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Planning Ahead for the Perfect Party

I love making Mexican food! It's easy, the ingredients are relatively inexpensive, and Mexican cuisine is well suited to a buffet, which is perfect for a larger party. Mexican food is also great for a mix of people, some of whom might be vegetarian.

I have a great recipe for carnitas and fish tostadas, which use similar condiments and vegetables. I can save time by making only two meat dishes and using the same sides for both.

My menu will include

  • Carnitas (2 x the recipe = 16 servings)
  • Tilapia Tostados (2 x normal recipe = 24 servings)
  • Grilled Vegetables (zucchini, red bell peppers)
  • Iptacita's Guacamole (2 x normal recipe = 24 servings)
  • Dee's Bean Dip (2 x normal recipe = 24 servings)
  • Chips and Fresh Salsa
  • Cream Cheese Brownies (3 x normal recipe = 48 brownies)

This might not sound like a lot of food, but the two dips and two entrees are satisfying and can be combined in a lot of different ways, which should allow my guests to be creative with their food selections. The grilled zucchini and red bell peppers will add more nutrition to the menu and will give vegetarians some "meat" for their tostados.

When you're planning any party menu, remember to take into account your guests' different diets. Because so many people are going low-carb or vegetarian these days, you might run into problems finding a menu that everyone can enjoy. The menu I've selected for the sample party includes a lot of vegetables, as well as a main course that can be eaten with or without carb-laden bread or tortillas.

Making a Shopping List
Now that I know what I'm going to make, I need to take a look at the ingredients lists and make a shopping list, which will help me figure out how much money I need to budget for food. I'm hoping to only need about $100.

I'll start by taking a look at the ingredients for each dish and seeing what ingredients overlap. (You can find these recipes on our website at

As I go through each recipe, I'll make a list of each ingredient, and then adjust the quantities accordingly as they overlap.

After seeing what I have already in my kitchen, I can make a final shopping list, estimating what everything will cost and sorting the list according to grocery-store placement, for easier shopping:

Calculating Final Costs
I plan to do my shopping at Costco, which is my local warehouse store, where I hope to get many of the ingredients at a lower price.

Save your local supermarket circulars for a few weeks before your party so you can compare prices. Although most cities have a variety of low-cost warehouse store options (Wal-Mart, Costco, and Sam's Club), you will not be able to find everything at these stores and will need to shop at a regular store for at least a few of the ingredients. The more money you save on food, the more you have left for other party fun, such as liquor!

I can now fill in the Food element on my budget chart:

Total Budget$350
Emergency Fund$35
Total Costs$

Yikes! That doesn't leave a lot of money left for the rest of the party. I'd better take a careful look at what beverages I want to serve.

More on: Pop Culture


Reproduced from Plan a Fabulous Party In No Time, by Tamar Love, by permission of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2005 by Que Publishing.

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