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The Perfect Charcuterie Board at Any Budget

The end of the year is always packed with parties and festivities, and there is no hors d’oeuvre more impressive than a spectacularly plated cheese and charcuterie board. The Bitches are here for you with the best way to construct the perfect board at any budget.

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First, let’s cover the basics. There are five key components to a charcuterie board: cheese (naturally), bread/crackers, meats, fruits/nuts, and the board itself. 

Step 1: Select your board. Size and material are important here. Consider your budget and how much room you will be able to fill. Slate, Marble, and wood are always great material options. You can get really fancy with the shape of the board, or it can be as simple as using a nice quality cutting board! I also find it’s super helpful to have small bowls on hand to hold nuts, spreads, or fruit.

Step 2: Select your cheese. Depending on your budget, you should make sure you have a good variety of soft, semi-soft, crumbly, and hard cheeses, with a good mix of milk types and colors. Consider cheeses like brie, cheddar, gouda, Havarti, mozzarella, blue, etc.

Cheese Board 6

Step 3: Select your meats. Classic salami is always a great choice here, but any of the following options work: sweet sopressata, pepperoni, prosciutto, spicy salami, or any other type of cured meat.

Step 4: Add some crackers. This can be as basic as water crackers as fancy as fresh baked bread. The grocery store has plenty of options and seasonings. I personally like to stay simple with my crackers and let the cheese and meat speak for itself, but I won’t turn down a cracked pepper cracker!

Step 5: Add fruits and garnishes. This is where you can go crazy (if you haven’t already). Fresh fruit, fruit spreads, dried fruit, you name it. Here are some options to add color and variety to your board:

  • Fresh fruit: strawberries, raspberries, grapes, apricots, olives
  • Dried fruit: bananas, apricots, figs, raisins
  • Spreads: fig or apricot, bruschetta, honey
  • Nuts: pecans, walnuts, almonds, Marcona almonds

Step 6: Arrange your board! I like to start by placing the cheese and filling in everything around it. You can make your board look super full, or space things out a little and save some of your food to refill throughout the party. I like to leave a little bit of room because I find that food ends up getting knocked off the board when it’s super full.

Now let’s talk budget.

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$25 Budget:

For $25, you have to stay really focused on your budget – but this is doable! We suggest spending your money in the following way:

  • $10 – cheese
  • $4 – crackers
  • $6 – meat
  • $5 – fruit/nuts

Two types of cheese should do the trick here; one soft (like a brie) and one hard (a classic cheddar is perfect and within budget). Your guests are bound to enjoy one of these two cheese options. Stick to basic water crackers for this display – they are classic and the perfect tool to deliver cheesy goodness to your belly. Make sure you have at least one meat, I would look for a small variety pack of meats at the grocery store to stay within budget! Stay simple with the fruit and nuts to stay within budget – we went with grapes and pecans.

Cheese Board 2

$50 Budget:

To me, this is the ideal budget. You can splurge a little on a really nice cheese, while still offering a variety of fruit and meat pairings.

  • $23 – cheese
  • $8 – crackers 
  • $10 – meat
  • $9 – fruit/nuts

Yes, we spent almost half of our budget on cheese, but we got four different kinds! A really nice, soft, brie-like cheese, goat cheese, gouda, and an aged alpine cheese. Slightly fancier crackers, multiple types of meat, and slightly fancier fruits and spreads are attainable at this budget.

Cheese Board 4

$100 Budget:

Maybe this is a little overboard for meat and cheese, but if you’re planning a large party, this is where you should aim. A budget of $100 can get you five or six different cheeses, three quality cured meat options, and plenty of accoutrements (also, you start acting really fancy and use big words – results may vary).

  • $60 – cheese
  • $10 – crackers and bread
  • $15 – meat
  • $15 – fruit/nuts

You can get a little more specific with your cheeses here. For example, instead of just getting gouda, maybe try an aged gouda that’s slightly more nutty. We tried a super fancy, 10-year cheddar for our board. We added fresh bread to this board, which is a great option for soft cheeses, and we splurged on the Marcona almonds.

So get fancy this holiday season and impress your guests, no matter what budget you’re working with! Happy holidays and happy cheese-eating season.

Katlin Gnojek

Chicago Food Editor

A management consultant from 9 to 5, Katlin loves marketing, Champagne, and a killer pair of shoes. When she is not working, you can find her unwinding over brunch, at a BodyPump class, or baking to her heart's content at home. Katlin will never turn down a chocolate croissant.

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