In the Midwest where I live, we had our own version of the Super Bowl last week when the Chicago Bears played the Green Bay Packers for the NFC championship. My home town of Chicago is still licking its wounds, and most people here don't have the cash or the enthusiasm for another football party. But they don't want to miss Super Bowl XLV, either.
So for those weary fans in Chicago, and everyone else looking forward to Sunday, here's a few ways to throw a great Super Bowl party and not break the bank.Shop Early
Don't wait until the weekend to stock up on necessities. Grocery stores are madhouses on game days and many of the best, and most reasonably priced, items will be gone. If you're entertaining at home, you'll pay more for supplies and if you're just looking to pick up an item to bring to someone else's home, it will cost you even more.
On the way to a Bears vs. Packers party last week, a hurried stop at the market revealed poor selections of beer and snack foods. We ended up with more expensive, less desirable beverages and paid $4 each for bags of chips. Lesson learned.
Buy House Brands
Salty snacks can be a budget breaker, but you can find good bargains buying lesser known national or store brands. Christine Frietchen of ConsumerSearch.com recommends Santitas tortilla chips. They're made by Frito-Lay, the same company that makes Tostidos, but come in larger bags, thus represent a better value. "Sometimes the bag size looks the same, but check the weight," Frietchen says.
When it comes to chips, house brands are great alternatives. In a Walletpop taste test, the house brand sold at SuperValu-owned grocery stores including Jewel, Albertsons and Shaw's, ranked well compared to Lays and was a better value.
"People forget about popcorn," says Frietchen. "Microwave popcorn is boring, but hot air poppers are $15-$20 and the corn costs pennies. It makes a lot all at once and lets you control the amount of salt and fat you put on it." And then you can enjoy air popped popcorn anytime.
Don't Get Fancy
Hosts needn't put too much effort into decorations, which can be a sneaky expense, Frietchen says. Avoid all the team branded plates and cups and instead get solid colors. "That way, if you've got leftovers, you can use it again," she says. Both teams have yellow and it's pretty easy to find inexpensive yellow plates and napkins at dollar stores and party outlets. "Yellow plates can be used at a spring or summer party. Besides, there's nothing worse than having 150 Pittsburgh Steeler napkins left over," she says.
If you must get something official, the NFL shop is offering 16% off everything on its site, according to Dealnews, and there's 60% off clearance items.
Forget About Dessert
Don't bother buying or serving dessert. Pastries and sugar don't go well with beer and chips. Grocery stores will tempt you with football themed cakes and cupcakes, but don't do it. "The temptation to over buy is strong," says Frietchen. "It's an impulse buy."
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