Budget Wine: Think INSIDE the Box
My good friend John - or CT Wine Guy, as you may know him - has been exploring boxed wines for awhile now and because of his blog, I have been able to find several boxed wines that are extremely drinkable and classy enough for most classy gatherings.
Boxed wine qualifies for the class-on-a-budget list because of the bang for your buck. Most boxes of decent wine hold four bottles, and the most expensive of the box wines currently top out at about $25/box ($6.00 and change per bottle - that is cheaper than Yellowtail, folks!) An added benefit of boxed wine is that the new bag and box technology keeps the wine fresher for a longer period of time.
Chardonnay is probably the most widely available boxed wine, and there are a couple worth trying. At John and Katie's recommendation, I tried the Black Box Chard and really enjoyed it (as much as I am going to enjoy a California Chard, that is - they are almost never my first choice). The Black Box Shiraz, which we drank at Amanda's house, was also nice - fruity and spicy.
I would suggest reading John's posts for more suggestions. Plus, then you can mention that you got the recommendation from a classy wine blog and sound like you keep up with these hip sorts of things.
Budget Cheese: Trader Joe's and grocery store selections
The Trifecta is very found of our fancy cheese store. I love the artisan cheeses available at the farmer's market. However, there are weeks when you are short on cash but still need some classy cheese to serve to some last-minute guests.
Never fear: Trader Joe's was made for this sort of thing.
Trader Joe's has a very good cheese selection and extremely good prices. In addition, unlike Whole Foods and other such stores, Trader Joe's does not cut all their cheese to a uniform size, so it is very possible to find smaller wedges of triple-cream brie and Port Salut which in turn cost less money.
(Side Note: Even though Trader Joe's is cheap, it enjoys a certain hipness in classy circles. It is what they would call "Cheap Chic." Bringing almost anything from Trader Joe's to a party will cement your status as hip and classy - even Three Buck Chuck, as long as you make a self-aware and self-deprecating joke about it's cheapness.)
In the event that you have no Trader Joe's close by, you can still find acceptable cheeses in most grocery stores. My go-to grocery store snack cheese is Boar's Head Harvati. This is a creamy (but solid) mild cheese that goes well with most crackers and is offensive to almost no one. A block usually costs between $5.00 and $6.00, but the taste is much classier than that.
Budget Dinner Party: Serve Pasta
The easiest way to cut the costs of your dinner party without sacrificing classiness is to make pasta for the main dish. Pasta itself is cheap and even if you put meat in it, you probably only need about a pound, which is much less meat than if you were to supply your entire dinner party with their own individual Cornish game hen.
My go-to cheap and classy pasta is from Giada DeLaurentis's cookbook Everyday Italian (probably my favorite cookbook ever. Go on Amazon and see if you can find a cheap, used copy). The Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe can feed six people and be made for under $12. Seriously, check out these prices from a recent grocery store trip:
- 1 lb. box of pasta - $1.34 (you can use penne or cavatappi if you can't find orecchiette)
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe - $1.99
- 1 lb. package of Italian sausage - $3.99 (it was actually on sale for $3.00)
- 1 head of garlic - $0.50
- Small block of fresh Parmesan - $3.16
I hope you find this post helpful on your journey to classiness. Classy tips are always appreciated!