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Menu ideas for 6 people for under $25

Sandy Smith is a food writer, editor, recipe developer, and pastry chef. She lives in New York's Mid-Hudson Valley with her awesome family of painfully honest, unfailingly supportive taste-testers.

6 Tips for serving 6 on a budget

Having an intimate dinner party can be a wonderful, relaxing way to celebrate the weekend, but don't think you need to break the bank to entertain friends. Putting out a nice spread for six spending less than $25 is entirely possible. Here's how.

Pasta Dinner Party

Think creatively to maximize your resources

If a roast isn't in your budget, buy stew beef and stretch it with carrots, potatoes and mushrooms to create a beef stew. To stretch your dollar even further, cook the stew in your slow cooker all day before the party. The long cooking time makes meat more tender so you can get by with a less expensive cut. Accompany it with crusty bread and a green salad, and you have the perfect meal to share with friends.

Make or bake your own

To get more for your money, avoid buying packaged or processed foods. You spend more for these items, and even if you're not much of a kitchen wiz, you'll still make out better if you choose a few simple recipes you can prepare yourself. Trim your costs and impress your guests with homemade buttermilk biscuits or chocolate mousse, for example. Both are surprisingly easy and inexpensive to make on your own.

Try a pasta bar dinner

Prepare a few pounds of different pasta shapes (linguine, rotini and farfalle are a few good choices) and offer an assortment of sauces, salad and breadsticks for a fun and filling meal that works especially well in a group.

Soup and sandwich meals

Crock-Pots come in handy for this sort of get-together. Offer one or two soups along with hard rolls and cold cuts, tuna fish and/or egg salad. Put out chips, cut veggies, and it's a party!

Have breakfast for dinner

Breakfast foods are relatively inexpensive, and who doesn't love breakfast for dinner? Serve breakfast or brunch favorites like waffles, pancakes, quiche, bacon or sausage, fruit salad, coffee cake, muffins and a bread basket accompanied by butter and jam.

Host a good old-fashioned potluck

Ask each of your guests to bring their specialty: A main, a side and a dessert. You provide the appetizers, the beverages and a place for everyone to gather.

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