Ta-Da!!! My Submission for the Dollar Store Challenge
So here's my submission:
(note the empty pineapple can used as a vase. Calla lilies from my mom's garden. Scrunchies for napkin rings. How flippin' cute are those bowls?! And the glasses with the flowers on the stems! Pretend this is an outdoor patio table).
Be patient and scroll down to get a close-up pic of the items I purchased. Who'd a thunk it?!
Theme: Hawaiian Luau Picnic
I went to a 99 cent store close to where I work and was blown away by its excellence. They even have produce, dairy, and things like frozen fresh fruit. Wow. I figured my theme would hinge on what plates I could find. I ended up choosing a Hawaiian Luau/Picnic theme, because I found some amazing plastic dishes with an aloha appeal. Initially I found a more sophisticated palm tree design, but they were out of matching bowls, so I went with the bright floral instead. By going to a few stores instead of just one, I was able to get matching pieces. At first I thought I wouldn't get close to the $40 budget. Ha! I should have known better. I could have spent waaay more. I could have bought tiki torches (they actually had them!!!), silk flower leis instead of plastic ones. I could have supplemented with chicken, rum, florist fresh Anthuriums, and lots of other goodies. But I wanted to keep to my limit.
Total spent: $42.56, including 7.75% sales tax on non-food items. So that means I went over budget. Crap! Disqualified? I was in there, and then I remembered I bought cake flour. And I even supplemented with a lot of what I had on hand (baking wise), but you have to admit these are totally cute dishes. This is stuff I will actually use in the future, so this was a fun challenge.
It's a picnic!
The idea is that the food could be carried in the storage containers, packed into the tote bag, and carried to a sandy beach. This is a big roomy tote with the 99 cent store logo on it, so I covered it up with plastic orange placemats. Cute, huh? All the goodies fit inside this tote. I picked up a six-pack of Tiki Punch (how perfect is that?!). If I were actually having a luau, and it was held at my home, I would pull all my cool stuff out of storage (like the carved wooden tiered tower, the pig-shaped platter, the hibiscus gravy boat, the carved wooden tiki, etc. I have a ton of aloha stuff, especially fabrics). I would also probably serve cocktails (maybe in coconut shells! Pineapple rice inside the pineapple shell too). If not the beach, just set up the stuff poolside on the patio table, and serve coconut or pineapple margaritas, and maybe skewered fruit over the barbecue. Ah, makes me wish for summer...
I cruised the internet looking for recipe ideas. Some amazing ones can be found here. I was planning at first to make a chicken over rice dish (maybe with a soy sauce or teriyaki), but then thought a macaroni salad as a side dish would be appropriate, because Hawaiian restaurants I've been to always serve this dish. Hawaiians love them some macaroni salad. I even bought the tiny shell-shaped pasta. Then I read that luaus often serve corn chowder, so I HAD to include this, because I freaked when I found Snow's canned corn chowder--one of my favorite soups ever, and I haven't seen it in years. They had a whale-shaped cracker that I thought fit the theme, so that would be good with the soup. Plus they're just so darned cute! But with potatoes and corn, that meant macaroni and rice were both out...so what to do? I came across a vegetarian version of a Chinese Chicken salad that I love, so I decided this would work. I made a half recipe of the Sesame Cabbage Salad from the aloha friends website listed above. Very, very good. Okay, we got the soup, we got the salad. And the fruit and bread for a few sides, as already posted.
I think it would be fun to buy multiple colors of rubber thong sandals (various aloha prints and colors), cut them up, and mosaic them onto a galvanized pail (all 99 cent store items). Spaces could be filled in with seashells. This could be an ice bucket. Trader Joes sells a surfer beer (it's called Luau Lager) with a surfer on one style and a hula girl on another--that would be perfect. I ran out of cash to do this :(. It would also be fun to gather smooth beach stones, then paint each one with aloha images like tropical flowers, palm trees, and of course, flip-flops ('slippa' is the Hawaiian term). Then these stones could be used for tablecloth weights.
Actually, I had to be creative just to be able to come in at limit here, because I didn't have enough money to make the salad! What to do? Well, we're eating at home, so I figured I could either calculate out the storage container stuff (the tote, the placements that decorate the tote, and the two storage containers), or I could calculate the meal for two people versus four (on the plates, bowls, glasses, and 'napkins'). So I did the latter. Eek, I hope that's okay. Then in the end, I still came in over budget. But I didn't want to lie, so there you have it.
(note I didn't use the banana candle after all)
(note I didn't use the toothpicks or the pail after all)
From the 99 cent store at the Clairemont Square: $11.73 (not counting all the other crap I bought for Valentine's gifts, etc. I'm totally hooked on this place now! I rarely shopped at 99 cent stores prior to this challenge. Jennifer, you have created a monster!!!)
*plastic bowls (one large, one chip 'n dip)
*ceramic soup bowls (not as convenient as plastic for a picnic, but way cute! Later I went back and got the matching plates for future use. The Lemon Grove location has matching Bird of Paradise glasses.
*palm tree dishtowels,pineapple dishtowels (to use as napkins)
**set of plastic leis
**plastic cake container
*Shasta Tiki-Punch sodapop
*small metal pail for an ice bucket that I ended up not using after all.
99 cent store in Lemon Grove: $17.82
*plastic drinking glasses
*set of brightly colored scrunchies (to use as napkin rings because
the beaded elastic ones I initially bought weren't sturdy enough)
*table cover with a dolphin design (it would be fun to use a beach towel as a table cover, or even just some barkcloth or hawaiian fabric. I even thought about using one of those straw roll-up mats for a table runner)
*2 plastic storage containers
*large tote bag for the picnic basket
*set of plastic fruit placements to glue onto the tote bag to make it cuter (I wish they had pineapple, but the orange is cute too)
*candle with flowers on it (also a banana-shaped candle, but I would have gone more over budget had I used it!)
*1 can crushed pineapple
*1 can corn chowder
*vegetable ramen (9 for 99 cents! I bought 2 for .22)
*1 bunch bananas
*1 can sliced pineapple
*1 can chopped papaya (I ended up not using this. I had enough fruit to feed an army)
*toothpicks that I forgot to use, so they are not included in the total either.
*1 can sliced mango
*1 can tropical fruit salad
*1 package shredded sweetened coconut
V-Outlet in Clairemont (all items less than a dollar): $1.07
*box of bright green plastic utensils (they had regular cutlery, but plastic is more appropriate for a picnic
(they actually had silk flower leis, but I had already bought the
cheesey ones. It's okay though--I don't need to spend more)
Items I already had:
all the cake ingredients/baking supplies (I bake all the time)
cardboard tiki cutouts (35 cents at a thrift store, but I already had purchased them. Ended up not using them anyhow)
palm tree/pinepple candlestick (gift from my friend Michelle, but I think she actually did buy it at a Dollar Tree!)
Supplemented from the grocery store: $11.83 all together (and itemized below)
*2 eight ounce cream cheese blocks (on sale!)
*Swan's Cake Flour
Valley Farm Market in Spring Valley: $3.45
*bunch green onions
Trader Joes: $2.99