The Grocery Game | Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide

How to host a casual budget-friendly dinner party : The Grocery Game Challenge #2 Dec 14-20, 2015

how to host a casual budget friendly dinner partyDINNER WITH FRIENDS DOESN’T HAVE TO BREAK THE BANK


Too often people shy away from hosting a dinner party out of  concerns for the costs involved and stress the evening may present. 

Today I’m going to share with you some tips to ease that worry so you can enjoy entertaining in your home.

You want everyone at your dinner party to have fun, enjoy the food and create memories but you also want to take part in the festivities.

This means that you have some dinner party homework to do before the big day, including figuring out what your grocery budget will be.


Dinner party invites


You’ve already created your dinner party guest list and possibly sent out invitations but before you did any of this you reviewed your dinner notes to make sure you didn’t forget anything. The date and time are important but there are other details that should appear on the invitation.

When you don’t include information for your guests on the invitation then you get a flood of emails, texts or phone calls depending on how many people you’ve invited. If your guests are unclear about the dinner party they may also decline the invitation. We’re talking about the casual dinner party today but if you were to host a formal dinner party it becomes even more intense although pre-planning is key to any dinner party success.

On your invitation you will want to state who the hosts are, the address, the date and time, the dinner menu, the theme and whether you are supplying alcohol or not along with a phone number and email you can be RSVP’d at. A little note to let your guests know if they have any dietary needs that you aren’t aware of to tell you ahead of time. You will also want to mention whether it is a casual or formal party but typically if you have a theme this sets the attire but not always so make sure to be clear.

If it’s a black tie or fancy dress affair you must state that. You don’t want some of your guests all dressed up and others showing up in shorts and running shoes. That’s fine if you are having a back-yard BBQ but for a dinner party putting on some nice clothes always looks good.

If your dinner party is small sending out invitations may seem a bit over the top when you could easily make a personal phone call or visit to invite them. I’m sure your dinner party guests would appreciate the thoughtfulness.

The most important may be the menu plan and I’ll tell you why shortly.


Keep it Simple


You may want to have a huge dinner party but if your budget and living space won’t accommodate large amounts of guests you’ll need to scale back the invites. If you’ve never hosted a dinner party before the last thing you want to do is commit to cooking a large meal.

It may be easier to start small with a few guests and a small meal along with finger foods. Setting off the smoke-detectors by burning food or forgetting ingredients may make your dinner party a total food flop. Always have back-up food just in case.

If you can prep and cook dishes ahead this leaves more time for you to mingle with your dinner party guests rather than spending time slaving over a hot stove in the kitchen. As you become comfortable hosting a dinner party you can evaluate your finances and your motivation to cook for more people.


Dinner party theme


There are many themes you could incorporate into a dinner party one being having your guests dress up and decorating the dining room with the theme. You can easily find bargains at your local Dollar Store or pop into any second-hand store to see what vintage items or decorations you can find on the fly.

Once you have a theme in mind this may also help you decide what your menu plan may be for the dinner party. If you plan to hold a Western theme you could make hearty steak bakes or beer-can chicken, twice-baked potatoes, salad (s), vegetables and an easy dessert along with beverages.

A birthday dinner party may include party hats and decor and lots of finger foods with cake for dessert. The possibilities are endless depending on your budget, but don’t stress over the small stuff.


Dinner party menu


One of the worst things you could do when hosting a dinner party is to experiment with new foods. This is NOT the time to find out whether a recipe will be a fail or a flop.

Planning your menu around weekly sales is a great way to save money in your grocery budget. If you are hosting a dinner party in the summer and have access to local farmers markets you may also score some homegrown food for a fraction of the cost at the grocery store.

Related Post: How much should my grocery budget be?

By now you already know how much money you have to spend for your dinner party which helps you with buying power. You can easily find decadent cheeses, meats and dips discounted for quick sale in some grocery stores but if you aren’t lucky to have a grocery store that marks down products you’ll have to watch the flyers for the best deals.

For your starter consider a hot bowl of Thai Chicken Soup or any other as soup is very cheap to make and it goes a long way. Pair your soup with a garden salad and easy to make homemade buns. If you’re nervous about making bread you could always opt for something simple like this recipe from Aunt B on a Budget, bread making for beginners.

Picking your protein may mean that you also have to consider that your guests may not eat meat.

Related: Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Once we hosted a young lady from out of country in our house for a month who was vegetarian and it was difficult for us to come up with enough food for her to eat every night. It’s important to find something that you know tastes good and that you’ve made before.

