Cocktail Party Food On A Budget

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Looking for cocktail party food on a budget? You came to the right place. I’ve put together 15 of my favorite healthy appetizers that will leave a memorable impression.

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10 Budget-friendly Cocktail Hors d’Oeuvres

Enjoying time with friends makes the holidays — or any day — more enjoyable. If you’re looking to save a little money, though, you can still have fun by entertaining at home. Whether it’s a New Year’s Eve countdown party or an intimate birthday party for friends, these 10 budget-friendly cocktail hors d’oeuvres will give you and your guests even more reason to celebrate. And you don’t need a new custom kitchen to prepare these savory and sweet bites. Just making the most of your tiny flat with a minifridge and microwave can still score you the crown of hostess-with-the-mostest. The appetizer suggestions in the following sections make the most of a little bit of money, accentuated with a modest portion of creativity. Cheers and happy eating!

10: Cheese Platter

Cheese platters can make delicious and budget-friendly cocktail hors d’oeuvres. To get the most bang for your buck, select several varieties of cheese that are standard in your region — they’ll likely be the most economically priced. You can cut them into cubes and serve with small chunks of deli ham and turkey that your guests can stack up on party toothpicks like mini kabobs. Or, you can place slabs of different types of cheese on a tray with assorted crackers. Be sure to provide a knife to slice each variety of cheese.

Grissini (thin, salted pastry breadsticks) also go great with hard and soft cheeses. You can easily bake grissini or cheese straws using store-bought refrigerated pie crust. As a time-saving tip, Martha Stewart advises baking breadsticks two days in advance of your party (they’ll still be fresh come party time) [source: Martha Stewart]. For a stunning presentation that’s easy on the eyes and your wallet, try these recipes for Cheese Pinecones and a Pesto Cheese Wreath.

9: Chocolate-dipped Fruit

Chocolate-covered strawberries suggest that you're an elegant hostess.
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Chocolate-covered strawberries suggest that you’re an elegant hostess.

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Fresh fruit dipped in chocolate is always a crowd-pleaser. Whether you prefer milk, dark or white chocolate, each type makes a delightful and budget-friendly appetizer when combined with in-season fruit (which is typically less expensive than out-of-season fruits). If you’re looking for variety and an interactive experience for your guests, offer them a chance to dip banana chunks, kiwi slices or pineapple wedges in chocolate fondue. Marshmallows and dried fruits like apricots work nicely with fondue as well.

For a very simple approach to chocolatey fruit, try Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, which you can coat partially or cover completely with a cocoa shell. Or, you could use this recipe for a Chocolate Lace Bowl in which to serve raw fruit or candied goodies.

Arrange chocolate-dipped fruit on serving trays with green garnishes of fresh mint, lettuce or kale, or for a festive holiday touch, with small ornaments or candy canes.

8: Bacon-wrapped Fruit

Move over, filet mignon: Fruit wrapped in bacon is a hot hors d’oeuvre that your guests will rave about. Imagine juicy, sweet chunks of pineapple tucked inside crisp, smoky bacon, held together with a festive party toothpick. Why not try wrapping bacon around grapes or slices of apples, pears or mangoes? Different fruit and bacon combinations will result in unique taste sensations. Of course, you can marinate the bacon for extra flavor or provide complementary sauces to dip these hors d’oeuvres in. Barbecue sauce, poppy seed dressing and orange marmalade are good choices.

For party-goers who don’t eat pork, prepare some wrapped fruit with beef or turkey bacon. And your vegetarian friends will appreciate mock bacon made from soy.

To keep costs down, buy fruit in bulk and use it for other appetizers, like the chocolate-dipped fruit we just read about.

7: Go Nuts

A bowl of assorted nuts makes a simple, salty snack.
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A bowl of assorted nuts makes a simple, salty snack.

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Nuts make great appetizers all by themselves or blended with other ingredients into a party mix. You can serve several varieties of nuts, such as almonds, Brazil nuts, peanuts and walnuts, in a platter with divided sections, and your guests can spoon out their favorites to create their own blend. For another option, combine your favorite nuts with pretzels, mini crackers, Melba toast, cereal and sesame sticks. Spice things up by adding chipotle seasoning or Worcestershire sauce. Try a gourmet blend of spiced nuts, such as this recipe for Rosemary-Scented Nut Mix, or save time and effort by stocking up on premade wasabi-flavored peas and seasoned baked lentils. These munchies are inexpensive but offer lots of flavor.

