OK, a takeout from McDonald’s qualifies as a budget meal, but if you want to save money and still impress your guests, here are some suggestions.
One option is to purchase prepackaged foods. Costco and Sam’s Club have prepared food trays in various sizes to fit the number of guests you are serving. Use them to create a buffet with cheese, meat, deli, fruit, chicken, and no one will know the difference. This can keep your costs down while offering a little bit of everything. Because they are frozen, they can be conveniently kept in your freezer and taken out when guests arrive. Just convey a subtle hint of fatigue to your guests so they will appreciate the time and effort you spent preparing the meal for them.
Avoid the expense and time buying a variety of soft drinks and other liquid refreshments by creating a “citrus punch bowl”. Just buy enough large bottles of lemon-lime soda, some large cans of pineapple juice, a bag of ice cubes, and mix them together with lime sherbet.
This way people can serve themselves and you won’t be mixing drinks and picking up empty soda cans and half full glasses later after the party. If you want a bit more class within your budget, buy inexpensive South African wines, while inexpensive, they are are highly rated for flavor. For appetizers serve crispy “baguettes” with slices of inexpensive domestic Parmesan, Gouda, and Cheddar cheeses.
Another option is “potluck”, where guests prepare their own meals to share. Have an outdoor cookout in the backyard or take advantage of your local parks. These are simple and relatively inexpensive ways to host a get together. They too can be “catered” with the ready-made meals described earlier or as “potluck”.