Related: Cheesy Tomato Pie with Potato Crust

I would prepare proteins such as a ham, roast, whole chicken or fish and a vegetable casserole such as Creamy Beet Crunch to compliment the proteins. This way if you have a guest who doesn’t care for meat who didn’t tell you ahead of time they can still plate up. I always suggest offering vegetable side-dishes such as green beans with luscious butter or roasted butternut squash with bacon. It all depends on the season and what you find on sale.

Related: Herbed Sliced Baked Potatoes

Entertaining doesn’t have to cost a fortune and starting off with simple snacks may help break the ice for your guests especially if they don’t know each other. Food always gets the conversation started.

For an easy finger food you could mix parmesan cheese, sour cream, cream cheese and spinach to create a lovely warm crock-pot spinach dip. If you love to bake you can try my homemade pita bread and then cut it into triangles to serve along with the dip. Alternatively, pita bread is very cheap at the grocery store for about a dollar a pack.

I’ve enjoyed dinner party appetizers such as vegetable platter with dip, cheeses paired with fruits and crackers along with other finger foods such as chicken bites, sausage rolls and shrimp cocktail as a guest. Don’t let the words shrimp and chicken scare you either. You can easily find a bag of shrimp for a decent price $5.99-$9.99 as well as chicken breasts that you can cut into chunks. Hop over to the Dollar Store to pick up some wooden skewers and away you go.

Related: Crispy Baked Avocado Fries and Dip

If you aren’t sure what to prepare you could test easy dinner party recipes ahead of time to find out whether you like them or not. When you have a casual dinner party to cook for keeping the food simple is your best option unless you are a master in the kitchen.


Dinner party drinks


You don’t have to offer appetizers either you could simply go with bowls of chips, nuts or even nuts and bolts along with a beverage if you choose to offer it. Remember as a responsible dinner party host that you should also offer a ride home for your guests or a place to sleep if they’ve drank too much. Some hosts opt to not have any alcohol rather they make non-alcoholic beverages such as Virgin Caesars, fruity drinks, fancy coffee’s or even smoothies.

Related: 20 Non-Alcoholic Dinner Party Beverages

Keeping the beverages on the cheaper side may mean you stick to non-alcoholic or purchasing a few bottles of inexpensive but decent wine, beer and a bottle of vodka (or whatever you choose) to make mixed drinks. That means you may want to pick-up some pop and juice as well for mixers.

If you don’t want to pay for the drinks you could tell the guests to bring their own booze (BYOB) to cut costs. Most often your guests will show up with a bottle for the host which also helps cut costs for the next dinner party you have.


Ending your dinner party


Everyone likes a nice sweet treat after a meal so always have some sort of a dessert or fresh fruit available for your guests along with coffee and tea. If you want to make your own homemade dinner party desserts there are recipes all over the web you can sample beforehand or make something you already know is a hit with your family and friends.

Inexpensive dinner party desserts from the CBB Frugal Recipe Archive

What the fans say…

I asked the CBB fans how they are able to stick to a budget when hosting a dinner party and I received two great suggestions from both Christine and Beth.


Ours tend to be a family get-together where we host a pot-luck. Everyone will bring something for the meal and help clean up after. You get to try different foods and we trade recipes between us. Whoever is hosting makes the main course and the rest of us bring side-dishes and desserts.- Christine

Hot hors d’oeuvres or cold finger foods set out an hour or so before dinner are worth the effort. They don’t have to be expensive to be appealing and – because your guests don’t arrive at the table famished, you can plan for smaller main dish portions. A soup course is a good idea for the same reason. Make the expensive cheeses on your cheese board stretch further and the cheese board look more abundant by including at least one cheese ball (which stretches your main cheese flavour through the addition of less expensive cream cheese and other food ingredients, and by including good quality breads and crackers, and fresh and dried fruits. Keep the booze bill to a minimum by offering a hot sangria or mulled hard cider instead of hard liquor.Beth


Grocery Shopping


Before you go shopping make sure your menu plan is figured out and that you write everything you need to buy including spices. I find it easy to check every detail before I shop that way I don’t have to run back because I forgot I needed garlic for a dish.

Whatever you do don’t second-guess your menu plan at the grocery store or you will drive yourself crazy. Also, don’t start wondering if you have enough food or snacks and then load up on products that you don’t have on your list. This is a sure-fire way to boost your grocery budget and to spend more money than you anticipated spending on your dinner party.

