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FoodThe Croft2023

Hosting A Dinner Party (On A Student Budget)

Juliette provides an astute guide on hosting a dinner party, with student-friendly budgeting tips in mind.

By Juliette Hughes, Third Year English and Liberal Arts

The Croft Magazine// First term is always overwhelming no matter what year you are in. Everyone is trying to settle back into abnormal student living. There’s studying, deadlines, and juggling social/society calendars. As Christmas looms and everyone goes their separate ways, it may seem that meeting friends between lectures for coffee was not possible. Since Christmas is party season, it is the perfect opportunity to throw a dinner party.

I know what you’re thinking; It’s the end of term, the budget didn’t quite stretch as far and you’re clinging to the last couple weeks until January student loan replenishes your account, so how can you afford a dinner party?

Firstly, you need to decide on how many guests. If it’s more than 4, I suggest each person puts in £2 (less than the price of a pint), so you are not left completely out of pocket. To make a meal stand out as special, I always go with 3 courses. This may sound expensive, but if you adapt and use ingredients that stretch across each course, you can buy in bulk, bringing down the cost.

ⓒ Nicole Zhang

Starter: Carrot and Ginger Soup

With the cold weather in mind, soup is a perfect option to warm your guests . I absolutely adore carrots! They are an inoffensive vegetable (and surely help you see in the dark?). I find that I always buy far more than needed; they sit going limp in my fridge. This makes them the perfect starter veg to use up as leftovers. I can also use carrots as a main course side. Ginger is a favourite spice to overindulge in during the festive period.  When used in soup, it provides an extra zingy kick. Carrot and ginger are a perfect pairing, and since only  a dash of ginger is needed, The rest can be saved for another time (perhaps for your tea!).

Main: Roast chicken with crispy roast potatoes. Various vegetables on the side. Redcurrant sauce and Homemade Gravy

A Christmas dinner wouldn’t be complete without a bird at the centre of my table. Whole chicken is the best value to buy. They are slightly less popular, so if you go to the store around 5 o’clock, there tends to be one with a lovely yellow label stuck onto it for as little as £3.50. Roast potatoes (Maris Piper) are the next must have; carrots are already secured; as much as I love parsnips the price is very inflated, so I would pick courgette as a backup, cauliflower cheese and redcurrant sauce. Tough decisions must be made when picking veggies, but over-complicating things will bring up the price, and bring down the cooking enjoyment.

Dessert: Chocolate Chip cookie and Mulled Wine

I always tend to get over-excited and over-complicate the dessert. However, pulling off a Christmas dinner is not easy. To make life easier, I would make a dessert in advance that can sit and behave and not ruin easily. I have very little baking supplies. So, splashing out on a muffin tray is not an option. Cookies, however, make things very simple and they are delicious. It may not seem like a very special dessert, but its cookies and milk with a twist, a warm glass of mulled wine which you can buy pre-made for as little as £2 a bottle. A sensational pairing to go with a chocolate chip cookie.

Hosting a dinner party may seem unattainable, but when you lower expectations of creating a Michelin star experience, lighting some candles, making some hand- written menus and getting some Christmas music going makes for an intimate and enjoyable experience that will stay with you when looking back on university memories.

Featured Image by Nicole Zhang

How would you go on to host a dinner Party/Soiree?