6: Crudite Platters

Crudité platters, also known as vegetable trays, offer endless, economical options. What’s more, fresh veggies offer loads of vitamins and minerals, as well as different textures and flavors. And everything doesn’t have to be fresh — no one will complain if you slip in some baby dill pickles or a stack of bread and butter slices.

You can slice radishes, celery, carrots, yellow squash, zucchini, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers (all crudité platter staples) into chips, wedges, sticks or whichever shape works best for sampling delicious dips. Then, arrange them on a tray or platter or inside individual martini glasses, centered around Creamy Dill Veggie Dip, roasted garlic or red pepper hummus or a zesty spinach dip with water chestnuts. For an elegant appetizer that’s also budget-friendly, try Shrimp Dip with Crudités.

5: Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs are a retro appetizer.
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Deviled eggs are a retro appetizer.

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Call it a blast from the past if you want, but a tray filled with deviled eggs is a budget-friendly appetizer that’s making a comeback. Not only is this throwback from the 1970s a super cheap treat, it’s a quick-fix one, too. You can prepare deviled eggs in less than 20 minutes. What’s more, one dozen eggs yields 24 noshes, stretching your cash even further.

Although eggs are chock full of protein, you can reduce cholesterol content with this Angelic Deviled Eggs recipe. Put a twist on the egg-yolk filling by substituting it with guacamole. For a heavier hors d’oeuvre, fill the hollowed eggs with tuna or chicken salad or chopped ham, roast beef or turkey.

4: Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa are always yummy, and when you dress up this Tex-Mex combination, it’s even more fun and tasty. Get swanky with lime and sea-salt seasoned Corn Tortilla Chips — a rather frugal recipe that calls for day-old tortillas — served with peach, mango or black bean-corn salsa. For a thicker, more whimsical dip, opt for Cowboy Caviar. If you want your guests to save their calories for your raspberry margaritas, you can whip up a guilt-free version of chips and salsa using jicama chips in place of fried tortillas. Garnish your salsa with fresh cilantro, green onion and black olives.

This appetizer provides the perfect way to fuse opposites like hot and cold temperatures and sweet and spicy flavors, tantalizing your guests’ senses. To save even more money, purchase off-brand tortilla chips and pick up a big jar of salsa instead of making your own with fresh ingredients.

3: Olive Platter

Add a Mediterranean accent to the buffet table with olives.
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Add a Mediterranean accent to the buffet table with olives.

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Create an interesting spin-off of the antipasto platter with an assortment of olives. Display a variety of black and green olives in cocktail glasses. (Be sure to purchase pitted olives; nobody wants to break a tooth at your party.) You can fill small olives with a sliver of almond or pimento. Or, think dirty martini and stuff medium-sized to jumbo olives with a blue cheese mixture, and you’ll get surprisingly yummy hors d’oeuvres [source: Lagasse].

In just a few minutes, you can make a classic, succulent tapenade that your guests will find fabulous. Spread this mixture over warm bread, which we’ll explore in the next section.

2: Toasted Baguette

What can’t you do with day-old French bread? We’ve got a few ideas that go beyond bruschetta.

At your favorite happy hour spot, you may have fallen in love with decadent chocolate and sea salt spread on a toasted baguette. It’s reportedly a popular snack for children in Spain, and it’s sure to bring out the kid in your guests, as they’ll all be scrambling for seconds and thirds [source: Adria]. All you need is baker’s chocolate, olive oil, French bread and coarse salt. Melt a slab of chocolate on each slice of bread, then add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Not only is it easy to make, but this appetizer is relatively inexpensive as well.

For a heavier hors d’oeuvre, spread toasted baguette rounds with crab dip. Buy it premade, or make your own with canned or imitation crab meat as budget-friendly alternatives. Another creamy spread is found in this recipe for Quick Pimiento Cheese Snacks. This one is a good choice for diet-conscious guests; a low-calorie appetizer, it calls for Neufchatel cheese, which tastes similar to cream cheese but has less fat.

