Challenge: Throwing A Clean Eating Party, On A Budget

gwyneth-made-me-do-it-logoMy son turned 1 last week, and as is tradition with all 3 of my babes, we decided to throw a big bash to celebrate. When we were trying to decide what to serve for food at the party, I felt uneasy. After all the reading, research, and changes I’ve recently made to my own family’s diets, it felt almost wrong to feed food I knew wasn’t the best to the people I cared about the most. But just how could I pull off hosting a party for almost 60 people, in a clean, sustainable and nutritious way, and at the same time, not break the bank?

After much thought and consideration, some research, and asking around, I pulled together a menu that was nutritious, free of added chemicals and artificial ingredients, and homemade, all for just under $160. Here are the details of just how I managed to feed 50+ people a meal that was good for them, at an affordable cost.

  • How To Throw A Clean Eating Party 1 of 10
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    Want to feed your friends and family the best you can afford, but not sure how? Here's the skinny on how I hosted a party for over 50 people, serving food I felt good about, all on a budget. 

  • The Main Course – DOGS 2 of 10
    hot-dogs

    The birthday party was a swimming party and BBQ in the middle of August.  I wanted to serve seasonally appropriate food, so what's more Summer Americana than hot dogs and burgers?  The thought of serving some of the dogs on the market made me queasy though, knowing what I know now.  So I sought out an alternative and ended up getting a mix of turkey dogs with no nitrates added, and organic grass-fed beef dogs.  The costs involved were more, but when you break it down by dog, by person, the price seemed marginal.  I ended up getting 30 dogs for $18, which equals .60 cents a dog.  You can't even buy a Costco hot dog for that price.

    To supplement the dogs and ensure we had enough food, I also bought 1 package of all natural, nitrate free, chicken sausages for $9.00 per dozen. 

    I will add that finding non-GMO, organic hot dog buns was near impossible and I have to admit that I ended up buying a "next to nature" type brand sold at the grocery store. I went to three different stores and couldn't find a brand I felt better about, so settled on that, but would have preferred a non-GMO verified brand. It was the one area I acquiesced. 

    Total Cost Of Sausages, Hot Dogs & Buns: $54

  • Turkey Burgers 3 of 10
    Turkey-burgers

    We also served hand-formed turkey burgers, and they went so fast I couldn't even get a photo!  They were very similar to the herb filled Greek ones I've made from It's All Good, but I used a lot less herbs.  I used just over 5.5 pounds of turkey meat at $20 total, and made 20 1/4 pound burgers, which ended up being the perfect amount.  Turkey burgers are leaner than ground beef burgers, and have just as much, if not more nutritional value. 

    Total Cost Of Turkey & Buns: $29

  • Side Dishes – Orzo Confetti Salad 4 of 10
    confetti-salad

    Because I had spent a good chunk of change on good, clean, and lean meat, I had to conserve in other areas, which meant making my side dishes from scratch.  For starters, I made a chilled Whole Wheat Organic Orzo Confetti Salad, filled with loads of yummy diced veggies, herbs, and a homemade dressing.

    By the way, the party was an Elf themed party — as in the movie Elf with Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel — and so we renamed all the foods to fit with the theme, hence the "Cheerful Confetti Salad."

    Total Cost Of Whole Wheat Organic Orzo Salad: $9 

  • Texas Caviar 5 of 10
    texas-caviar

    At the last minute, the morning of the party, I decided that we needed to serve one more side dish, and my friend Jules' Texas Caviar seemed like the perfect thing to make.  Hearty yet refreshing, the key is in the delicious homemade dressing.  I've had other salads virtually similar, but they've always been made with bottled dressings or a bland mix of olive oil and some lemon juice.  This last minute addition put me slightly over my original goal of spending only $150, but it was well worth it.  Every single bit was eaten up and people couldn't stop raving about it.