Remember you want to make your dinner party delicious and memorable but not put a dent in your bank account.

What other ways can you host a casual dinner party without breaking the budget?


December Grocery Game Challenge posts


Join in the Grocery Game Challenge (GGC) fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each GGC blog post. Here are the rules to get you started and if you have any questions feel free to email me.

New monthly prize: $10 President’s Choice Gift Card for Canadian residents only.

NEW!! If you want to play from outside of Canada and have PayPal and you win I will pay you $10CDN via PayPal. I use a random online generator to pick the winning ballot every month.

If you missed any grocery game posts for the month I will post the line-up each week here for you so you don’t have to go looking for past GGC posts for the month. This makes posting a bit easier although all you need to do is click on The Grocery Game Challenge on the homepage sidebar and you will see them all.


Free Grocery Budget Tools


Click, Save and Print. It’s that easy!

2014 Free Money Saving ToolsFree Money Saving Downloads are awesome lists that were created to get us on track to work towards reaching our budgeting goals and now we are sharing them with you.

I hope you take the time to get back on track and start the savings process in your grocery budget today.

Get organized with a FREE freezer inventory, meal plan, shopping list, price comparison list and much more all for FREE. CLICK HERE to download all the free lists and even our family budget spreadsheet for FREE.

NEW!! You can now download the FREE Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet in Excel…Grab it while you can… It’s FREE! We use it to budget and in large part a reason we could pay our mortgage off in 5 years, check it out!


Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide


the ultimate grocery shopping guide cbbEverything you want to know about grocery shopping in Canada is below with new information added monthly.

If you are new here and haven’t had a chance to read past posts grab yourself a beverage, sit down, relax and enjoy some educational reading material on ways to save money in your grocery budget.

If you missed a Grocery Game Challenge post some of the most popular posts are listed below or you can now find the posts listed on their own page called The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.

If you know a topic that should be discussed send me an email.


2015 Grocery shop results


Yearly grocery budget for two + 1 Toddler 2015: $2820

(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $235 per year or $25 per month.

Points Overview (add any other sections you need to show us your savings)

  • Total Grocery Budget for the Month: $235.00 $174.05
  • Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $235.00 $174.05
  • Total Gift Cards used to date: $32.40
  • Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $90.00
  • Total Rewards Points used to date: $230.00
  • PC Points Plus Earned to date: 31,947
  • Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) to date $0.98

Coupon Apps (add any other apps you use to save money)

  • Snap Groupon to date: $28.00
  • Zweet to date: $18.00
  • Checkout51 to date: $7.00


Grocery Shop This Week


Shoppers Drug Mart

  • 1 x dozen eggs $2.49
  • 2% Milk Neilson $3.97

Total Out-of-Pocket: $6.46


  • Ritz Crackers $1.99
  • Romaine Lettuce $1.49
  • Red Cabbage $3.25
  • Double Brie $4.99-50%=$2.50
  • Bianco Butter Cheese $5.02-50%=$2.51
  • Double Joie Cheese $6.99-50%= $3.50

Total Out-of-Pocket: $15.24

Food Basics

  • 1 x iogo Yogurt $2.88-$2.00 coupon= $0.88

Total Out-of-Pocket: $0.88


  • 6 x Olymel Bacon $2.99 each $17.94
  • 1 x Fennel/Anise $1.99
  • Sealtest Cream $2.99
  • 2 x ED. Smith Sugar-free syrup 2/$5
  • Reduced 5 pk green peppers $1.00

Total Out-of-Pocket: $28.92

  • Total to spend this month $235.00-$60.94=$174.05 (overspend from November)
  • Stockpile budget 2015 ($25.00): (Jan/Feb) $50.00 +$0 (Mar)+$16.94+$25.00 (April)+$25.00+ May $25.00+ June $25.00+July $14.44+Aug $25.00+Sept $25.00+ Oct $25.00+ Nov $25.00+ Dec $
  • Stockpile budget used this month: $23.28
  • Total coupons used this week: $2.00
  • Total coupons used to date: $40.77
  • Total in-store discounts this week: $8.51
  • Total in-store discounts to date: $711.63
  • Total spent this week: $52.53
  • Total spent so far this month: $114.71
  • Total over/Under spend this shop: under
  • Total over/Under spend for the month: over $n/a
  • Total left to spend for the month: $59.32
  • Total Spent To Date 2015: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $166.49+ Feb $261.51+ Mar $231.02 + April $258.44+May $218.12+ June $235.67+July $212.16+August $118.15+ September $130.37+ October $281.89+ November $249.04+ December $

Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)

We didn’t need too much this week but we did stock up on bacon while it was on sale and grabbed some cheese that we found for 50% off. While at Zehrs we scored a sweet deal on something that I will share with you soon. The savings along with the PC Points we earned put us back in the game with over 30 thousand PC Plus Points again. Next week we are off for Christmas but we may buy some groceries and milk for our son when we arrive so there is still some money to spend. Almost to the end of 2015!


