I think it looks nice enough. People eat it, so that’s the main thing. If you want to get really fancy, you can buy some gorgeous toothpicks with red and green decorations and stick them into the cheese cubes. That can add a lot of interest for not a lot more money (especially if you buy them on clearance at the end of the season and save them for the next year).
BTW, please don’t place the crackers on the tray until you get there. They will get soggy. What I like to do is grab a couple of sleeves of Ritz and put them on the tray without opening them. Then, when I get there, I just open and spread onto the tray.
My estimate on the cost of this frugal pitch-in dish is $8.50 (plus $1 if you leave a throwaway tray behind). The last time I checked, a small tray like this at the store was $14.99 and my tray was much larger.
Thinking about having a Valentine’s Day Party? All the planning tips you’ll need for everything from Valentine’s Day party decorations to ideas for games are contained in this guide.
Valentine’s Day decorations for a party can create that perfect, romantic atmosphere that will make the event memorable. Valentine’s Day party decorations can run the gamut from heart streamers to full-out themed party mania. The plan below covers all aspects of planning a Valentine’s Day event that will have guests talking and remembering for years to come.
Valentine’s Day Party Invitations
The invitation you send to invite others to your Valentine’s Day party will set the tone for the party itself. If you haven’t already chosen a theme for your party, now is the time to do so. I’m going to give you a few ideas for themes, but use your own creativity, think about what you love that’s romantic and choose the theme that works best for your personality as a party planner.
Possible Valentine’s Day Party Themes
Death by Chocolate: Chocolate and V-Day seem to go hand-in-hand. Chocolate can easily translate over to your party theme. For the invitation, send a small piece of high quality chocolate along with an invitation that is dripping with a graphic of melted chocolate.
Red Hot Party: Who said Valentine’s Day has to be tame? Use red hots candies to outline a few letters and graphics of flames to show the tone of the party.
Anti-Valentine’s Day: Not everyone loves the holiday. If you’ve been burned more than once on Valentine’s Day, or are single, consider hosting an Anti-Valentine’s Day party. A heart invitation with the heart X-d out is a nice way to start the theme.
Candy Hearts: Do you love those little candy hearts that can only be found in February? Why not turn them into a party theme. Hearts with letters are easy to cut out and hang everywhere. Start with an invitation with the words to the invite spelled out in little graphics of candy hearts.
The Love Bug: Remember that Little Rascals episode where Darla sings, “The love bug’ll get ya if you don’t watch out?” Why not turn that into a theme for your party. Find graphics of a cute bug, like a caterpillar. Make two kiss and put little hearts over their heads and create the party invitation.
Microsoft Publisher is a nice place to start if you want to create your own invitation, but there are many online companies that also offer inexpensive invitations. You can also visit your local craft supply store and pick up card stock, ribbons, cut outs, stamps and other items to make beautiful, handmade invites.
Valentine’s Party Decorations
When it comes to Valentines Day party decorations, the only limit is your imagination. If you are short on time, visit any party supply store, or even a big box retailer like Walmart or Target and purchase cutouts and helium balloons to decorate. If you have the time and want to get really creative, then try adding one or more of these ideas:
- Blow up red and pink balloons and tape in an arch over a doorway.
- Cut out paper hearts in white and red and hand everywhere. Alternately, if you are going with a candy hearts theme, cut the hearts out in pastels and write “Be Mine” and other sayings on the hearts.
- Purchase shallow glass bowls at the thrift store and float heart-shaped candles in them.
- Wrap wide red ribbon with white twinkle lights and hang from the ceiling.
- Cover lamp shades with pink or red scarfs.
- For the “Red Hot” party theme, create paper tubes out of red and orange paper. Cut the top to the shape of flames. Place a battery-operated, flameless candle in the center and line up strategically to create the look of fire.
- Cover the table in red satin. If the material is too costly, purchase a small bit and pool it in the center of the table and then place a large bowl with water with a bit of red dye and white floating candles in the center. Place a mirror under the bowl to add to the effect.
- Create a beautiful heart flower centerpiece, like the one on Martha Stewart’s website.
- Pull out the lace and drape it over everything. Follow by scattering hearts cut from red cloth on top.
The key to beautiful, but inexpensive decorations is to use what you already have on hand, buy a few inexpensive items and borrow anything else.
