OK, you're hosting a small group. You've got a date, a time, guests, and food. But your kitchen isn't equipped with enough dishes to serve everyone. What are your options?
- Paper. Paper or Styrofoam dishes are convenient and relatively cheap. They come in all shapes and sizes and can be thrown away, making cleanup simple and easy. For a little more money, party stores carry attractive and themed patterns, making the dishes more inviting. The down side to taking the paper route includes the dishes' lack of sturdiness, the abundance of trash they make, and that the cost can add up over time.
- Plastic. Plastic party goods are also found at party or grocery stores, and are also relatively cheap. Plastic is more durable than paper, and at times is sturdy enough to be put in a dishwasher. Some patterns are made to resemble china. Although it may take more clean up than paper, using plastic is an inexpensive way to host a group without worrying about anything getting broken.
- China. If you have the money and know what style you like, you can always buy a set of dishes for small-group occasions. Twelve settings is a good number to have on hand, and should be enough for most small groups. But since you may not be in the market for a full set of dishes at the moment, our favorite idea is to mix and match and make an eclectic collection.
To do this, first pick a color pallet. Perhaps you like blacks, browns, and neutrals. Maybe you want to spice things up with reds and yellows, or possibly you just like variations of white. Whatever the pallet, keep your eye out for inexpensive dishes that fall into your color range. For example, pick up a few plates at the dollar store, some mugs from a garage sale, and some bowls on a department store clearance. Never buy more than two to four of anything, and mix and match everything in your collection to make a homey, interesting, and practical solution to your serving needs. One benefit of this method is that you never have to worry about breakage or about growing tired of a pattern. Just add and replace little by little.