Cheaply Throw an Epic Super Bowl Party
By Margaret Feinberg and Ryan Hamm
January 4, 2010
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The Super Bowl is this weekend. And you have people coming over, with very little plan. Time to panic!
Not really—that’s why we’re here. We’ve got you covered for whatever kind of party you want to throw. Barbecue? We’ve got you there (and be thankful you can grill outside). Potluck? You’ve come to the right place. Party games? Yup. Catering? No. If you want to cater, you probably don’t need our help—just call Chili’s and say: “Hi, I’m having 25 guests. Make me food.”
The good news is that you don't have to be Martha Stewart or Tony Siragusa to host a fantastic Super Bowl party. All you need is a little planning, some creativity and guests.
Location, Location, Location
It's generally easiest to throw a party in your own home, where you know where everything is and have access to every item. And, obviously, you can claim the ideal viewing spot for the game (or commercials). If your home is not big enough, is being remodeled or is not in an ideal location, ask a friend if you can throw the event at their house. Or find someplace outside. Basically, you want to have a place where you can entertain a bunch of people, and also be able to watch a screen for four hours.
As with any grocery list, it's best to buy food in bulk. Discount warehouse stores such as Sam's Club and Costco are great places to stock up on popular items. But keep an eye on local grocery store sales, too. Their promotional items can prove to cost less than the mass discounters.
This is particularly true for meat. Take advantage of any buy-one-get-one free sales at the local supermarket. Stock up your freezer. Always marinate whatever you buy to give it a distinct flavor.
Buy items that offer a lot of bang for your buck. Invest in large bags of chips, tubs of salsa and other food items that can be shared among crowds. Try to buy seasonal fruits and vegetables—or at least enough baby carrots to provide a healthier option. Avoid foods that tend to go bad quickly, or have offensive odors. A Super Bowl party probably isn't the time to roll out an ice cream cake or create your favorite tuna fish salad.
When possible, create side dishes from scratch rather than buying them in bulk. It's far less expensive to make a potato salad than to buy it from the deli. Most all-American side dishes such as pasta salad are inexpensive to make. Call your mom or neighbor for recipes.Remember to keep it simple. You don't need to offer two dozen sides or six different types of beverages. Offer the basics. Bring along sealable plastic bags so food doesn't go to waste. Send people home with the extras or bundle them up for the freezer or refrigerator.
If you’re able to grill outside, congratulations for living in a place that doesn’t make you sad for four months out of the year. Before you can set out to grill, you need to decide on what kind you want. So we’ll make it easy: Get a charcoal grill with hardwood charcoal and throw in some hickory chips. You’re welcome.
Now you’ve got to decide what to grill. One tip: The more time you have, the cheaper the meat is going to be. If you’ve got several hours to spare, you can get a tougher (read: cheaper) and fattier cut of meat, because it’ll get more tender after several hours. Find a recipe (particularly one involving Emeril Lagasse’s cajun dry rub) and go with it. Otherwise, just do burgers and hot dogs if you’re looking to save money. If you really like your friends (and your heart), consider “splurging” for chicken breasts. Just make sure to marinade them first. Chicken breasts without marinade are like nonfat ice cream. You’ll eat it, but you won’t be happy about it.
The appetizer potluck
We know. When you were growing up, a “potluck” meant you had to eat some weird casserole that inevitably was covered with a “potato chip topping.” But trust us: don't be afraid to ask your friends and family members to bring something with them. Whether it's drinks, a bag of chips, or a side dish, most people are more than willing to contribute. If you already have everything you need, you might mention that you'll need a hand cleaning up afterward.
And really, sometimes all you need for the big game is a huge selection of snacks on hand. So don’t be afraid to divvy up food assignments like crazy. (Just make sure someone brings wings ...)
This is also a great opportunity for people to bring the dish they’re most proud of. You’ll be surprised that your friends can actually cook. And some of them will really blow you away. And you can always count on one friend to show up with chips and guacamole—that’s the best thing about potlucks. Besides, everyone loves the chips-and-guac guy.
Create activities for the party. Some people may not want to watch the game, but that doesn’t mean they should be ostracized. Put out some board games or set up Wii Sports in the other room. Above all, don’t make it the kind of party where people are afraid to talk; half the fun of watching the game or the commercials is being able to respond to them immediately afterward. Nobody likes the person who shushes everyone so they can hear Jim Nance.
What can you do to make your event a little different or more enjoyable? Have a contest for football jersey. Have everyone give their picks for the game along with a score, and then give the winner a prize—maybe an album by The Who to tie in with the halftime show. Above all, make it your event.
Also remember that even though people are there to socialize, the game is still the centerpiece. Make sure that whatever decorations you choose or games you play are fun but don’t distract for the people who actually want to pay attention to the game (unless they’re being obnoxious about it).
We hope these tips will help you throw a great Super Bowl party. Regardless of who wins the game, you should always be able to have a good time this time of year. So call up friends and family and let them know that this year, you’re going to give them a party that they won’t soon forget.