5 tips for entertaining your summer backyard on a budget

While you may not be up to Martha Stewart or Ina Garten for home entertainment, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t look forward to their easy and cool entertaining philosophy.

And while you’re at it, you can aspire to host at a lower cost – making Friday night dinner or Sunday brunch affordable, easy to digest and so much fun. So instead of spending big on an all-inclusive cocktail party or an intimate outdoor cocktail party, check out these smart and simple ways to save money on your summer party.

1. Don’t get carried away

Decide what you are going to do and stick to the plan. Whether you’re hosting brunch for six of your closest friends or Sunday dinner with your neighbors and their two kids, make a proper menu based on the number of people as well as the occasion.

Food writer and photographer Casey Barber admits to fighting the urge to make a lot of food at a time. “Overserving my guests is the number one way costs get out of control,” she warns.

The barber urges hosts not to overdo it. And if you simply have to add something else, take a nod from Stewart and whip out some horseradish and olive oil: cheap and delicious.

2. Let the parties take center stage

The announcement of one of the best restaurants in the world, Eleven Madison Park, that it will no longer serve meat or seafood should tell you one thing: meat is not everything. In fact, it may not be necessary at all. The barber suggests using meat as an accent, not the main dish. For example, grill one large steak (skirt and sirloin are more affordable) and slice it for fajitas or with a wedge salad.

3. Embrace nature as your decoration

One of the great things about hosting a small summer gathering is the great outdoors. Minimize the cleaning process by opting for paper plates and utensils, of which there are now many eco-friendly options to choose from. Another bonus? There is absolutely no need for decoration.

If the party goes on at dusk, you can light some tiki torches and maybe some string lights under the pergola. Add a good playlist and you are all set.

4. Be open to BYOB

Assume that at least half of your guests will bring some kind of alcohol, and end up worrying about setting the bar—even if it’s just a little.

Stock up on sodas and mixers, all of which can be bought inexpensively. Pick up an orange and a couple of limes and limes, and make a simple drink in bulk if you’re not satisfied with the DIY approach. It doesn’t have to be complicated either: Try a simple homemade syrup (herbal infusion adds a touch of sophistication) mixed with lemon juice or iced tea. It’s delicious with or without vodka/gin/bourbon/tequila – your guests can choose their detox based on whatever liquor you’ve made or armed with.

5. Save valuable time

Nobody cares if hummus is made at home.

So, while it might give you bragging rights to say you made it yourself, in the end, any savings aren’t big enough to justify the time, effort, and moderate appreciation. There is one exception to this rule, though, notes Barber: “Guacamole is always better than zero, even if it costs more.”

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