We love having people over to our home. Often my kids will ask if they can have a game night or dance with their friends. We also have things to celebrate with a lot of friends and family, like birthdays, graduations, Eagle Scouts and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. We will also often have just a family or two over for dinner and enjoy getting to know them better.
Although we have always loved having people over I used to get really overwhelmed and, well, cranky as I tried to prepare for guests. Over the years I’ve learned a few things about how to be hospitable on a budget and since we’re entering the season of backyard bar-b-ques I thought I’d share some of those things with you.
People aren’t coming over to see your home. ok, Let’s deal with this elephant in the room first. Maybe they are if you just moved in and are having an open house, or maybe you really do have a relative that you “have” to invite that is kind of judgmental, but normally, no one be inspecting your dusting abilities. So don’t kill yourself trying to make your home look likes it’s from a magazine. Unless, of course, that’s the way your house normally is and that is totally fine.
I have a wonderful friend whose home does look like that, I’m pretty sure all the time. But even so, she’s never said, “Angi, you should really take care of that dust on the top of your refrigerator.” Do what needs to be done and let the rest go.
When we are gearing up for a really big celebration, I make a list of everything that I want cleaned and we start a few days before the event. But if it’s just a family or two coming over, we’ll do a quick run through that afternoon, we make sure the bathrooms are clean, floors are vacuumed and swept and things are picked up. But that’s it.
Have set meal plan. I love set meal plans since it means I don’t have to think. If you come to my home for a large event, the majority of the time, you will eat chicken fajitas. Our local grocery store often has pre-seasoned fajita meat on sale so when I know we’re going to be feeding a crowd I stock up when it’s on sale – even if that means I buy it a month early. The rest of the meal is cheap – rice, beans, tortillas, salad and a dessert.
When our teens have parties they ask everyone to bring a snack to share. I always make hot sandwiches and popcorn, so it’s not like there won’t be any food. But we can’t host 4-5 teenage parties a year with 25-40 people and supply all the food. I know this might be considered poor taste in some communities, but our friends don’t mind.
Keep drinks simple. When we have people over we serve tea (sweet and unsweet), lemonade with our homegrown juice, water and coffee. We’ve been to many parties that have canned soda or bottled water and most of it gets wasted. People put their cans or bottles down and can’t remember where they set it, so they get a new one. We avoid this by not serving these. I make several quart jars of tea and lemonade concentrate so that when the dispensers need to be refilled we can just put in the pre-sweetened concentrate and add water.
Invest in reusable items. This is huge, if you are going to be having people over quite a bit, you can go broke buying solo cups. I have some plastic glasses that I got for less than a quarter a piece several years ago. These are really smooth plastic and you can write your name on them with a marker and it will wash off. In the past we’ve cut pieces of masking tape and put them on each glass for names.
For nicer events I have several cases of wide mouth mason jars that I don’t use for anything but events. We use chalkboard stickers on them and have a white maker for names.
I also have several white restaurant quality tablecloths. These things are amazing. I’ve yet to have a stain not come out. I think they cost $10 each at Sam’s and are worth every penny. We also have a fun diy coffee bar. We use it quite a bit and are often asked to bring it to other people’s get togethers.
Here’s the deal, don’t go out and buy a whole bunch of stuff. Think about what you use, how often you use it and add to your collection a little at a time. Right now I’m working on collecting enough real utensils to not have to buy plastic ware anymore. Even though these are the inexpensive restaurant ones from Sams I can’t go out and just buy it all at once, I have just get some as I’m able.
Think outside your walls. Sometimes we think we can’t have people over because we have a small home, if that’s you, I want to encourage you to think outside your walls. We’ve always lived in small homes and we’ve had to learn how to utilize our yard in our gatherings. Of course, this means that we do most of our large gatherings in the spring and fall when it’s cooler and in the evenings.
We often ask people to bring chairs if there is going to be a lot of people, we also have some benches made from logs and our favorite outdoor tables are cable spools. We can put a round tablecloth on them and no one is the wiser. We try to have things for the kids to do also, like play on the trampoline and tire swing – which is the all time favorite thing among the children and teens.
Accept help. I mentioned this before but I can’t stress it enough, if someone asks if they can bring something or do something, let them. I struggle with this but one weekend we were hosting a graduation party with about 50 guests on Saturday and the next day a baby shower with another 50 or so guests. A good friend and her daughter who had graduated the year before came over both mornings to help me with whatever I needed. It was such a great time of fellowship and it was fun seeing a glimpse of what a kitchen full of daughters and daughters-in-law will be like one day. There is no way I could have done everything and enjoyed our guests without their help.
Practicing hospitality doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. It does take effort though, you can’t wait until the day before you’re supposed to have 20 guests to decide what to serve or to clean your whole house. One of the things I’m learning more and more is that if I just have simple systems in place to keep my house clean (not necessarily tidy, just clean) hospitality is so much easier.
What are your frugal hospitality tips?