V-Day Party Food
The key to entertaining with food is to keep the menu filled with simple, finger foods and one really amazing centerpiece item that guests can ooh and aah over. Finger foods are perfect for parties. They allow guests to eat their fill without slowing down the pace of the party. There are some tried and true finger foods that work well for any party, such as:
- Cheese ball and crackers
- Veggie tray
- Fruit tray
- Small sandwiches
I would add some Valentine’s Day themed food to that list, like:
- Cut sandwiches into hearts with cookie cutter
- Heart-shaped brownies or brownies with heart in powdered sugar
- Celery sticks with cream cheese dyed pink
- Chocolate fountain with items to dip in it, like strawberries, bananas, pretzels
I would then add a truly amazing dish to the lineup that people would remember. Here are some examples. Please don’t try to do all of these for your party. You will wear yourself out and that isn’t fun for anyone. Choose one amazing signature dish that screams Valentine’s Day. You can always have another party next year and make something new.
- Multi-tiered cake with red hearts
- Cake pops shaped like hearts. Simply bake a fairly thin sheet cake, cut out hearts with a cookie cutter, stick on a candy stick and dip in chocolate and allow to set. Yummy and pretty. Once the chocolate sets, you can add additional decorations, too.
- Raspberry tarts shaped like hearts – I just found this recipe and I can’t wait to try it out. They are gorgeous aren’t they?
Don’t forget to make a big bowl of Cupid’s Punch. I love to make this punch. You can change the color by using different flavors of Hawaiian Punch, lemonade, fruity drinks and sherberts. For Valentine’s Day, I call it Cupid’s Punch. For St. Patrick’s Day, I call it Leprechaun punch and make it with green ingredients. And so on…
- Pink lemonade (64 oz. premade or 12 oz. can frozen concentrate)
- 2-liter of ginger ale (some people prefer lemon-lime, but I like the taste of ginger ale in my punch)
- 1/2 gallon raspberry sherbert
Pour pink lemonade and ginger ale into a punch bowl and stir together. Drop spoon fulls of sherbert into the mixture and stir until mostly dissolved. It creates a creamy, beautiful punch that you’ll be proud to serve to your guests. Want to make it lovelier? Add a few fresh raspberries just before your guests arrive.
Games for a Valentine’s Event
If you’re hosting the party for children, then games are a major part of the fun. If the party is for adults, then limit the games to just a couple or you risk losing the interest of those present.
Games for Kids
- Pin the arrow on Cupid’s bow
- Heart-shaped Pinata (actually adults like this, too)
- Crafts: Make and exchange Valentine’s Day cards
- Face-painting V-Day style (hearts, flowers, the word “Love”)
Games for Adults
- About.com Guide Megan Cooley had an excellent suggestion to play V-Day Pictionary. Her idea was to have the kids play this game, but I think adults would enjoy it as well.
- Scavenger hunt. The best way to create a scavenger hunt is to get local businesses involved. Write out the clues, break your party guests into teams and send them out in cards to gather up items and see who returns first. For example, a clue to go to the local florist could be “Love is as sweet as roses at this local store.” Worried your guests will have trouble with the clues? Just list items for them to bring back.
- 1-rose from local florist (pay for the roses ahead of time)
- Advice from Mary Jones, who has been married for 53 years (make sure everyone knows her or has her address and that Mary knows they are coming)
- Picture of husband and wife tombstones where it’s obvious they were in love because of their epitaphs.
- Heart-shaped cookie from my grandma (again, make sure grandma knows and everyone has her address).
You’ll also want to throw in some challenges that are funny, such as ask a stranger for a hug or ask someone to be your valentine. Send everyone out with cameras (you may have to borrow a couple) and have the computer hooked up so you can view them when everyone returns. Scavenger hunts are great fun for adults.
Send everyone home with a Valentine’s goody bag to help them remember the good time they had at your party. Here are a few ideas for goodie bag items…
Goody Bags for Kids
Kids like fun little items. You don’t have to spend a fortune to make kids happy. Use one of these items, a few or come up with your own ideas.
- T-shirts that the kids decorate and get to take home.
- Heart-shaped lollipops
- Heart-shaped cookie with the child’s name in icing
- Helium balloon
- Bag of candy and inexpensive toys
- Pink and white Play-Doh
- Small stuffed bears
Goody Bags for Adults
Many adults hate clutter, so try to stick with items that can be consumed. If you have a smallish group or a big budget, you might be able to send them home with nicer presents. Below is a mix of very inexpensive and more expensive ideas. Choose what works best for your party.
- $10 Godiva gift card or the chocolate itself
- Romantic book, such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
- Bath beads
- Valentine’s Day coffee mug filled with hot chocolate packets
- Starbucks gift card
A Memorable Party
Don’t get so caught up in decorations and food that you forget to enjoy your guests and have a good time. The main reason for inviting friends and family over is to spend time with them and build memories. If all the planning seems overwhelming, then just order pizza and forget the decorations, fancy food and games. It is more important that you open your home with a genuine heart and truly enjoy time with those you love. After all, isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is truly about?