So, in Singapore, we’ve gotten to the point where going out for dinner at an eatery that doesn’t require you to serve yourself or dodge the occasional cockroach is starting to cost quite a lot of money. Eat anywhere with air con that isn’t a food court and, unless it’s Hans, you’re probably looking at spending a minimum of $15 to $20 per head.
While food prices have gone up over the years, the price of restaurant meals has shot up even further thanks to factors like rising rents.
All of these make throwing dinner parties at home all the more enticing, since they’re a relatively inexpensive way to keep your friends fed and happy, especially if you split the cost of the groceries or make it a pot luck. Here are some tips for those of us who aren’t Martha Stewart.
Don’t worry about the food, focus on the people
If you think having a bunch of friends over for dinner is stressful, you’re doing this all wrong. Nobody is expecting you to morph into a domestic god/goddess and produce an instagrammable meal that will make everyone faint because it’s just so exquisite.
Seriously, people just want to be entertained, and maybe imbibe a little if you’re serving drinks (or making them bring their own). So it’s a mistake to spend all your time stressing out in the kitchen. Your guests will have a better time if you’re around to rescue flagging conversations, make sure everyone’s comfortable and pour drinks.
In fact, if it’s down to organising a pot luck or spending half the evening in the kitchen while your guests sit around awkwardly in the living room, opt for the former.
Stock up on stuff that makes the evening enjoyable
If you’re going to spend money on something, don’t make it the food. In fact, most guests don’t mind if you order pizza or pick up some snacks at the hawker centre.
Want to make sure everyone has a good time? Then stock up on the stuff that matters—cards, mahjong, board games, and lots of booze if that’s the way you swing. Or be that guy who owns a KTV machine.
Most of the above isn’t that expensive, especially when you consider that all the non-consumables can be used over and over again. A pack of playing cards costs a few bucks and can even be obtained free on certain airlines. If you’re a poker fan you know that playing cards will occupy your friends for at least 5 hours.
Another advantage is that if you become the “guy with the mahjong set”, your home might turn into the default hang out spot, which means you save money on transportation fees when it’s time to meet.
Whom you invite is important
Whom you invite over is more important than how your home looks or what you choose to feed your guests. If you’re inviting a large group, some members of which don’t know each other, pay attention to the mix of people you select.
Some friends I’ve introduced to each other over the years became best friends instantly, and the group expanded just like that. Others didn’t really hit it off.
Of course, you never know for sure if your friends from different walks of life will get along. But common sense dictates certain rules, like not inviting your friends’ exes to the same party as said friends.
If your friends have common interests or lifestyles, that’s usually a good bet they’ll get along. If both Friend A and Friend B are alcoholics, they’re probably safe to introduce to each other, especially if you’re serving booze at your party.
Conversely, if you’re going to invite young yuppie parents who’ll bring their toddlers, they’ll probably have a better time with other young parents than your raver friends.
Learn some recipes that can feed large numbers of people quickly
Back in the days when people had tons of kids, learning to feed a zoo-full of people was the norm for labouring housewives.
I cook almost every day, but if there are more than three people in the house I freak out a little inside. I’d rather poison fewer people than more.
If you’re going to host groups of people frequently, it pays to learn how to feed large numbers cheaply and easily. That might mean buying a larger pot or a wok for easy boiling and frying.
One of the easiest ways to feed large groups is to buy a steamboat. The only extra effort you need to put in involves preparing the soup base and turning the contraption on. You can then get your friends to contribute ingredients.
If you want something super easy, pasta (with pre-made sauce if you’re too lazy) or stuff you can throw into the stock pot like chicken curry and rice are acceptable. Just pretty things up with side dishes like salads (pre-made at the supermarket) or dessert.
Of course, if you’re a budding chef and cooking is your hobby, knock yourself out. But don’t feel like you have to be one to invite your friends over for dinner.
Have you ever hosted a dinner party? Share your tips in the comments!
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