If you decide to provide all the food, be smart about your menu. Prepare items yourself instead of buying expensive pre-made platters. Serve chips and dips instead of more expensive crackers and cheese. Offer filling, hearty food that you can make yourself ahead of time and serve it from the slow cooker—pulled pork, meatballs or chili, for example. That way you won’t miss the half-time show while you’re outside grilling burgers. And don’t forget to offer a few crunchy vegetables like carrots and celery, which are colorful and filling, yet budget-friendly.
Look for sales—grocery stores always discount popular snack foods during the week leading up to the game. Watch for special pricing on chicken wings, chips, nuts and other good game-day foods. And don’t hesitate to buy store-brands instead of name-brand snacks. When you put your chips into serving bowls and your buns onto platters, no one will know if you saved money by buying generic.
Another good way to save money on food is to go potluck. Let your guests know that you will provide the main part of the meal, then ask everyone to bring their favorite side dish.
Adult beverages can easily be the most expensive part of having people over to watch the big game. Consider serving flavored iced tea or a pitcher of ice water with sliced lemons and limes—both will look and taste great and keep your budget in check.
Another common way to save is to have people bring their own drinks; this way, everyone gets to enjoy their beverage of choice. You could even consider having people bring special beverages and then hold a tasting during halftime.
Be honest—will your guests really notice all the money you spend on expensive decorations with your team’s logo? They’ll be focused on the big game and your fabulous food, so a great way to save money is to skip the expensive decorations. If you want to decorate, hang a few colored balloons or string crepe paper from the ceiling, but resist the urge to overdo it.
Use plain team-colored napkins; skip the paper and plastic and use real plates and silverware. If you use disposable glassware, put a marker next to the drink station so guests can write their names on their cups and reuse them all day.
Help your guests feel welcome from the moment they arrive. Have comfortable seating for everyone and if your guests plan to bring their kids, find a way to keep them entertained. Show movies in another room to keep them occupied and set aside a quiet space if a little one needs a nap. When the kids are happy, everyone is happy.
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