Here are some tips for enjoying those summer gatherings (or intimate get-togethers?) without breaking your budget or bleeding the environment:
1. If you have a large party and not enough tables and chairs to go around, consider doing something unexpected: throw a picnic in your backyard! Let’s face it, it’s easier to come up with extra tableclothes to throw on the grass than it is to bother your friends for all their spare card tables. And your guests will enjoy experiencing something out of the ordinary. Throw down a bottle of organic wine on each tablecloth, a baguette, some brie and fig compote and you’ve got yourself a chic dinner party for a fraction of the cost those other suckers fork out!
2. You’d like to have your party appear, you know, “together” which means no paper towels or napkins (and really, you’d prefer not to use disposables). But you don’t have that many linen napkins and no budget to purchase new sets for entertaining. Here’s an easy way to pull it all together at a fraction of the cost: Purchase two coordinating or same tablecloths. Cut one of the tablecloths into fourteen inch squares of fabric. Sew a hem on each side, making linen napkins for your gathering. Use the second similar, or coordinating, tablecloth to set the table and you’ve got yourself some fancy new kitchen schwag!
3. Be original with your centerpieces. Yesterday’s fish tank recycling ideas offered up the idea of putting some sand in an unused fish bowl and setting an attractive candle in the center. Other impromptu goodies would work beautifully as well. Try filling an empty vase with similar objects of color: apples, oranges, pinecones, fern leaves, marbles — just about anything would do.
4. One of our favorite ways to set the table for a party is to use mis-matched place-settings and glasses from second-hand stores or garage sales. It not only looks cool, costs pennies on the dollar, but also provides a great topic of conversation. Try casually discussing why each person was attracted to the particular place-setting he or she chose, or be silently shocked that your gruff neighbor, who rarely shows teeth when he smiles, chose the white plate with delicately painted ladybugs dancing across the ceramic.
5. Dine by candlelight — beeswax of course. Save on electricity and add a sense of romance to the atmosphere. While you can use candles as centerpieces they would also be nice hanging from lanterns in the backyard, or placed strategically throughout the house so that each room is permeated by the soft glow. An evening by candlelight is a wonderful way to remind ourselves that we really don’t need to habitually flick a light switch just because we’ve entered a room.
6. Serve refreshing, organic drinks. Replace the strawberries in our organic strawberry lemonade recipe with some fresh mint leaves, and you’ve got yourself a minty lemonade. Yum. Cool and refreshing!
7. Serve simple, vegeatarian, light, in-season courses. Go vegetarian for your party for two reasons: meat is expensive (especially good, honest, organic, free-range meat) and a vegetarian diet is healthier for the planet. Perhaps you have some things in the garden that can be used, helping to cut down on costs as well as your carbon footprint. If you had tomatoes, basil and oregano in your garden, you’d need only add mozzarella, some olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper to create a lovely caprese salad. Use the remaining mozzarella, tomatoes and some eggplant to make an eggplant parmagiana. Serve a light, simple dessert like a lemon sorbet (so good on a hot evening!).
8. If you’re having a dinner party, ask your guests to carpool. What a bold move…we’re getting to a place where it is perfectly respectable to suggest people carpool to events. If your guests are unable to carpool or use alternative modes of transportation, no need to berate the point. We’re gracious AND green!
How about you? Ideas for how to enjoy a budget-friendly, green-savvy summer gathering?