WOW how time flies! This is my 300th published post on this blog.
I am amazed that it has kept up, and even gotten better over time. Thanks to all you wonderful people who continue to read, comment, ask questions, and make suggestions. I am always looking for ways to better serve my readers, so if you ever have something you want to see here or know about, please shoot me an email (budget epicurean (at) gmail (dot) com). Again, thank you!
In other news…
A while ago I was contacted by media representatives for Walmart. The company offers a delivery service for anything you order online, called Walmart To Go. Now they are expanding it to the Denver area, and wanted some locals to try out the service and see if it was a good fit for their lives.
I decided to throw a dinner party. Some friends of mine I hadn’t seen in a long while had had a baby, another had just successfully defended his thesis and was awarded a PhD, and another was the only remaining member of our first year class who stayed in PhD school.
Not to mention it is the holiday season, when we want to surround ourselves with joy and make happy memories with people we care about. All these reasons are reasons to party!
Disclaimer: The food and decorations for this party were provided by Walmart.
I was given a set budget, and challenged myself to come up with the nicest-looking decor and spread as I could on that budget. If you have followed my blog at all, you know that is kind of my thing. I usually am a bargain-hunter with food, but for all other items this would be a challenge.
After I placed my order, I simply waited. The delivery person gave me a call 15 minutes ahead of time to let me know he was on the way. I appreciate that in case you were just about to shower, on the phone with a parent, taking the dogs for a walk, whatever, you know when to expect a knock on the door.
He showed up right on time, with several bags full of goodies. I did not know that the delivery persons are not allowed to enter your home. They must hand your bags through the door to you. That makes sense for everyone, safety first, and they don’t want to accidentally break anything inside the house by knocking it over with a full bag.
So Thursday night, my kitchen floor covered in food and decorations, I had about 20 hours until the party, and felt mostly prepared already.
You can see that a $100 budget gets you quite a lot of food! I shopped smart, and chose non-name-brand items mostly. The ravioli were $2.79 per bag, all salad fixings were about $6 total, garlic bread for just over $1 per piece.
The large olive oil, beans, and rice cost about $10, but will make tons of meals! A simple beans and rice for a side, or with the frozen broccoli thrown in to make it a meal, and that $10 can turn into 50 cents or less per serving.
The decoration budget netted: 5 strings of lights, 5 light-up candy canes, light hooks, a rope light, a big red bow for the front door, a wax melter, and a nice tablecloth. The original plan was one light-up reindeer and 2 light-up trees, but I think we ended up with a lot more bang for our buck this way.
The light-up candy canes were adorable, but they do have a limited stretch of wire between them. If you want more than a foot between each one, you will also need some small extension cords.
My boyfriend is nuts, and thinks climbing around on roofs is a fun hobby. He didn’t use a ladder, just jumped right up there and started clipping lights to the gutters. All told, it probably took about 2 hours of work the morning of the party to decorate, inside and out. We did run out of lights, and had to go get one more strand.
The finished product came out really well, I’m very happy with how it looks! You can see our two terriers in the door there wanting to come outside with me.
The food budget covered: cheese and beef ravioli, tomato and alfredo sauce, 2 loaves of garlic bread, spinach, romaine, broccoli slaw mix, ranch and Italian dressings, fruit dip, apples, bananas, strawberries, an apple pie, green tea, beans, frozen broccoli, olive oil, and rice.
I also added in paper plates, napkins, utensils, and wet wipes and spray cleaner for after the party. (You can see in the corner of the photo my homemade draft stopper! This thing is awesome in the winter to keep the chill from the garage out)
This is proof that you can eat healthy foods on a budget as well. The two apples, strawberries, one pear, raspberries, and dip all cost less than $10 and made a lovely platter with more left over.
I took the black silverware and wrapped them in white napkins. Then cut 1 inch strips of crepe paper and wrapped it around the bundle for color. Red, green, and white to go with our holiday theme. Boyfriend asked, are we saluting Italy? =)
The smaller red plates I put on top of larger white plates, which matched the beige tablecloth on top of a red one. The table has extra leaves, and when stretched out it is too long to fit just one tablecloth. Good thing we had the extra-long red one too!
The wax melter in the background made the room smell like cinnamon, and the red candles on the table were a nice centerpiece for now. On to the cooking part!
I boiled all the pasta ahead of time, and then kept it warm in the oven on low. We had beef ravioli and five-cheese ravioli. I also made a box of penne because we had several kids coming and I wanted to be sure there would be something everyone would eat. Sauteed asparagus with Italian dressing was a nice hot side dish.
Everyone fit just perfectly in this cozy dining room, and there was plenty of food to go around. People loved having the choice of beef or cheese, and which sauce to use. I was proud of my friends for how much of the salad was eaten too!
We actually had so much food that the rice and the bean salad were not needed. And I totally forgot about the garlic bread! No one seemed to mind, and now I have that for a future party.
We did have one bad experience, halfway through the meal one friend of mine was cutting her ravioli and the fork broke right in half! Luckily the box has more than enough extras so it wasn’t a huge deal. But just know these plastic utensils have a breaking point, and it’s pretty low.
All in all it was a lovely night. We had a great time catching up with each others’ lives, and everyone said the meal was delicious. I ended up with plenty left over too! The delivery eased the stress of having to go to the store, though I ended up having to run out once anyways (for penne and extra lights) but that happens. You can’t plan for everything all the time.
I think I would use this service again, especially for big parties which are planned ahead of time so I know the menu. For everyday cooking, I like physically going to the store, seeing what is on sale, and creating meals in my mind. I’m going to plan another party in a few weeks, for my birthday, and we will see how that goes!
If you want to try Walmart Grocery To Go yourself, click on this referral link: Walmart Grocery To Go.