Bringing the Restaurant Experience Home – Hosting on a Budget

It’s good to socialise with friends and loved ones, but at times the cost of going out for a meal can cause certain anxieties around trying to stick to a very strict budget to cover the costs of everyday living. This can be particularly challenging when there are kids growing out of clothes, or coming home from school with another letter about another school trip/ activity session/ fundraising event. 

Being short on funds doesn’t mean missing out on grown-up time with friends, though. Thanks to popular reality TV shows, the popularity of hosting dinner parties from home is increasing-eating at home is more comfortable for most, and with lots of cookbooks, video tutorials online, and cooking shows on TV,  there are easy and accessible ways to improve home-cooking skills while learning techniques in the kitchen. 

Not everybody has to be a Michelin star chef to host a good dinner party for friends. Other than the food, there are other factors to consider in order to transform an everyday living space into a cozy dining area for many evenings indoors to remember. 


A simple way to transform the everyday look and feel of the home to a restaurant dining experience only takes a few simple tweaks. Put the kids toys away for the evening, invest in a light but inviting smelling room spray, used a few minutes before the guests arrive to ensure the room still smells good when they arrive. 

 Pick up some matching white place settings for around £15 to make sure that everything matches (these things are always useful for a family, too- just make sure they’re dishwasher and microwave safe!). You can also pick up restaurant quality tablecloths from Richard Haworth with prices starting at £2.50! 

Play with lighting- try getting out the Christmas fairy lights and stringing them along in the room where the dinner is being hosted- maybe put some in large jars around the room, or invest in a lightbox with a welcoming message on it. 

Just a few additions here and there can change the atmosphere incredibly.

Food, Glorious Food

Of course, when hosting a dinner party, it is an integral part of the planning process to think about the food served up to guests for the evening. 

The menu should be something that everybody attending would enjoy and should fit a theme – for example, a prawn cocktail starter should not be followed by a curry (unless bringing the Indian twist into the prawn cocktail, that is), followed by jelly and ice cream.

Don’t be afraid to keep it simple.

Create an Italian themed dinner party with this example menu – with costs for 4 people according to Tesco Groceries Online (prices correct September 2019)  


Caprese Salad 

-mozzarella ball- £1.20 for 2 packets
-tomatoes-75p for a packet of vine tomatoes
-fresh basil-£1.35 for a fresh basil plant- which will be used later on 

lightly seasoned with salt and pepper

Mix it up a little by making some fresh pesto, artistically drizzling it on top. Consider serving with garlic bread which can be made with fresh crusty bread. Chop a garlic clove in half and rub generously on the toasted bread and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Simple, but incredibly delicious. (add around £2 to your costs for this added extra) 

Total Starter Cost: £3.80 – that is 95p per person! 

Main Course 

Spaghetti Pomodoro

-Spaghetti (starts at 20p-£1.50 for 500g!
To make your sauce:
-Simmer a finely chopped onion (10p) in a tsp of oil until the onions become clear
-Add a clove of garlic (roughly 30p for an entire bulb)
Turn down the heat gradually and add two tins of tomatoes (starting at 28p per tin)
Season lightly with salt and a generous amount of pepper
Turn the heat right down and simmer for around 90 minutes to intensify the flavours- near the end of that time, add some fresh basil.
Cook the pasta according to the instructions- drain but keep half a small mug of the water the pasta was cooked in, stir into the sauce, and then add the pasta- this enriches the flavour even more!
Optional – add black olives (75p for a small jar) red chilies (20p for one pepper) and lightly dress some baby salad leaves (79p for a bag) 

Total cost: £2.34 – so roughly 56p per person!


Chocolate Brownies and Ice Cream – splash out on fancy vanilla ice cream for around £2.50 for a decent own brand choice.
Ingredients for the brownies will cost around £6, with enough left to pick on after your guests have left! 

Dessert Cost: ballpark figure £.8.50

Total cost: £14.64 or £3.66 per person for THREE COURSES!


If choosing to drink wine for the evening, check reviews for budget supermarkets. Aldi, in particular, has a list of award-winning wines that start at £3.99 per bottle. Check the reviews and shop around. 

It really doesn’t have to cost a lot to provide decent wine to guests. It is likely that guests will bring a bottle or two with them, but it is always good a bottle on standby – just in case! 


With long term friends and family coming together, finding things to talk about won’t be difficult. For newer friends in the early stages of friendship, it may prove to be more of a challenge to think of things to talk about.

Ice breaker games such as ‘Two Truths – One Lie’ are good to get the conversation flowing and help guests get to know each other more. The entertainment factor is learning how good or bad people are at lying, too!

Put together a playlist of mellow songs to fit the mood and play using a Bluetooth speaker- or ask a talented friend to play a few tunes on their guitar.

All of these things are absolutely free. A little preparation and pride can create the most memorable of evenings.

Good friends, Good Food, and Good Times – Absolutely Priceless! 


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