Why spend $100 or more at a restaurant?

How to Host Dinner for 4 for $35

by Paige Estigarribia

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You used to meet friends for dinner frequently, but the $100 dinner tab has made that an infrequent luxury. Why not host a dinner party yourself? With minimal effort and a little creativity, you can create that same dinner experience for a fraction of the cost.

The meal

Start with a low cost entree. Often it's not the choice of meat or the cut that makes the meal special. It's in how it's prepared. One low cost (but still amazingly tasty) main course is a whole chicken.

You can serve a roast chicken many different ways, depending on the spices you have in your cabinet. This recipe from Fresh Family Meals is for basic roast chicken, cooked all day in the slow cooker. And here's another scrumptious recipe from The Comfort of Cooking for oven-roasted chicken with citrus and herbs. The internet provides a wealth of chicken recipes to choose from.

As you are choosing a recipe, be mindful of what ingredients you already have at home. Try to choose a chicken recipe around the spices and ingredients you already have, so you can avoid buying specialty ingredients for just this recipe.

Approximate cost of chicken: $8

The side dishes

For side dishes, simple vegetables like potatoes and green beans are often easy and inexpensive to make.

When done correctly, potatoes taste delicious, and they have a beautiful presentation. You have many variations to choose from, including baked, stuffed, mashed, etc. Here's a delicious recipe from Brown-Eyed Baker that will have your guests complimenting you.

Green beans are inexpensive. And, like the potatoes you can prepare them many different ways from simple to downright elegant. Here's a simple steamed green beans recipe that calls for lemon, salt, and olive oil. They will be tasty, easy to make, and beautifully paired with potatoes and roast chicken. Again, you'll want to choose side dishes that can be made with ingredients you already have, so that you can save money on preparation and presentation.

Approximate cost of green beans, potatoes, lemon, and milk: $12

The rest

Most dinners are improved with a loaf of fresh bread. And any bakery or grocer with a bakery can provide you with a choice of fresh loaves for usually $3 or less. If you want to get fancy, prepare some dipping sauce made from olive oil, oregano, black pepper, and parmesan cheese.

For drinks, brew up some hot or iced tea. Choose a flavor that would be new to your guests.

Approximate cost of bread and tea: $6

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For dessert

A bowl of sweetened fruit is a great way to wind up a meal. It's sweet and low cost! Choose a fruit that's in season (berries always work great). Slice the fruit neatly. Sprinkle with just a touch of sugar, and you're ready to go.

Approximate cost of fruit: $4

The ambiance

You won't have a roving violinist, but you can stream free music through your internet, phone, or cable company. Choose the mood music that matches your guests' style.

Approximate cost of music: Zero!

Don't forget a fancy table setting. Turn down the lights. If you have candle holders, buy tapers at the dollar store. If not, consider floating candles.

Approximate cost of two candles: $4

For flowers and table decor, try using plants and flowers from your garden. Herbs like rosemary and oregano are lovely table decorations, and they smell great too! Pretty flowers like roses and lilies or even simple cedar branches are beautiful when designed as table decor.

Approximate cost of table decor: Free if using flowers from garden

The total cost of everything is approximately $34! Not bad for a lovely dinner at home with friends or family!

Paige Estigarribia is a writer for The Dollar Stretcher who enjoys writing about food, frugal living, and money-saving tips. Visit Paige on Google+.

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