Salon-ing on a budget is totally doable for small groups, especially if you ask your guests to bring liquids. We don’t recommend this budget for groups of more than 10, but fortune favors the bold and Susan can pull off 20 guests for $100, so see what you can do with little help from your friends. Read on to learn how to shop smart, prep easy-to-serve items, and wow your guests by emphasizing delicious simplicity with your menu. Get everyone full and host an outstanding evening without overextending ourselves?! Yes we can.


  1. Do not put out big dinner plates for your guests. use little plates. Perhaps you have tea cups and saucers lying around, the saucers are great small plates. The tea cups good for little shots of a hot or cold soup, small plates mean small helpings and less waste so your food will last longer.
  2. There’s two things people fill up on, carbs and protein so shop accordingly and serve those items first.
  3. Lower your salon overhead even further by asking a few friends to bring desserts, pints of ice cream and pre-made treats make welcome contributions.

In terms of what sort of dishes give you the most bang for your buck, Susan recommends one pot dishes like a fancy take on mac & cheese. Crispy skin chicken. thighs, wings and legs can go a long way, and buffalo wing-style cauliflower is great for the vegetarians or vegan crowd. You can do something like a coq au vin or a boeuf bourguignon, which are both have minimal ingredients, are great to do a day in advance and heat up beautifully. You’ll also want a grain and veggie dish like pesto couscous or chickpea salad, savory veggie pies are also a hit and can be prepped in advance like this. Pro-tip, you can make them look extra Instagram-able if you have a pastry brush.

With a cheaper cut of meat like pork shoulder, you can create a mouth-watering mini pulled pork sandwich platter, easy to assemble if you stick to Susan’s recipe. Sliders are also a great option and work great with both beef and Impossible burgers, although we recommend putting these items out later so they don’t get scarfed down straight away. Flatbread pizzas and French bread bruschetta bites are another tasty, affordable carb solution to give your guests something tasty to fill up on.

And if you should find yourself catering to vegans and vegetarians along with gluten and dairy-intolerants all in the same meal, make a veggie rice pilaf dish with a very simple sauce on the side and gesture towards it whenever necessary.

If you’re outsourcing liquids, be sure to request a healthy mix of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. And no need to spend on disposable dishware because it’s wasteful and tacky, and please no paper towels. Nice paper napkins at the very least but preferably cloth napkins you can just throw in the wash afterwards. If you don’t have enough cups for cocktails or wine, FINE. Tell your friends to bring their favorite cause you don’t have enough and it’ll be like going camping or to Burning Man! And less wasteful.

Warm up the feel of the place by killing overhead lighting and substituting large candles that can last a long time. And do yourself a favor, especially for for larger salons, ask at least one and perhaps a few friends to help you do the dishes so it’s not a nightmare at the end of the evening. If your friends are worth a damn they’ll probably ask if you need any help, so don’t be afraid to take them up on it. And also don’t be afraid to ask if they don’t offer.

What makes a salon so memorable is the unique company, so focus your energies on guest list alchemy. But you can still make unforgettable food without overspending, read on for more tips on How to Feed Your Salon.