Before you decide what to put on your grazing table, you’ll need to know how many people you’re serving. Next, what size board and table will you need? Will you be using decorations? Will you make several themed charcuterie boards set on the table, or will the table itself be the board?

If you already have several large wooden boards, you can use those to elevate some food items or use them as the only way to display the charcuterie. Or skip them altogether (especially if you don’t have them already and you’re trying to keep costs down) and use sheets of parchment paper.

tips for how to build a cheap grazing table

Items needed and questions to consider for a grazing table:

  • A table! To help keep costs down, use what you’ve already got or buy or borrow a cheap folding table (or two, three, etc., and put them together). Don’t worry about how it looks – you can easily cover it, and no one will be the wiser.
  • Tablecloths—Most of the tablecloths will be hidden, so again, don’t worry as much about how they look. An inexpensive, plain white tablecloth will do just fine. If you want to hide a shabby table, get one long enough to kiss the ground.
  • Decorations—There is more on this below, but keep it in mind as you plan. Inexpensive decorations can not only fill in empty spaces but can also turn an “okay” grazing table into “wow”!
  • Charcuterie – What meats, cheeses, and accoutrements will you be using? Will the grazing table serve as an appetizer, or is it the main course? How long will it be expected to feed the guests? If it’s just one hour, you can put out much less food than if your guests will be grazing for three.

Ideas

  • Buy in bulk. If you choose a few less expensive ingredients and buy them in larger quantities, the savings can add up. Grapes, for example, aren’t cheap, but they feed a crowd and can be easily separated into smaller bunches and spread around the grazing table to help fill in space.
  • Make your own crostini. If you buy a prepared package of crostini, it likely won’t be cheap. But making your own is incredibly easy, and if you start with whole baguettes, the price will drop significantly. The crostini can be made a few days in advance, too!
  • Choose less expensive fruits, such as apples and pears, and slice them yourself.
  • Skip the expensive artisan cheeses and go with cheddar or gouda – they’re lovely on a grazing board, especially when paired with sliced apples and grapes. Brie is also a great choice; Costco sells a large round of Brie for a good price, which can be sliced and spread around the board.
  • Another option is to choose one unique artisan cheese as the “star” of the board, then use less expensive cheeses as its supporting cast. Print out the details of the cheese (how long it was aged, flavor notes, and pairing suggestions), put it in a pretty frame, and place it next to the board. This can elevate your grazing table while still keeping costs down!
  • Make a few inexpensive dips and spreads to place around the board. These can be made in advance to reduce time spent on assembly day. Whipped cheeses also make a great anchor for a grazing board and are a better bang for your buck (such as Whipped Ricotta).
  • If your table is larger than what you need, fill the space with non-food items such as inexpensive fresh flowers, plates and utensils, wine glasses, or a large water pitcher and cups. You don’t need to fill every space with food—think creatively to utilize the space.
  • Use several small tables focusing on different foods: one for cheese and meats, another for accoutrements, and another with dips and vegetables. This can make the overall amount of food appear larger while still having enough for guests to enjoy.

Other tips

  • Set a budget before you start planning. Once you have this number, choosing the types of meats and cheeses you’ll serve will be much easier. Use the remaining amount to choose accoutrements like nuts, jams, bread, etc. If you can manage it, reserve a small amount for flowers or other decorations.
  • Make a shopping list! The quickest way to blow your budget is to go shopping without a clear plan, so make that list before you step into the store.
  • What items do you have at home that you could use for decorations? Small bowls, platters, tablecloths, vases, and even small wooden boxes that can be placed on the table to elevate a few elements will all work. Don’t forget to look outside, too: greenery from your yard can be gorgeous on a grazing table!
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