SHRINKING backyards and soaring meat prices are killing off the Aussie tradition of big house parties and barbecues.
Cosier dinners are replacing larger gatherings in many homes as more people move into flats or try to trim food bills, new research suggests.
And freeloader friends be warned — even hosts of smaller affairs increasingly expect you to front up with some booze.
The shift in how we entertain at home was uncovered while tracking liquor-buying habits.
“The large house party centred around a BBQ, particularly during the footy finals, appears to be on the decline,” consumer trends specialist Mike Cassidy said. “The big, loud party is out, and the small dinner gathering is in.”
The study of shoppers buying alcohol to drink at home found big parties was the reason for 3 per cent of store visits — down from 10 per cent in 2011. In contrast, “just having a couple of friends over for dinner” grew from 12 per cent to 18 per cent.
The nationwide survey, by trends agency Koji, also found: DINNER party hosts spend an average $35 on alcohol — down from $48 six years ago. THOSE having major parties with more than eight guests spent an average $103, up from $98. WINE has replaced beer as the top drop for dinner parties. BEER is still the preferred choice for big party occasions.
Mr Cassidy, co-founder of Koji, said guest lists were being culled as living spaces shrank.
“The reality is that Australians living in an apartment, unit or townhouse just don’t have the space any more to host a big backyard party.
“We also run the risk of upsetting neighbours who live closer than ever before.”
Others held fewer big barbecues to save on meat costs.
“As house prices and costof-living pressures continue to
Percentage of liquor store visits rise, consumers are becoming more wary of expensive food items and meat is very much something they think about.”
Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows the price of beef rose 24 per cent in the past five years.
More adult children were also living at home with their parents well into their 20s, meaning they needed permission for large gatherings.
Responsible drinking messages also appeared to be having an effect, especially among younger drinkers.
A third of surveyed shoppers reported reducing or avoiding alcohol for a healthier lifestyle — up from a quarter in 2011.
Mr Cassidy said migrants from countries where liquor was less central to social gatherings contributed to a shift away from big booze-ups. ONE of the biggest puzzles about The Doctor Blake Mysteries was why it was cancelled this year despite being one of the ABC’s most successful TV shows.
The decision has baffled the show’s star, Craig McLachlan, who plays Ballarat police surgeon Lucien Blake.
“It has been a curious year,” McLachlan said. You have to question why a decision like that would be made to take away the highest-rating show. It makes no sense.”
However, there is hope yet for the 1950s murder-mystery series. Thousands of fans signed an online petition to keep the show alive and McLachlan hints that it will continue, but he hasn’t said whether it will return to the ABC or to another network.
“At this point I should probably just say, just like Lucien’s pretty handy at solving a mystery, I think George (Adams, the show’s creator) and I will ultimately solve this mystery,” he said.
McLachlan is now filming a telemovie that’s set to round out the series, and has finished work on season five, which is just about to air.
“I play Lucien Blake and I love it,” he said.
“I give him everything I’ve got. I may not be tortured and miserable on set, but I put the hours in. I virtually learn a whole season like a play before we get into it. ”
The Doctor Blake Mysteries returns to ABC and ABC iView with series five premiering tonight at 8.30. AAP
Marc Angelovski, Zerah Gordon, Alex Van Der Horst and Charlotte Walker enjoy a cosy gathering. Picture: MARK STEWART
Larger party Smaller party Dinner party Meal (not entertaining) Relaxing /winding down Other 3% 6% 18% 24% 43% 6%