Peanuts and Entertaining: The holiday buffet

Tips to save time and money while wowing your guest

‘Tis the season for holiday entertaining, and what it comes to feeding the masses a buffet can be the way to go! A grand buffet can be a treat for the eyes, while offering an array of items to please the pickiest of eaters, as well as those with specific food restrictions. To get the most bang for your buffet, we’ve compiled these top tips to help save money, reduce food waste and cut down on time.

Assembled apps: Instead of a cheese board, why not try pre-assembled bites like this Fig, Pear and Peanut Bruschetta? By creating these easy-to-eat appetizers, guests can grab and go, making the line move smoothly. Anticipate that your guests’ eyes will be bigger than their stomachs? Shrimp platters can be a gluttanous affair. Opt instead for these Seared Shrimp Tortilla Bites; guests will be more likely to take only two or three portions, helping keep food cost and waste to a minimum. Lastly, guests will eat approximately eight hors d’oeuves per person, per hour, which can add up quickly! To save time, serve a mix of homemade nibbles and store-bought appetizers.

Serving up portion control: The size of your serving utensils can help you bring down food waste by subconsciously indicating the recommended portion size to guests. If you’ve made enough for each guest to have a 2 oz. portion – say for pasta or mashed potatoes – don’t put out a large serving spoon! A study from Cornell University showed that changing a serving utensil from two ounces to three ounces increased the amount of food served by 14 per cent. The same can be said about your dinnerware. The Cornell study showed that diners served themselves 31 per cent more food when using a large dish versus a smaller one.

Strategic set-up: With all the dishes prepped, where you place them in the buffet line-up can have a large impact. Put the most plentiful or cheapest dishes at the beginning; by the time guests get to bigger ticket dishes, they’ll have less room on the plate and will take a more realistic serving. Remember, these less expensive dishes can still have pizzazz! Add a salad dressing with peanut basil vinaigrette for freshness and cheesy puff pastry straws as an elegant alternative to bread rolls.

Décor on a dime: When setting up the buffet, look for ways to create different levels. Guests can see all there is to offer, and it also helps the table look less crowded. Footed cake plates work great and play double-duty from main to dessert. For holiday flare, decorate with miniature faux-presents using wrapping paper scraps. Or show off the holiday spirit by lining the table with garland, adorned with your family’s ornaments.