For me, the idea of having a holiday party is always more fun than actually hosting it. I get all wrapped up in trying to make everything perfect, then I’m a ball of anxiety by the time guests arrive. But over the last few years, I’ve enlisted the help of my favorite grocery store to take off some of the pressure. Sure, I still go all-out on memorable main dishes and swoon-worthy desserts, but adding these inexpensive finds from Aldi has been an easy way to up my party game without adding stress.
Cheese & Crackers
Aldi has a lot of choices in the cracker aisle, but my favorite is their Savoritz 6 Cracker Assortment. From water crackers to multigrain and seeded, there’s a flavor and texture to compliment every type of cheese on your tray for just $3.29 per box. After you’ve grabbed your crackers, head over to the refrigerated dairy case to pick out your favorite cheeses like marinated fresh mozzarella ($3.69 for 8 oz.), honey goat cheese, brie, gruyere and flavored cheese like roasted garlic with tomato and basil–all at unbeatable prices. And just like that, appetizers are taken care of. Thank you, Aldi.
Aldi is already known for its inexpensive variety of trendy wines and microbrews, which I do love, but I am more drawn to their non-alcoholic libations. They carry craft sodas like ginger, orange and root beer, imported mineral water, Italian-style soda and an assortment of flavored sparkling water. Kids and nondrinkers cheer for the unexpected choices, which feel more celebratory than water, iced tea and cola. These bubbly drinks also do double duty at the bar as mixers for holiday cocktails.
My favorite category of frugal finds is Aldi’s assorted candies, which range in price from $2.99 to $4.99. I arrange them in glass bowls on side tables for guests to discover as they mingle. Must-haves include chocolate-covered pecan quinoa clusters, soft strawberry licorice and dark chocolate covered sea salt caramels. Keep an eye on the kiddos, though. Entire dishes of candy have been known to disappear from my parties.
As a food editor, you’d think I’d have it together enough to manage a loaf of homemade bread or rolls in addition to my other dishes, but I don’t. Maybe it’s because I’m also a mom of young kids (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it), but Aldi has me covered. They carry loaves of sourdough and rosemary plus brioche buns, ciabatta rolls and more. I slice and toast the focaccia for crostini and include the specialty buns and rolls on the buffet for hot ham sandwiches.
I do love to bake (and have a sweet tooth), so including a decadent homemade dessert, like holiday cheesecake, isn’t usually a problem for me. But, just like the candies, having gourmet cookies stashed here and there for guests to find like unexpected treasures is part of what makes my parties special. Whether it’s creme-filled wafer rolls for $2.99 per tin (think Pepperidge Farm Pirouette cookies), chocolate chip biscotti, anise pizzelles or chocolate-covered butter cookies, your guests will find a favorite.
When I buy special party foods at Aldi, I know I’m not going to blow my budget. I even save enough money to grab a bouquet of flowers on my way out the door for no-fuss tablescaping (who could pass up a $3.99 bouquet of mixed flowers?). Aldi’s cheap party foods give me one less thing to stress out about during the holidays, which is more than I can say about holiday shopping, gift wrapping, Christmas pageant costumes and who has to sit next to crazy Uncle Ed at dinner.
By Peggy Woodward, RDN