Canadian Coupons


Here are some great places you can find Canadian Coupons! These are your latest Checkout 51 offers which you can use to help save money. We’re finding less and less coupons in the stores these days. What are your thoughts? Are coupon apps taking over the paper coupons?

December 2015 grocery coupons Canada(1)

Grocery Game Challenge FAQ’s


  • Grocery Game Challenge RULES: Read the rules first and if you have any questions email me or comment on this post with your question and someone will answer you as soon as possible.
  • Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop?: No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops. We have fans who post their grocery shop who live all over the world.
  • What is the monthly prize and who can claim it?- The monthly prize is a $10 PC Loblaws Gift Card and for our out of country friends it’s $10 CDN via Paypal if they win. As more people join I will add more money to the gift card or I will split it up and offer 2 prizes every month.
  • When does the Grocery Game close each month?: The Grocery Game Challenge closes at midnight of the last Sunday of the last post for the month but you will still get a ballot when you post your shops even if they are late but I encourage you to stay on schedule. If you choose to post monthly  or bi-weekly you will only get 1 ballot for that shop. It’s a proven fact the minute we stop doing something that is scheduled that we end up forgetting to do it all together. Don’t let that be you! You can post your shops all month-long.
  • Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?: Yes No, our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. As of 2014-2015 we no longer include such items in our grocery budget so we can see actual food numbers at the end of the year so we can plan accordingly for our budget. We don’t mind stockpiling items that won’t be affected by expiry dates or have long expiry dates but not so much food any more. It’s just one way to help cut your budget to save money.
  • Canadian Coupons: Where can I find Canadian Coupons?: Here are your latest  Checkout 51 offers that you can use to help you save money in the Grocery Game Challenge. There are many great Canadian Couponing websites online that share weekly coupon match-ups so you can plan your grocery list.
  • Best Coupon Apps: Coupons are slowly fading out but mobile coupon apps are the big rave these days. Just recently the popular coupon site that mailed coupons to households have gotten involved with their new mobile app joining forces with the many apps that are already out there.
  • What is the Best Flyer App- We use Flipp on our Iphone so if you wan to have all your flyers in one spot download Flipp from the Apple Store or get it on Google Play.
  • What is an FPC?: An FPC is a free product coupon which means you can get a free product as described on the coupon.
  • What is GGC?– The Grocery Game Challenge of course!
  • How Do I Grocery Shop?: I can tell you about grocery shopping and what we do in terms of shopping to save money and how it works for us. There are no wrong or right answers, just smart choices.

Over time you will gradually learn where you should and shouldn’t go in the grocery store or at least how to say no, I’m on a budget I need to buy this or that.

You may also substitute items in order to stick to your grocery budget to make it work. Nobody is perfect, heck we struggle with this part of our budget like many people do.

This is why the grocery game challenge was created to not only show you that we are like everyone else but to bring us all together to work as a team to get our budgets on track.

If you have just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2015 get ready to dive deep into your grocery budget and learn just where you are spending, how much you are spending and what you are saving.

Feel free to read all the above posts that I linked to above which I feel are relevant to learning about the grocery budget and grocery shopping in general.

If you are brave and want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide! It’s FREE!

You’ve made a wise decision to take control of your grocery budget now show me your shops and let’s get saving!

Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge 2015!

Join in and become money savers and take control of your grocery budget.


Are You New To Canadian Budget Binder?

  • Follow Me on Social media by clicking any of the buttons below on the blog.
  • Don’t forget to Subscribe to Canadian Budget Binder by Email to get my daily email. Once you subscribe you MUST VERIFY your email account so check your spam folder and inbox for that email!
  • Check out my new Free Recipe Index
  • If you like FREE then click this link for my FREE Excel Budget Spreadsheet and all my Free Money Saving Lists

Similar Posts