Rising food costs getting you down? We've got some tips to entertain while keeping your budget in tact.


Switch up the meals

It's no secret that dinner is the most expensive meal. Not only does it have more courses (think appetizers, soup, salad and dessert), the meal tends to centre on expensive ingredients like meat and seafood -- not to mention the alcohol. So why not offer your guests a lighter breakfast, brunch or lunch instead? Let less-expensive (and healthier) options like fruits and vegetables, homemade baked goods and eggs grace the table instead of rich foods. Many brunch dishes use meat as an accent, like some chopped ham in a quiche or omelet. For beverages, try gourmet coffee, herbal teas blended with juice or hot chocolate with a hint of cinnamon.

Pick a theme

Of course, you don't have to serve a traditional meal at all. Make it a tapas party and focus on appetizers and canapés. Or offer a dessert buffet with a focus on a particular ingredient -- like chocolate.

You don't have to wait until evening for a get-together. Host an afternoon high tea, complete with little sandwiches and mini desserts, or go with the classic coffee and coffee cake team.

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Elizabeth Rogers