Entertain without spending a fortune

By at home

Times may be tough but that’s when you need your friends the most, so why not treat yourself – and them – to a night in?

And before you break out into a cold sweat at the thought of spending loads of cash on food and booze, our guide will show you it really is possible to have a great night of fun – without breaking your budget.

Taking pot luck
An American concept, Potluck Supper (or lunch) is when all the guests bring a dish already prepared and ready to eat. It is called ‘potluck’ because everyone arrives with a pot and you take your luck with what’s on offer. You can make it really potluck, by not directing anyone on the type of food to cook and taking your chances on what they actually bring, or you can ask some to prepare starters, others to provide the main courses and another group to rustle up ideas for puddings.
A themed potluck food party can make it easier for your guests to think of something to make.

If you choose to feature the food from one country or region you can theme the decorations in your home too.

The options are endless but the best thing is that the cost will be minimal.

Drink up
A cocktail party is the perfect excuse to glam up without the huge expense of going to a funky bar. As with all types of dinner parties, the key is in the planning.

1 Create the right atmosphere. Design the party area in an appropriate room in your house. As well as seats and space for mingling, you will need a sturdy table to act as the cocktail bar and another table for the nibbles.  Don’t forget to think about the decorations – especially if your party is themed.

2 Sort out your glasses. You’ll need to allow at least two per person so if you don’t have enough, borrow some from your local off-licence, neighbours or family; or visit some charity shops. Wine glass charms will help your guests remember which glass is theirs. To really look the part you will need at least one cocktail shaker and an ice bucket, plus toothpicks and olives.

3 Have a cool box Fill it with ready-prepared ice cubes. You’ll need plenty of ice so start freezing early in the day.

4 Pick your favourite spirits. The drinks can be made from one or two, so you can keep the cost down. A basic cocktail bar will contain vodka, rum, gin, bourbon, scotch or tequila. Mixers are all important so stock up on fruit juices, soda water, tonic water and fizzy drinks. Don’t forget to make a non-alcoholic cocktail and have soft drinks available for the non-drinkers and drivers.

5 Salt or sugar-rimmed glasses. To give the impression that you’ve made the effort, so rub a wedge of lime or lemon around the rim of the glass, spread some coarse salt or caster sugar on a saucer and dip the rim in it.

6 Chill the glasses before your guests arrive.

7 Allow three or four cocktails per person. On average, a 750ml bottle will give you about 16 cocktails but play safe and buy a little more than you think you will need.

Martini with a cranberry kiss
Serves 6

200ml vodka (freeze for 3 hours before starting then keep chilled)
300ml cranberry juice (chilled)
30ml dry vermouth
2 limes

1 Put vodka, cranberry juice and dry vermouth into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake to mix.
2 Pour into glasses and decorate with a pared strip of lime zest or a slice.

Classic sea breeze
Serves 1

2 parts vodka
3 parts cranberry juice
3 parts grapefruit juice
Ice cubes and crushed ice
1 lime wedge

1 Pour vodka, cranberry and grapefruit juice into a glass with ice and stir well. Decorate with the lime wedge.

Money sense…Buy fruit, veg and meat at your local market – it’s generally 30% cheaper than most supermarkets. And if you food-shop online, check out www.mysupermarket.co.uk – it will compare prices and tell you which is the cheapest.

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