Monday, May 30, 2016

Can't afford food? Throw a party!

I'm forgetting where I saw this, and my google-fu is failing me, but one of the lifestyle blogs a few years ago wrote about throwing a party if you're struggling to afford food. And since I can't find it to repost, I'm going to somewhat plagiarize the idea. So, um, if you can't afford food, throw a party. Yes, I know, it sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out here.

First, find an occasion. It can be a holiday, someone who's celebrating something, or just a weekend that you decide to have some fun. Maybe have a theme -- particular music you're going to listen to, or encourage people to dress as superheroes, '80s party, or whatever you like. Look on Pinterest or google for party themes if you need to.

Second, tell everyone to bring a dish. This is the important part. You can have people sign up for things, or give suggestions, or just have them bring whatever. If it's a party that includes alcohol, give the option of bringing alcohol and/or a dish. Make sure you suggest they bring appetizers, snacks, desserts, rather than suggesting it's a dinner party or cookout, so that you don't have people bringing serious food and then expecting to pack up a plate to take home! (If anyone does ask to, just roll with it. You still got to enjoy everyone's company. Let the person make their plate.)

Next, spend a very very minimal amount of money on making sure you have the very basics. Assuming you've followed my advice and have the very basics in terms of glasses and dishes and all that, just use your regular stuff; it's free. If not, go to Dollar Tree and get some plastic plates and cups. Remember, that's the one where everything is truly a dollar, so you can get 20 plates, 16 sets of flatware, 12 cups, and so forth for a dollar per package. You can also get serving bowls and foil pans there for a dollar if you need them. Get some cheap paper table cloths and streamers if you need them too. Use a color printer at your house or a friend's house to make most of your decorations for basically free.

While you're at Dollar Tree, get some snacks. They've got bottles of fizzy drinks and juice drinks, chips, cookies, pretzels, and so forth for, well, a dollar. A lot of them are even brand name. With chips and stuff it doesn't matter, because you're going to put them in a bowl. So, for like 10 dollars (depending what serving pieces you already owned), you have a table, covered in snazzy tablecloth, with a bowl of chips, bowl of M&Ms, bowl of cookies, bowl of pretzels, stack of cups, stack of plates, pile of forks. If you aren't sure what people are going to bring and feel like you need more "real" food, you can make a huge pan of pasta with sauce for like $2. Or a potato salad and/or veggie tray with stuff from Fair Foods.

Oh, your party needs music. If you own a music collection and equipment, perfect. If not, find an online radio station and use your computer or tablet speakers; it will sound good enough. See if you know someone who can bring nicer portable speakers maybe. Depending on your friends' interests, it might need games too. See what you have, or a thrift store has, or ask someone who has a fun game to bring it with them. Video game, trivia-type game, lawn-darts-type game, card game -- these are all big hits.

Now, people show up at your house, each bringing a big pan of food, and some bringing adult beverages unless you don't do that sort of thing. Y'all do your thing, and at the end of the night, they leave all these leftovers at your house! But you don't have to feel like you're a charity case or anything though, because you volunteered your space, organized the thing, and brought people together. You contributed something you're able to contribute to your community (time, energy, your space), and the people who are able to work full-time outside the home brought over spinach dip and cheese plates.

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