Anyone who attempts to keep to a budget knows that so much of being successful at this takes planning. This spills into almost every aspect of life, including hospitality. If you are prepared for having guests over, you will be less inclined to making last minute purchases, such as sending your husband to CVS Pharmacy down the road for overpriced eggs (<cough cough>… of which I’m guilty for as of yesterday).
I am by no means a hospitality expert, and I have been noticing recently about how sometimes I let fear of spending too much money keep me from inviting others over as much as we’d like to. I definitely don’t want this to hold our family back from being hospitable, so I have been thinking through ways that we can intentionally stay within our budget while still gladly opening our home to guests. Here are a few things that have helped us in the past and also a few things that I personally need to improve on in the future…
4 Tips for being hospitable on a budget:
1. Always have ingredients stocked for an easy “go-to” meal.
This will keep you from rushing to the nearest store and making last minute, unplanned purchases. It will also save you the stress of racking your brain for ideas of what to serve your guests. I personally think that soups are a great “go-to” dish that (usually) don’t take too much time or effort. They also usually don’t cost much to make. If you’re looking for ideas of a cheap, easy “go-to” meals, check out my post “5 cheap meals you can get on the table in 30 minutes of less”. I think a few of the entrees I mention in that post are “guest-worthy”.
As a quick and easy side, if you keep master mix on hand, like I do, you can also whip up some muffins or cornbread in less than 5 minutes and get them into the oven.
And if you’re really on top of things, you can have soup and/or muffins frozen in your freezer for unexpected guests. In that case, all you have to do is pull them out and reheat!
And of course, the key to success in this area is that when your guests have left, work these items into your next grocery list and stock up again!
2. Keep some baked goods in the freezer.
Next time you’re making cookies and have leftovers (ha…ha…ha…) stick some in a gallon freezer bag and freeze for future hosting opportunities (orrrrr just for when you have a hankering for cookies). Cookies generally freeze well, and don’t take very long to defrost either. Most guests (at least in my world) don’t expect to be impressed by a fancy dessert and a few classic chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin cookies often hit the spot!
Additionally, not every hosting opportunity has to be over dinner! For us, we have often found it easier to have guests over for “dessert, coffee, and board games” after dinner. Part of this is because we have a toddler so it’s difficult to have meaningful conversation over dinner. But really, “entertaining” can be as simple as sharing something sweet and small and laughing over a board game.
I should also state the obvious that not every hosting opportunity has to include food, in general. But… let’s face it- in today’s American culture, for better or for worse, most people expect at least something to munch on, even if small.
3. Say “yes” to help!
Not every guest will offer to contribute, but when they do, accept their offer! Chances are, they don’t expect to be “wow”-ed by your hospitality efforts and are just looking forward to spending time and sharing a meal/dessert with you. If you are serving cookies and a guest offers to contribute, ask them to bring ice cream. If you’re serving soup and muffins, ask them to bring a salad. From my experience, most people are happy to contribute in some way, although it’s best to not expect this and plan things as if they won’t, just in case.
4. Make it homey.
This is a broad statement and will look different for every household and also probably each season, but here are a few suggestions to add an element of “homey-ness” while hosting company. If it’s winter and you have a fireplace, light a fire and offer hot chocolate. If it’s a crisp autumn day, light a fall-scented candle and have throw blankets available for guests. If it’s summer, offer your guest a glass of cold homemade iced-tea (which you can make very cheaply). If it’s spring, pick up a cheap bouquet of flowers and open a window to enjoy some fresh air. These small efforts can add a nice personal touch to a visit and help people feel at ease.
What are some unique/creative ways that you show hospitality while keeping to your budget? I’d love to hear the ideas of others, so that I can add them to our own list of ideas for growing in the area hospitality!