Entertaining? Spend more time with your friends and less time in the kitchen with an easy nibbles platter that’s sure to satisfy but won’t break the budget.
“My idea of good company…is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.’ ‘You are mistaken,’ said he gently, ‘that is not good company, that is the best.”Jane Austin, Persuasion
There’s nothing so enjoyable as relaxing on a summer Sunday afternoon with friends, sharing good conversation, laughter and knocking back a few cold ones while the kids race around getting up to who-knows-what mischief.
Those are the ingredients for good living.
But you can’t entertain without food, and a simple nibbles platter is an essential component of informal entertainment.
No one wants to spend hours in the kitchen on a hot day preparing elaborate h’orderves, as enjoyable as they are to eat. Nor do we want to spend a fortune on nibbles, which isn’t that hard – snacks can be expensive!
Which is where the simple nibbles platter comes in. No cooking, no fuss and no broken budget (or overly expanded waistline – surely there’s room for just a little indulgence) over the silly season.
Here’s how to put together a great nibbles platter on a beer nuts budget.
Theme your platter
Start by thinking of a theme your platter. A theme narrows down the elements so you’re not overwhelmed by choice, and it helps you to mix complementary flavours.
Some examples of themed platters include:
- Mexican: layered Mexican dip, served with corn chips, sharp cheese and seasonal vegetables.
- Greek: Tzatziki dip, dolmades, marinated fetta, crusty bread, olives, seasonal vegetables, cured meat.
- Classic French: Brie cheese and another cheese, quince paste, pate, lavosh bread, nuts and dried fruit, seasonal fruit, cured meat.
- Antipasto: Marinated olives, eggplant, dried tomatoes, cured meats, breadsticks, water crackers, seasonal fresh vegetables, white bean dip, halloumi.
- Bring back the 70s: cubed cheddar, gherkins, stuffed olives, cabanossi, pickled onions, Jatz biscuits, French Onion Dip.
Start with one or two cheeses
Cheese is usually the main attraction of a nibbles platter, but it can also be the most expensive element. However, you don’t need to spend a fortune.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a good deli in your town, then you can pick up some amazing cheeses, cut into small amounts, for just a couple of dollars.
Even if a cheese is $40 a kilo, 100g is $4. Not too expensive for a very special treat. And 100g of one good cheese, paired with a cheaper cheese, makes for a special platter.
For cheaper, but still very good cheese, head to Aldi. You can pick up a whole wheel of brie for less than $3.
Serve it alone, or with one other select cheese (Aldi has a pretty good range) and you’re good to go.
Make your own dips for a cheaper nibbles platter
The best way to save on a nibbles platter is to make your own dips.
Store-bought dips can add up quickly! Two good dips alone can set you back around $10.
While you can’t make brie in a few minutes, you can make dips quickly and easily for a small fraction of the cost.
One of the easiest dips is simply some cream cheese covered with sweet chilli sauce. Mayonnaise and garlic make a simple aioli. Olive oil and homemade dukkah are great for dunking bread in. Or a simple chutney or relish can go beautifully with cheddar.
For more dip recipes, check out the post: 9 Easy Frugal Homemade Dip Recipes
Along with some cheese, add a dip or two to your platter. Now you’ve got the star elements; it’s time to add the accompaniments.
Crackers or Bread
Crackers or bread are the usual vehicle for your cheeses and dip to go from table to mouth.
The carb component of the nibbles platter is also the cheapest component (and let’s be honest, the most favoured – the crackers usually go long before the carrot sticks), so let the crackers flow freely.
If I know there’s some entertaining coming up, I keep an eye out for specials and stash some packets in the back of the pantry.
An alternative to the usual cracker is bread. Some toasted Turkish bread fingers, lavosh or crusty French loaf torn into pieces all make a nice alternative to crackers.
Cheap but delicious cracker recipe: Homemade Pita Bread Crisps.
Seasonal Fruit and Vegetables
Seasonal fruit and vegetables are cheap, healthy, tasty and add colour and excitement to your platter. I favour the veggie sticks over the crackers because it’s a good way to keep the silly season weight off.
Seasonal fruit also makes a lovely accompaniment to cheese and is a lot less expensive than the traditional quince paste or similar.
Speciality Items for your Platter
Now that you have the foundation of your platter, you can add a couple of speciality items, depending on your theme and your budget. You only need a sprinkling of these – use what’s already in your fridge and pantry or check out your supermarket deli and buy just the amount you need.
Some ideas include:
- cured meats
- marinated vegetables
- dried fruit
Spend more time with friends this Summer, and less time in the kitchen with these easy, inexpensive nibble platters that can be assembled in a matter of minutes and without turning on the oven.
Share your ideas. What are your favourite nibbles platter recipes or combos?
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.