For those of you in the US, happy Memorial Day! Today is a day we take the time to honor those who have fallen while serving our country. And just how do Americans observe such a somber occasion? With a party!
Memorial Day was originally observed as Decoration Day commemorating Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded to commemorate those who died in all wars (declared or undeclared).
But while it is a somber ordeal, it also marks the unofficial start to summer. Sure, the summer doesn’t officially start until June 21, but we typically mark the end of summer with Labor Day, even though the calendar keeps trudging on with summer until the Autumnal Equinox on Sept 22. Since Memorial Day is further before the solstice than Labor Day is before the equinox, I guess we come out rather ahead in the deal. 🙂
A cookout or barbecue is a popular way to celebrate this holiday. But those can get pretty expensive pretty fast. Especially when you start out planning to have a small affair for a couple of friends and 20 people show up. But there are a few ways to keep the costs down and have a frugal party.
Have a pot luck
Instead of providing all of the food yourself, invite your guests to bring parts of the meal. Some people will limit themselves to asking for things like chips and drinks, but if you go true pot luck style, you could find yourself on the hook for only a single item. We bought burgers and hot dogs and pretty much everything else was brought by our guests.
And for side dishes, making them yourself is a lot cheaper than buying pre-made ones in the store. I’ve shared several side dishes on my food blog at If You Can Read, You Can Cook.
There is a whole cottage industry of providing holiday-themed decorations and eating implements. for each holiday, no matter how minor. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that those things are at their most expensive leading up to the holiday and dirt cheap afterward. But, most people aren’t going to spend a whole lot of time looking at the pattern on their napkins. Two ideas for not breaking the bank on decorations for Memorial Day are to simply use leftovers from another holiday, or stock up after Memorial Day for the next year.
Two weeks ago, we had a going away party for a friend of my wife who was moving back to California. Another of her friends bought all of the decorations, plates, napkins, etc. He probably bought twice as much as was needed and left it all behind. We put them to good use for our Memorial Day cookout. So what if they were black and gold? Nobody said anything about the fact that they weren’t wiping their mouths with red, white, and blue napkins.
Stock up on decorations
By favorite day of the entire year to buy Christmas decorations is December 26. The seasonal department of stores is 50% off or more on that day. We got our 7″ artificial tree for $10 on year.
The same process repeats itself after every holiday in which stores put out seasonal decorations. Starting tomorrow, stores will be looking to clear out their inventory of red, white, and blue themed items and adding more summer stock. If you want “proper” decorations next year, this week is the time to get them. Just put them up somewhere in your garage, shed, basement, or wherever you keep your long-term storage.
A fire is cheap entertainment. Our new place has its own fire-pit which we have been putting to good usage. In the last 6 weeks, we have had 4 fires. We bought firewood, but you if you plan ahead, you can generally find free firewood on Craigslist. If you do buy firewood, the bundles found in grocery stores will generally last 2 fires if you are conservative and don’t try to build a huge bonfire. Even using half the wood, our fire still burned great for 4 hours. During this time we made S’mores and just generally watched the flames dance in the dark.
What do you do to celebrate Memorial Day? Is there anything special you do to keep costs down for a party?