Denise Flachbart, La Petite Soiree

Denise Flachbart chefsImage courtesy of La Petite Soiree

Small is the new big. "Smaller plates of food are popular because they're less fattening and less expensive," says Flachbart. Another popular money-saving strategy is to use smaller dishes. "The general rule of thumb is that the smaller the plate the bigger your food looks," she says.

Flachbart cites the popularity of ethnic food today as the basis for affordable party fare that guests are sure to love. "Mexican food is always a crowd pleaser," Flachbart maintains. She suggest serving miniature tostadas, tiny tacos made with chips instead of shells and offering several stations for vegetables, chips, salsa and assorted dips.