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Plan A Great Holiday Party Without The Fuss

Does a big sit down dinner sound like too much work this year? Does it sound like too much money? There are fun and frugal ways to throw a great party this holiday season without all the fuss. You just have to be a little creative.

New Ideas To Replace That Big Sit-Down Dinner This Holiday Season

So, you're planning another holiday dinner party. Unfortunately, you're already starting to feel the pressure. Are you sure you want to host a big sit-down dinner again this year? Has your guest list grown so much that it has become impossible to even think about seating everyone around your table? Can you even afford a big dinner with all the trimmings this year?

If you're already stressed just thinking about planning a big meal, maybe you should consider a few alternatives. Yes, you will have to get a little creative and even let go of some of your old traditions. But, if you dread the thought of keeping up this whole idea of the big holiday dinner, and paying for it, you might just have to embrace a little change. It may not be the easiest think you've ever done, but once the decision is made to pare down a little from your traditional grand affair, there are some really fun alternatives to consider. You may just be ready to start some new traditions!

Let's look at a few fun ideas to ease the burden and stretch your holiday entertainment budget.


This is a great casual way to gather for a holiday meal. Think of a potluck picnic only all decked out for the holidays. Potlucks are familiar to some families because they have always brought a dish to contribute to the meal. However, this type of dinner party is also perfect for friends, neighbors, or anyone who you want to include in your celebration.

What better way to get to know people than to share recipes and family favorite dishes. Potlucks are appropriate when a very casual holiday gathering is in order and when folks feel comfortable together. But, it's also a great way to get to know folks better! Either way, a holiday potluck can be fun, and is most definitely frugal! Consider how many of your family and friends are in the same situation as you are... frustrated trying to plan a fancy sit-down dinner, and trying to pay the grocery bill that comes with that dinner.

When you are the host of the potluck dinner, you should be responsible for at least one main dish. The rest of the dishes can be total surprises, or if someone asks what they can bring, you can steer them towards a main dish or side dish that would compliment your main course. Or, you can celebrate in true potluck fashion, you know, catch-as-catch-can! Whatever comes to the table, comes to the table. Just enjoy it! But, be ready for a slew of Jello salads!

Desserts Galore

If you plan a late evening holiday party, you may want to serve desserts only, with an assortment of wines and coffees. You don't have to get all fancy with the desserts. There are actually many tricks to preparing deceptively inexpensive desserts that can be very decadent.

Start with a simple and very inexpensive angel food cake purchased in the bakery section of your grocery store. Slice it up thin and drizzle with a little chocolate, which is nothing more than chocolate baking chips melted in the microwave for a few seconds. Go to the floral department, fresh herb department, or the spice department in your grocery store and add a few surprising touches to your chocolate drizzled cake and no one will be disappointed. Try a few sprigs of lavender, mint leaves, or even carnations for a beautiful and edible touch.

Blend an assortment of frozen fruit in your food processor or blender with a little lemon juice and serve alongside the cakes in pretty little bowls for even more flair and flavor.

Stir together a simple frosting with powdered sugar, milk, and lemon or lime juice for another topping to drizzle over your cake.

Make simple chocolate bark with nuts by melting chocolate chips or coating chocolate, then mixing pecans or other assorted nuts in the chocolate, and quickly laying out on a cookie sheet. Cook, and break into pieces. Arrange on a plate for even more sweet treats for your guests to choose.

Serve your desserts on the prettiest plates you can find and no one will guess you were being so frugal!

And, don't forget to have plenty of freshly brewed coffee on hand with a few small pitchers of icy cold flavored non-dairy creamer. If you're serving wine to compliment the desserts, don't worry about acting like a connoisseur. No one will care! They love the company and the chance to mingle. So buy the big bottle or the box. If you're still concerned about the ambiance of the wine bottle, that's what carafes are for!

Finger Foods

What could be better for mingling than finger foods. If your holiday meal requires people to keep moving because you don't have the room for everyone to sit down at once, this is a great solution. You want to start with something as simple as a vegetable tray with dip. But, don't skimp on the dip! Make it something special by creating your own dips out of soup mixes, spices, grated garlic, onion, ginger, or whatever the veggies are calling for. Be sure to get a good variety of fresh vegetables. Wash and cut them yourself to save money, yes, but more importantly to ensure freshness. You'll be much happier with the results that way.

Trays of cheese, sausage, olives, and crackers are always easy to throw together. However, choose a wide variety of cheese and sausage so your guests won't get bored with yet another handful of cheddar cheese and summer sausage. Shop the big store's dairy counter for your best prices. The deli won't offer you any more variety and the price won't be as reasonable.

As far as some more substantial food, try little boneless chicken wings. They are relatively inexpensive in the freezer department of most larger grocery stores. Don't choose any sloppy barbecue sauce to cook them in. Instead, thaw the wings out, flavor them with a nice and spicy dry rub, and bake them on a rack in the oven. You'll reduce the drippy grease and sauce problem and they'll be plenty flavorful! Have a little bleu cheese dip available for the wings if you'd like.

You may also like to try your hand at some simple finger sandwiches. Use little cocktail bread and fill with whatever you can think of that would be fun. Make some of your favorite classics, like tuna fish sandwich filling, chicken salad sandwich, cold cuts, and the like. You don't have to get too fancy, everyone will love a bite of their own favorite sandwich, whatever it is! Stick to the classics and you can't lose. Just be sure the sandwiches aren't too messy. You'll want people to be able to enjoy them without wearing a bib!

Pinwheels are also fun little finger sandwiches that are easy to walk around with. These are made simply by mixing up your favorite ingredients, usually including cream cheese, and spreading it on tortillas. Then you roll it up tightly and cut into little circles.

Traveling Party

A traveling holiday party works well when several people within the same family or group of friends is celebrating the same holiday season. For instance, if you have three families who want to share the celebration, each family hosts a portion of the party at their house. One group will serve hors d'oeuvres and beverages, the second group will serve a main course, and the third group will serve desserts and coffee. A roving party, so to speak.

Get together with the other groups about the menu so everyone is in agreement about what sort of menu to serve and what style the party should be. Normally, this sort of party is quite casual, so the food should be casual, as well. Since folks will be coming and going, sort of “open house” style, there won't be a sit-down meal at any house. This is strictly buffet style, so plan a lot of “mingle-friendly” food.

On the invitation to a traveling party, you should sketch out a plan for the block of time that each course will be served at each house. Keep it flexible, but folks need to know which house to be at and what time they should be there to enjoy that part of the meal.

Planning a big sit-down meal for the holiday season may seem like more than you can handle this year. Whether it's the logistics, the planning, or the expense, it all adds up to too much stress for some folks. If that sounds like you, consider breaking with tradition this year and enjoying a meal that is creative, fun, and still very, very festive! Remember: No one is having fun unless the host is having fun. Enjoy your holiday season!

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