|Follow these 5 simple strategies for creating economical, health-smart summer shindigs.|
1. Start early and price-shop
Begin planning your get-together as far ahead as you can. That way you'll be able to take advantage of sales during the weeks leading up to your party. Constance Dunn, author of Practical Glamour (RLD Publications, 2010), entertains regularly in Palm Beach and uses Publix's smartphone app and weekly flyers to follow deals. "Watch for discounts," she advises, "so you can stock up and save on items such as frozen fish or vegetables, wine and meat."
2. Make the most of your meat
Instead of buying pricey cuts, pick up lean skirt steak and marinate it for fajitas, says cookbook author and food blogger Gabi Moskowitz. She likes to marinate meat in a zip-top bag for a minimum of 30 minutes per pound (but not longer than 24 hours). "You can also stretch meat and give it a health punch by pairing it with vegetables to make kabobs," she says. "Or slip veggies such as chopped kale, spinach or red peppers into lean ground meat for meatballs or burgers." Her favorite trick is adding whole cherry or grape tomatoes to burgers. Cooking draws out their sweet flavor.
3. Opt for in-season produce
Grilled corn on the cob is an especially economical pick in summer. Give it an exotic flair by brushing the ears with Cajun-seasoned olive oil, Dunn suggests. To keep tabs on the freshest fruits and veggies, sign up for the At Season's Peak e-newsletter at publix.com/atseasonspeak
Whole-head salad greens make for affordable party fare year-round. "Dress up lettuce with just about anything you have on hand, such as sunflower seeds, dried cranberries or fresh chopped fruit," Moskowitz says. "For a healthy dressing, simply serve balsamic vinegar or mix champagne vinegar with olive oil and a little salt and pepper.
4. Go light and nostalgic for dessert
Summer kindles memories of our carefree youth. "People of all ages get excited about homemade ice pops made from fruit juice," Dunn says. "Or if you're using a grill, simply invite guests to roast marshmallows." Many firm fruits, such as peaches and plums, are delicious when lightly grilled and drizzled with a bit of honey.
Provide melon wedges or a simple fruit salad featuring seasonal favorites. Or invite your guests to create mini sundaes with small bowls of sherbet or low-fat frozen yogurt and fresh berries.
5. Make chipping in fun
Ask guests to bring a simple side or dessert that ties into your party's theme, if they like. Just make it clear they can attend without bringing anything, Dunn cautions. Another spin on the traditional potluck: Throw an appetizer party, asking friends to bring one or two of their favorite nibbles. "It gives people an opportunity to show off," Moskowitz says. "And it's great for the host or hostess because all you provide are drinks and dessert."
No time for food prep? Swing by your neighborhood Publix Deli and pick up fresh-cut fruit that you arrange on your own decorative serving platters. Or order deli wraps made with turkey breast or lean roast beef.