I mentioned our $5 dinner parties in my March Monthly Update and have been asked to expand on what these are and how they work, so here is a post to explain.

I first introduced my friends to the $5 dinner party mid last year and it has been a hit since with 3 parties already under our belts and another one in the not too distant future.

The concept really is as simple as it sounds – each guest must contribute to the party for a total monetary value of $5.

Some simple guidelines

  • Guests can bring a food or drink offering totalling no more than $5
  • Guests may join forces with other guests to bring an item worth more e.g. 2 guests team up to spend $10 in total – this helps to get some people over the line if they aren’t so creative and also allows for some team bonding
  • You can barter or swap fresh produce items grown at home
  • Salt, pepper, herbs, olive oil and other common pantry items are not added to the total
  • Bulk items may be split and the cost divided up if this item will be used again and not go to waste (usually vote on this one as it can be controversial and take away from the purpose)

Many have said they love the ideas as it encourages people to be creative and think outside the box on how they can participate, especially for those who don’t regularly meal plan or think much about the cost of food. It also appeals to those who have a budget and feel left out when they don’t attend social functions at pricey venues.

Plan your own $5 dinner party

Start with a theme

A theme is always a fun way to get people thinking about ideas. Themes we have had in the past have been focused around a cuisine type, Italian, Spanish, Mexican, Greek etc. Though you can have whatever theme you like; foods starting with a letter of the alphabet, childhood favourites, foods you eat at the beach, finger foods only – be as creative as you want.

Create a group event to get them talking

I use Facebook to create a group event for ease of use and to sync to my calendar. It also gets people talking which is a key factor for your dinner party to be a success. To get people interested, sell it as a creative culinary adventure without mentioning the budget aspect. Those who are budget conscious will be grateful, while also appealing to those who may normally invite everyone to an expensive restaurant because it is new or ‘cool.’

Get the ideas flowing

Generate some ideas to get people talking, suggest some people take entrée, others gets mains or desserts. If there is a big enough group even allocate someone to bring drinks.

When I create an event I will put some sample menu ideas down as well. Example from our Italian themed night:


  • Pesto/cheese toasties
  • Bruschetta
  • Herb Bread


  • Pasta
  • Pizza
  • Salad
  • Vegetable & bean bake


  • Cannoli
  • Ice Cream


  • Homemade limoncello
  • Virgin Strawberry Bellini
  • Hint – cheap red wine tastes better than cheap white wine 😉

Ask everyone to post what they will bring

By asking everyone to contribute an idea or to share what dish they will be bringing it feels less like you are running the event and more like a group effort. It is also a good way to stop everyone bringing boiled rice – ensuring you have a wide variety of food.

Make them want more

The more effort you put into the first event being a success, the more chances there will be of it being a hit and people asking for there to be future $5 dinner parties, making it a regular event on your frugal entertainment calendar.

As the host of the event you might ask everyone to explain how they came up with their dish, if they followed a recipe, or if they tweaked it a little to fit into the budget e.g. made a vegetarian lasagne because meat was too expensive.

Some people will be happy to go into great detail about the challenge, and others will be happy just to get on with other conversation. I was very surprised at our first event that everyone brought along their receipts to prove that they didn’t spend over and were getting very competitive about who could spend the least! I was very proud of them all getting so into the spirit of the night.

Congratulate yourself on a frugal job well done

Ensure you acknowledge the wonderful thing that you have done. Taking action to enjoy your life now while still thinking about and securing your financial future makes you better off overall. Depending on what you choose to make your night about you could hit at least 3 of the 5 pillars of a balanced life. Your friends may even thank you too.

Of course you aren’t limited to dinner, it could be breakfast, brunch, lunch, high tea, cheese and wine – whatever takes your fancy. Tell me all about your awesome ideas below.

Would you throw a $5 dinner party? What would your theme be? Who would you invite?