1: Phyllo Cups

Spanakopita is a savory bite your guests will love.
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Spanakopita is a savory bite your guests will love.

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Stay on budget and impress your guests with phyllo cups, miniature pies made with the same thin dough you sink your teeth into when you chew baklava. Fill phyllo cups with vegetable-cheese combinations, meat or fruit — just about everything tastes good baked in phyllo dough. Following the guidelines in these Spinach Cheese Appetizers recipes, you can whip up mini spanakopita or tiropita in no time. Using the same dough, you can create a Spinach Phyllo Bundle.

Apricot and Toasted Almond Phyllo Cups make delicious sweet hors d’ouevres. If you’re not ready to venture into preparing flaky pastry dough from scratch, keep in mind that the store-bought frozen phyllo dough works just fine.

The 15 Best Finger Foods for a Party on a Budget

The great thing about serving finger food at a party is that it lets people move around and mingle, rather than huddling around a communal bowl of guacamole. But what if you’re on a budget? You could scroll through recipes for party snacks and try to figure out how much each recipe costs to make. Or you could let us do the work for you!

And that’s exactly what we’ve done. We picked some of our favorite finger food recipes and calculated their cost per serving, making sure that each one costs about $1 per serving. We did this by checking the cost of the individual ingredients on Instacart, dividing by the quantity each recipe calls for, and then adding up the total.

For ingredients like salt, or dried herbs and seasonings, we added a few cents to the total, but for the main ingredients, like meat, cheese, dairy, flour, veggies and so on, we calculated the exact amount, based on how much those items cost. Prices might vary a bit where you live, but we think this method will give you our best educated guess as to the cost.

  • 01of 15Deviled Eggs with Bacon RecipeDeviled Eggs with Bacon
  • 02of 15Bacon Wrapped SausagesBacon-wrapped sausages
  • 03of 15Stuffed Mushrooms With Spinach and HamMushrooms With Spinach and Ham
  • 04of 15Air Fryer Mac and Cheese BallsAir Fryer Mac and Cheese Balls
  • 05of 15Bisquick Sausage BallsBisquick Sausage Balls
  • 06of 15Ham and Cheese PinwheelsHam and Cheese Pinwheels
  • 07of 15Cheddar Bacon PuffsCheddar Bacon Puffs
  • 08of 15Crock Pot Party Meatballs With Tangy SauceCrock Pot Party Meatballs With Tangy Sauce
  • 09of 15Parmesan Crostini CrispsParmesan Crostini Crisps
  • 10of 15Nutella Pastry PuffsNutella Pastry Puffs
  • 11of 15Classic Cheese StrawsClassic Cheese Straws
  • 12of 15Crescent Roll Pigs in a BlanketCrescent Roll Pigs in a Blanket
  • 13of 15Baked Cheesy Spinach BallsBaked Cheesy Spinach Balls
  • 14of 15Olive Cheese Balls With Cheese SpreadOlive Cheese Balls With Cheese Spread
  • 15of 15Quick and Easy Popcorn BallsQuick and Easy Popcorn Balls

HOW TO THROW A COCKTAIL PARTY ON A BUDGET

Parties are always a fun time.

From the planning to spending time with friends and loved ones, getting together is a great way to make lasting memories.

While some people like to throw a regular party, others are interesting in cocktail parties.

And many times, people don’t know how to throw a cocktail party on a budget.

This is where this post comes into play.

I’ll walk you through how to throw a cheap cocktail party that won’t break the bank and is a guaranteed good time.

Here’s how to throw the perfect cocktail party that your guests will love.

Table of Contents

HOW TO THROW A COCKTAIL PARTY ON A BUDGET

Before you have people show up for your party, you need to first plan.

Here is a walk through of things you need and things to consider including in your party.

PLANNING FOR THE PARTY TIPS

#1. THEME

Decide on a theme for the event.

Are you going for 1930’s Great Gatsby glamour? Or a 1960’s Austin Power vibe?

Asking people to dress for the occasion will really add to the event.

It needn’t be full-on fancy cocktail dress, even just feather boas and ties makes a big difference.

You could even go the funny route and have it black tie with swimsuits!

