Planning a Football Watch Party on a Budget

by David Sung

The most expensive aspect of any party is the food and drink menu. You want to feed as many people as well as you can, without sacrificing quality or spending a fortune. No one wants to see a lonely bag of chips ‘n’ dip on a table with a few cans of generic beer. Expectations may not be as high for a football party as other get-togethers, but you can still manage a delicious and easy menu without breaking the bank. Here are a few tips to throw a football watching party that your friends will beg you to throw every season.

Guest List and Prep

The first issue to be tackled is the type of party you are throwing and the guest list. Obviously, this is a football-watching party. But, are you planning on asking guests to bring food/beverages, or will you be shouldering the responsibility for all cooking and expenses? You have several options.

  • Asking guests to bring food for a potluck or to bring their own beverages to drink will decrease costs, but still allow you to maintain some creative control over the goods served. Make sure that guests know they have to bring real food – not chips ‘n’ dip. Do this by assigning each guest a particular type of food or set of ingredients to bring.
  • If you don’t want your guests to worry about food and beverages, then ask them if they would like to contribute cash to the grocery bill or put out a tip jar at the party.

Generic groceries 

If you are looking for cheap and easy recipes without devolving into Velveeta territory, then look online for recipes consisting of 5 or fewer ingredients. Rather than buying and re-frying frozen French fries, buy whole potatoes or sweet potatoes. Chop them up, add olive oil and sea salt, then bake until you like the consistency. If you are tired of the usual sour cream ‘n’ onion dips on game day, then toss it! Inventive dips can be made on the cheap. Guacamole, chili cheese, and blue cheese dip all call for few ingredients, and generic brands can be substituted without loss of quality.

Go as generic as you can when shopping – people are there to watch the game and enjoy their friends’ company. It is unlikely that they will notice that you took a cheaper route. Remember – everything is going to be served on platters anyway. A good example is $1 pizzas from Kroger, which, after adding a few fresh veggies from the produce aisle, will be a decent addition to the table. Look for other such opportunities in the frozen food aisle.

Cooking the Grub

Crockpots are God’s gift to the busy, frugal host. Additionally, stews, soups, chili, and ribs (all of which can be prepared in a crockpot) are perfect football party food in the autumn weather. Depending on the size of your guest list, you can have a variety of stews available set out as a buffet. Or, for smaller gatherings, ask each guest to bring along one ingredient to add to the recipe.

What goes better with soup and stew than sandwiches? Grilled cheese sandwiches for tomato-based broths or sandwiches with cold meats for chicken noodle soup are cheap alternatives. Whatever you are serving, be sure to offer a variety of cheeses and meats. Also remember the variety of bread – you can use the average sandwich bread, quesadillas, or French bread.

Serving Drinks

There aren’t a lot of savings opportunities available in beer and liquor without sacrificing quality. Suffice it to say, if you can’t get your guests to bring their own beverages and if you are buying beer for a large group, opt for a keg. It will decrease your costs by half. If you opt to serve cocktails that have strong flavors, like Bloody Marys, then skimping on the top brands of liquor is possible.

This is only an introduction to all the possibilities you can manage when looking for cheap food and drink for your party. Whatever you want to prepare, go over each recipe carefully – there are always areas that allow for savings. Good luck and game on!

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