Party pro: Stephanie O'Dea, author of "More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: 200 Brand-New, Budget-Friendly, Slow-Cooker Recipes."
Favorite money-saving party tip: Serve a taco or carnita bar.
At a sit-down dinner, the usual rule of thumb is about a half pound of meat per person, says O'Dea, who uses a slow-cooker to make party prep easier. "With a taco bar, a quarter pound of meat per person is plenty" she says, adding that people can probably use less. "And dried beans are incredibly inexpensive."
Since everyone assembles his or her own plate, this is one way to please every palate and diet, she says. With corn tortillas, it's easy to make it gluten-free. And if you include options like spicy rice and a big bowl of beans, vegans, vegetarians and those cutting back on fat will be happy, too.
Give it a twist: You can stretch the meat even farther by adding canned or dried beans to the meat also, says O'Dea.
Last used this idea: Last week, when a friend stopped over with her family on Saturday night. And it's great for last-minute entertaining because it works with just about any meat you have handy in the freezer, she says.