#2. CREATE THE GUEST LIST

You need to start figuring out how many people you want to invite.

This is critical as the number of people you plan to have at your party will make deciding on other things much easier.

As much as you want to invite everyone you know, you have to take into account your party space.

If you have a small apartment, having hundreds of people over won’t end up being much fun.

If this is your first cocktail party, consider keeping it on the smaller side.

As you get more comfortable throwing parties, you can expand the guest list to include more people.

#3. DECIDE ON DRINKS

Drinks can be hideously expensive if you don’t plan ahead.

Otherwise you will buy every type of drink and have a lot left over.

Instead, look at your guest list and think what they tend to drink.

For example, if you are having a girls only cocktail party, bottles of wine, hard seltzer, and a bottle of champagne is good.

Buying beer is probably a waste of money.

If your guests like to drink mixed drinks, don’t forget to buy the various fruit juices along with the bottles of liquor.

Again, you have to be smart here.

The most popular mixed drink juices include the following:

  • Orange juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Cranberry juice
  • Lemon juice

Buy only what you know most people drink.

Same goes for soft drinks when making cocktails.

As for hard liquor, again buy the staples.

Vodka and gin are probably the most popular ones to buy.

Now here are a few ideas to cut the cost of drinks down.

First, you can ask your guests to bring their favorite drink or bottle of liquor.

This will ensure everyone has something they love to drink and won’t break the bank for you.

Also, if you buy wine, only open one bottle of wine at a time.

At the end of the party, if you have unopened bottles, you can return them.

Finally, choose one cocktail and theme the night round that.

If what you serve becomes your signature cocktail, so much the better.

I once had a great night hosting a champagne cocktail party.

It actually wasn’t very costly because of course we weren’t drinking real champagne.

I detail how to make a handful of cheap drinks for your party below.

#4. BUY PLENTY OF ICE

Depending on what drinks you are serving, you might not need to buy much ice.

Traditionally, you buy 1-2 pounds of ice per person.

However this only an estimate.

If you are throwing a smaller party, you can be safe with the lower amount.

Same if you are mostly serving wine to your guests.

But if you are throwing a large outdoor party in the summer with beer and hard seltzer, you are safer buying lots of ice.

#5. SEND OUT INVITATIONS

You can create and send your own personalized invitations online using Evite.

Doing this saves you a ton of money on supplies and stamps.

Plus you don’t have to run to the store to buy the invitations in the first place.

As an added bonus, you can easily find invitations to match the theme of your party.

Just be certain to have your guests RSVP a few weeks in advance to give you time to finalize all your shopping lists.

#6. STOCK UP ON PARTY ESSENTIALS

Now comes time to buy the other essentials for your cocktail party.

Think of things like plates, utensils, cocktail napkins, wine glasses, and a cocktail shaker are the more common items you need.

But also consider paper umbrellas, other party decorations, cocktail cherries, olives, lemons and limes, sugar cubes and cream.

The best place to get many of these items is the dollar store.

You can find fun themed items there for cheap.

However, if you plan on throwing cocktail parties regularly, buying nicer wine glasses might make sense.

Or you might consider shopping at a warehouse club where you can get items in bulk for less.

#7. CREATE A PLAYLIST

The right music is key for a party.

You’re probably aiming for a slightly retro vibe, which will be ruined in an instant if you just leave your playlist on shuffle and out pops Beyonce.

It pays to make playlists in advance.

This way you can see what music you have and what you need. If you need some music, make it a point to find the cheapest place to get it.

While you might think iTunes is the best choice, if you need a handful of songs, you might find a compilation album exists with many of the songs for much less.

Just remember that for the most part, easy listening is a good rule of thumb for cocktail party music.

#8. APPETIZERS AND SMALL PLATES

While a formal cocktail party doesn’t serve food, it’s your party and you can do what you want.

And most people will be appreciative of food.

This doesn’t mean you need to make a large meal.

Instead opt for appetizers and finger food.

A cheese board and crackers is always popular.

You can also go with a spinach and artichoke dip, chicken fingers, breaded jalapenos for example.

Think about who you are inviting and your theme and then create your food shopping list.

And to save some extra money on food, you can use the tip I offered earlier with drinks.

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