I am always very last minute when it comes to cooking a meal. Between a new baby, a business, a husband, my historic home that always needs something fixed and my rental property, I am limited on time. And yet, somehow, I always end up volunteering to host people.
As a Lowcountry native, a seafood dinner is my go-to meal. Although many people view seafood as a luxury, there are ways to do it affordably and stylishly. For my latest party, I was short on time and saving for a big trip but still wanted to have some friends over for a dinner party. Here is how I threw together a last-minute seafood dinner for 10 for less than $100.
You can always save money on seafood by buying it frozen. A lot of people don’t realize that buying frozen foods can be good for your wallet, as well as your health. If you want to get the best frozen seafood, I would suggest asking your grocery store if they have a locally sourced section, because it will taste closer to fresh seafood. In most stores, there are boxes of mussels and clams for around five dollars, and you can easily buy three of them to make pasta.
Lemons always bring out the fresh flavor flavor, health and color to your meal on a budget. Use them for both floral arrangements on your table and as a garnish for your drinks and food. For an easy table arrangement, buy a bag of lemons and limes and place them in your favorite vase or even sets of glassware for a unique and cheap display that can be reused for your next meal.
More on Tasty Foods on a Budget: Affordable Eats for Foodies in Every State
If you’re running short on time like I was, look at pre-made foods such as salads, pasta and veggies that you can add your favorite seafood to in order to create a quick seafood dish. Add toppings such as fresh herbs and green onions to make the meal look and taste homemade. These pre-made dishes can be bought in a bulk size at a discount at any grocery store and often have a sale section at the end of the day, which is a win for the last-minute shopper.
Load Up on Carbs
Bread is always the answer. Seafood pairs perfectly with fresh bread and olive oil as it is a great way to soak up the sauce created from cooking shellfish. You can also create a bread-and-seafood bar by pairing your favorite bread with your food selections.
Not much of a cook or just short on time? A seafood boil is a great way to host a quick party. It’s also perfect for a host that is a cooking novice. Find your favorite Old Bay or Cajun seasoning, lemons, potatoes and corn — and you have a perfect seafood dinner-party dish.
Paper Table Linens
No need to buy fancy linens. A seafood party is a perfect excuse to use construction paper sheets as table linens or a runner for decor, as well as easy disposal of the seafood shells and bones. It only takes a few minutes to place and clean — no need to iron or steam the linen. Simply throw it away at the end of the dinner.
Tip: Blue, tan and white are a perfect coastal color combination.
Beer and Wine Sangria
Looking for a cheap and easy cocktail? A beer and wine sangria paired with frozen fruit such as pineapples, coconuts and mango is a great choice. You can prepare it on the spot, and the frozen fruit will cool the sangria at the same time, so no need for ice. Light beers and wine also pair perfectly with seafood and are perfect for a mid-week dinner party.
Total Cost: $96
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: How I Pulled Off an Authentic Lowcountry Boil for Less Than $100