As the owner of a catering business, it’s not always in my best interest to give advice on how to throw a party without us. I mean, obviously, I don’t want to disclose all the catering secrets and create a world of DIY caterers out there! But let’s face it – you’re not going to use a caterer for every event you throw and my hope is that I can offer you enough useful advice for those smaller occasions that you’ll remember me for the bigger ones!
Ok, so let’s just say it’s one of those occasions where you’ve decided to have some people over and handle the food yourself. Although you thought you’d save money by not using a restaurant or a caterer, you’re still feeling like you need to take a loan out just to buy all the food. And maybe you thought since you were going to do it all yourself, you could serve some good steaks and some shrimp but now you’re blown away by what that is doing to your bottom line. Perhaps you scour all the grocery ads to find that great deal but even the headlining specials are still insane. Top Sirloin at 7 bucks plus, and tenderloin, well, that is out of the question. Shrimp is not looking much better either.
How does this all work you wonder. Here is the scoop on the protein portion of your meal. (If you’re a vegetarian, the rest of this blog is probably not for you!) Of the protein options you’re most likely to select from (beef, chicken or pork), beef is the most expensive choice. I’ll spare you the details but it comes down to supply and demand folks. To get a cow ready for market takes 2 years, whereas it takes 18 months for a pig and 60 days for a chicken. So for that party, if you’re on a budget, chicken or pork would be your best option. And trust me there are so many different ways to prepare those proteins, you really can’t go wrong. However, if you still want those steaks and shrimp, I have an option for you.
When doing larger parties, GET OUT OF FRY’S (or Albertsons, or Safeway, or Bashas – any grocery store really.) Load yourself into your car and head to the Chef’’Store at McClintock and Southern in Tempe. This store is as close as you are going to get to buying wholesale. You do not need a business license to buy from this store like you do at most restaurant food wholesale locations either so it’s a perfect place for the DIY caterer. This location is run by US Foods. Since you are buying a larger quantity, you can take advantage of bulk pricing.
Now to get your best value, you have to know your beef cuts. This is US Foods, you are in essence buying from the same place most valley restaurants do. This means good quality. Most of the meats are “choice” which is the best cut by US standards. You won’t find pre-cut steaks at this store so look at the roasts in the cold food section. You will find roasts that range in price from $11.59 per pound (Tenderloin) to $3.79 for Ball Tip. Ball Tip is not very good for a grilled steak. It is used to make deli roast beef because of the long cooking process. If you want a good cut of beef for close to that price range (around $4.00 per pound) grab a Tri Tip roast and cut your steaks out of that. Keep in mind these roasts range in weight from about 17 to 23 pounds. You can always freeze a portion of your roast or of the steaks you cut for a future event if you don’t need this much. Yes, it is going to take some skill on your part to butcher that roast into steaks, but that’s what Google is for. (You’re on your own for this – I can’t give you all the secrets!)
Your shrimp meal is back in the picture as well. The Chef’Store has frozen 21/25 shrimp which makes great skewers for the BBQ. The 21/25 is the approximate amount of shrimp per pound. These flavorful babies come in 2 pound bags, so you have around 44 shrimp per bag. For the BBQ, you want raw, tail on and deveined. The bag sells for $12.95 to $15.95 depending on the time of year. Put them in a marinade and cook ‘em til they are pink. (You’ll have to google that marinade too because again…caterer secret!)
So that’s my best kept secret. The Chef’Store. (No, they aren’t paying me to say this. I’m just a pretty big fan of their product and service and a firm believer of passing the word when something is done right). Go take a peek at this place. You can buy everything you need at this store and probably will end up with things that you didn’t need but couldn’t resist. And stay tuned for my next blog where I will tell you how to figure quantities of proteins and how to determine the best use of beef cuts and why to pick them. (More caterer secrets – don’t tell Michelle!).