A few years back, we mentioned our slight obsession for real dishware. We've never been big on the disposable stuff (even for parties, outdoors or not) and because of it, we have 160 white plates we picked up on Craigslist for a ridiculously low price. Having toted them around for almost 5 years now, we have to say — best decision ever.
If you check out the past link to our plethora of plates, you'll notice that we originally had 200 and although a few have gone the way of the buffalo, the remaining 160 have been a fabulous investment. We picked up these plates from a bride who decided it was cheaper to purchase plates at IKEA for her wedding reception than it was to rent them from a local catering company.
Now I know 160 sounds a bit extreme... and it is. Although Facebook and Twitter tell me I have more than 160 friends, it's quite rare we have that many people show up for planned events. In addition to our own gatherings we are constantly loaning them out to friends and family members who use them for the same thing. They add an extra touch of elegance (even if they are just simple white plates from IKEA) to any outdoor party, plus they're easier to balance on your lap.
We've used them for all sorts of things (including customized Christmas presents one year) and even if it does take a little extra effort to move them each time we relocate, we never find ourselves hustling to find a matching place setting when someone extra comes by for dinner. As an added bonus, knowing we're not buying into disposable options (even if they are recyclable), their packaging and the energy it takes to ship them to stores... is a great feeling. If we totaled up the cost of what we would have spent over the last several years, it would have been 5x what our plates originally cost us! How's that for saving a buck?!
(Image: Sarah Rae Trover)