Let's face it: Times are tough. You want to have friends over for a meal, but the cost of throwing a dinner party seems daunting.
Take heart. A meal for guests doesn't have to wreck your budget. You can entertain inexpensively and still send your guests home satisfied and happy. They might even be raving about your delicious food.
You can, of course, ask the guests to chip in. One way to hold down the cost of a meal is to throw a potluck, with everyone bringing a dish or two to share. Or you can plan to fire up the grill, prepare side dishes and ask guests to bring whatever meat they want to cook. It's also fine to ask guests to contribute a specific dish such as a dessert, side dish or bread. Except in the case of a formal dinner party, guests shouldn't think it's odd or bad manners to be asked to help.
But if you'd rather spring for the entire meal yourself, the smart cook can provide a nice spread without having to max out the credit card or take out a loan. Find some inexpensive meal ideas on the next page.