    Total Cost Of Texas Caviar Salad: $11

    (Would have been closer to $15 but the tomatoes and herbs were from my garden, and I already had a bag of frozen corn on-hand.) 

    *photo cred Pancakes & French Fries

  • Freshly Cut Fruit 6 of 10
    fruit-medley

    One of the best ways to conserve costs, and serve great tasting food at your next party, is to cut up your own fresh fruit.  The pre-cut fruit trays you get at the market lack flavor and are ridiculously expensive, with an on average 50% to 100% upcharge.  Not only does fresh cut fruit taste better because it wasn't picked and cut too early so it would last on a grocery store shelf, but it is way more economical, makes for a beautiful presentation, and is the perfect, nutritious food to snack on, on a hot summer day.

    Total Cost Of Freshly Cut Fruit Including Watermelon, Pineapple, Grapes & Strawberries: $20

  • Munchies & Dips 7 of 10
    homemade-dips

    Because I was coming awfully close to going over budget, I decided to make my own dips as well, which was an incredible cost-savings, and allowed me to see, and control, exactly what I put into them. I made a tahini-free hummus (tahini is expensive and I didn't already have it in my pantry so I just searched for a tahini-free recipe online), as well as a cucumber yogurt dip.  And the yogurt dip served double duty, as a dip for chips and veggies, and as a topping for the turkey burgers.  I cut up a few carrots and cucumbers, which I already had in my fridge, and served the dips alongside GMO-free Pretzel Crisps and Kettle Chips. 

    Total Cost of Dips & 3 Bags of Chips: $15

  • Nearly Naked Popcorn 8 of 10
    nearly-naked-popcorn

    Because of the Elf theme, I knew I had to serve some popcorn just for fun.  I found this wonderful brand of popcorn at Costco called Nearly Naked, which is non-GMO certified and only has 3 ingredients: corn, coconut oil, and sea salt. 

    Total Cost of 1 Large Bag Of Nearly Naked Popcorn: $5.99

  • Homemade Drinks 9 of 10
    drink-station

    In order to cut costs, and reduce the amount of cans & bottles used, and sugary drinks I was serving to my guests, I opted to just make my own "Elf Elixir" to serve to the kids, which was a concoction of organic lemonade, cranberry juice, and gingerale.  The drink was a hit.  And for the older crowd, they also enjoyed some fresh sun tea.  We cut out water bottles and instead asked guests to just help themselves to cold filtered water right out of the fridge.  A few guests seemed confused, wondering where the endless supply of water bottles was being hidden, but my biggest pet peeve after hosting a party, is dumping half full bottles of water, soda, and juice boxes.  Drives me insane thinking of the waste!  My solution going forward is just not to have them. 

    Total Cost Of Drinks: $8

  • Homemade Carrot Cake Cupcakes 10 of 10
    carrot-cake-cupcakes

    I stressed much more than I should have over what to do about dessert.  I thought about making some healthy type of cupcakes, but the recipes labeled as such were either vegan and gluten free, or not really healthy at all.  While I'm not opposed to trying to make my own batch of vegan cupcakes, I didn't think the day before my son's 1st birthday party was the time to start experimenting.  So I turned to a cute baby cookbook a friend gave me at my baby shower, and decided to make a batch of carrot cupcakes.  Made with whole wheat flour and loads of fresh carrots, the cupcake part was as healthy as you could get, and the cream cheese frosting allowed for a bit of sugary indulgence, plus I felt confident that I could whip up a batch of 4 dozen with a modest amount of success.  They turned out great and I felt good offering them as an option. 

    *Side note, we also ordered a decorated smash cake from a local bakery, which was not "clean eating," and which I am not counting in the total cost of food, but considering it a party expense. 

    Total Cost Of 4 Dozen Carrot Cupcakes: $5.50

    (Using ingredients I mostly had on-hand, I'm primarily accounting for the powdered sugar I had to buy.)

    Grand Total Of Clean Eating Party For 50+ Guests: $157.49

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