Entertaining on a Budget with Dollar Tree: #CurvilyGinghamPicnic

I grew up with a mom who could have easily been the next Martha Stewart, as she put a lot of thought and creativity into entertaining – my birthday parties were always amazing without being extravagant.  Now as an adult, I love hosting friends myself.  Lately I’ve been eagerly anticipating picnic weather, and collecting tons of inspiration for themes.  This season’s gingham trend in fashion is a particular favorite, and a natural match for a picnic.  Looking at supplies in traditional stores became cost prohibitive almost immediately as things started to add up though – and I’ve been trying to build my savings and be a bit more frugal.  Fortunately, I live by a Dollar Tree, and full gingham inspiration struck one day when I was browsing their new seasonal goods.

Just a portion of my haul!

With everything priced at just one dollar, I could get creative while staying on budget.  Once I saw the red and blue gingham picnic tablecloths, I knew my my color palette.  After that, it was just a matter of browsing the aisles for supplies that matched, both disposable and reusable.  The mason jars were a particularly great find, as we brought them home after the picnic and are now using them for summer glasses.  These blue bowls have likewise found a new purpose for soups and cereals, but were perfect for serving at the picnic.

While shopping, I saw snacks that would be perfect for a picnic as well, and I decided to give myself a little challenge to see if I could get all my food and drinks (except adult beverages, of course!) from my Dollar Tree.  Turns out, it wasn’t too hard of a challenge at all.  The prepackaged snacks, like PopCorners kettle corn chips and honey mustard pretzel twists, were a snap.  I wanted to cook up a few things too, and let myself be inspired by the in-store selection. With just a little creativity, I came up with three delicious homemade bites, with all ingredients purchased at Dollar Tree!

In the freezer section, I saw a variety of frozen fruit, and ended up going for the one that matched my red and blue theme the best: Blueberries 🙂  With just two ingredients (for $2), I was able to make a delicious homemade blueberry sauce to serve with vanilla ice cream.

These cute little red ramekins are 3 for a dollar!

Easy Homemade Blueberry Sauce Recipe:

1 bag frozen blueberries

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan, and bring to a rolling boil.  Let boil for one minute, stirring occasionally. Then reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Sauce should be slightly thickened at the end.  Let cool in pan, then refrigerate until time to serve.

Next up was the quintessential picnic classic: Deviled Eggs.  I’ve always enjoyed this retro staple, but never tried making them myself.  I figured hosting my first picnic was the perfect time to take the plunge, and all the ingredients were readily available at my Dollar Tree, including 18 brown eggs for $1 (!!!).  Not content to make the basic mustard filling, I decided to give the eggs my own spicy twist: Sriracha!

Sriracha Deviled Eggs Recipe

1 dozen medium eggs

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons sriracha

1 teaspoon black pepper

Ground paprika to garnish

Use the cooking instructions from Mary Nolan’s classic recipe here, subbing in the ingredients and amounts above!

This dish is delicious and super affordable (its likely you’ll already have some pantry basics like vinegar and pepper, and even if you don’t, the most it will cost at Dollar Tree is $6 for 8 servings).  It does take some time and effort, however!  As I jokingly grumbled on my Instagram Stories while in the midst of my first batch of eggs: It is 2017, how do we still not have better technology for peeling an egg?!  And next time I make these, I’m going to use a piping bag for the filling to give it a pretty swirl – these didn’t have that signature shape.  The work I put into these little devils came through in the end though, and I had to stop my first arriving guests from devouring them all before anyone else got there!

My favorite dish was a creation all my own: Garlic Feta Toasts (right).  All of my friends were in disbelief that this (and all of the homemade snacks) were made from Dollar Tree ingredients, but they were.  The only addition was an extra clove of garlic I had in my refrigerator, but this could even more easily be made with jarred minced garlic (no knifes required!).

Garlic Feta Toast Points Recipe

1 bag crumbled feta

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic/1 teaspoon minced garlic

6 slices Pepperidge Farm Italian bread

Mince the clove of garlic.  In a small sauce pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil on high until hot.  Once hot, add the minced garlic, stirring frequently until lightly browned and fragrant.  Remove from heat, and scoop all garlic into a small container with an airtight lid.  Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, seal, and leave at room temperature for at least one hour, avoiding direct sunlight.  After letting the garlic infuse the olive oil, add the crumbled feta cheese to the container, stirring to coat with the garlic oil.  Refrigerate and leave over night.  If dry when time to serve, add drizzles of oil and stir to coat until desired consistency.  Toast slices of bread, and cut each slice into 4 triangles using kitchen shears.  (For easier serving, substitute crackers for toast points – my friends loved eating the leftover garlic feta with thin wheats).

My guests happily nommed on all the snacks, including the adorably on-theme Haribo cherries, which Liz of P.S. It’s Fashion immediately suggested would make a great garnish for the mason jar drinks.

With the multi-talented and -titled babe Kirby Cernosek

The fun paisley scarfs I picked up at Dollar Tree were not gingham, but you know how much I love print mixing!  They also added a little flair (and camouflage) to our bottles of wine and champagne. Cheers to style and substance!

(We all ended up eating the Haribo cherry garnishes)

Sheep Meadow in Central Park was unsurprisingly crowded on the first perfect picnic day of the season, but my friends found our gingham oasis amongst the throngs.

Model Alex LaRosa and blogger Audrey of Lulu Linden

We also made some new friends, like this incredibly fluffy Australian Shepherd puppy, who we all happily fawned over. Unsurprisingly, this cutie has his own Instagram: @saintaussie.

Someone upstairs appeared to approve of our shindig too (or maybe Liz’s awesome gingham dress?)

As the sun started dipping lower in the sky, the crowds got a little less intense, but our Gingham Picnic roared on.

We may or may not have played a few rounds of Categories as a drinking game, which inspired a lot of spirited (and tipsy) debate.

Lots of it 🙂

And lots of laughter, too.

Before we fled the rapidly dipping temperatures, we had to stop for pics together.  Its pretty much required when bloggers get together 😉

Pic via @lululinden

My girl Jyoti and her fab sunnies

No wine left behind!

Special thanks to my wonderful husband for helping me haul everything to Central Park and always being sweet and supportive <3

It was an excellent afternoon (and evening) with a bunch of my favorite people, and all my guests loved the cute theme and the snacks, homemade and ready made both.  Thank you to Dollar Tree for making this day possible, and wonderfully affordable.  I went all out with the food, drinks, dishes, and decor, and it still added up to just $39!  You could easily do a less involved but still very cute version of this picnic for less than $20.  For ultimate ease, just make the garlic feta spread with crackers and the blueberry sauce.

At the end of the #CurvilyGinghamPicnic, this pleasantly exhausted hostess went home and crashed.  But Dollar Tree’s contribution wasn’t over:

The aloe vera gel my husband thoughtfully picked up last week was put to work on my developing sunburn immediately, which saved me from a lot of pain.  Next time, I’m going to add sunscreen to my Dollar Tree shopping list!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Dollar Tree.  All posts and opinions my own, as always!