When I first married, I thought I had to spend gobs of money on entertaining guests. I have since learned that entertaining is only as expensive as I want it to be.
Each time I plan a party, open house, or a Sunday Meal, I ask myself, How can I keep the cost down?” Over the years, I have found several ways to cut the cost of entertaining. I almost ALWAYS use flowers from my own garden in decorating, and for the table centerpiece. Even herbs make a nice centerpiece in a pinch, and you can’t beat the fragrance.
Use your imagination.
Florist bouquets are expensive.
It only takes a few moments to cut,
arrange, and display an original centerpiece.
Practice makes perfect, and really, it never NEEDS to be perfect. I remember one mother of a child in my son’s first grade class giving a “Back to School Lunch.” She used an old child’s lunch box filled with used school supplies for the centerpiece. I found it delightfully colorful, original, clever, and inexpensive!
If you don’t have something necessary for an original centerpiece, see if you can borrow parts from family members or friends.
I draw the line at borrowing breakables or anything of great value or sentiment, though, for fear of not being able to replace them if damaged.
Be sure to always promptly return borrowed items as soon as possible.
One way to cut the cost is to plan the entertainment around what I already have “on hand.” What I mean is, look around in your pantry, refrigerator, and deep freeze before deciding on your menu. If you have plenty of spaghetti, sauce, and salad fixings, plan a Spaghetti Dinner. If you have lots of flour, eggs, milk, salt, baking powder, and syrup, have a Pancake Supper!
I challenge myself to come up with a meal without having to go to the grocer.
This past Sunday, my husband invited two new families from our church home with us for the afternoon. I rushed home, searching through the pantry… I had 3 cans of Tuna Fish on hand, and flour tortillas.
With very basic ingredients, we were able to feed 3 families a delicious, casual meal of tuna roll ups, soup and salad, with Tasty Cakes for Dessert. I whipped the food up in 15 minutes, and we had some sweet Hospitality out in the Backyard with our very simple Picnic-style food.
Everyone felt satisfied, and we were able to get to know two new families in our congregation.
Of course, you can always ask the guests to bring a side dish. After making out the menu, ask each guest to bring a specific dish, and tell him/her how many it should serve. If you know a person enjoys making desserts, ask them to bring a dessert.
I have a young friend who has a flair for making colorful Jello Salads. He always brings a delicious, attractive bowl of jello to our gatherings.
Lastly, I often use the same recipes over and over again in my entertaining. Last year, my husband and I made a goal to invite each member of our congregation to our home for a home cooked Sunday Dinner (250 members… and our timeline was within a year). This meant that we needed to invite at least 4 -5 families to dinner on the third Sunday of each month for the year.
Of course, not every family accepted our invitation, but we wanted to extend the invitation nonetheless. I found an easy, inexpensive recipe for Roast, Mashed Potatoes, Carrots, Salad, Rolls, and a dessert. I buy the meat when it goes on sale, and keep it triple wrapped in the freezer until using it. I serve the same dinner menu almost every time, because the guests are different EVERY time.
I have this meal down to a science now, in fact, I think I could make it in my sleep after preparing the same food/meal for 9 months (One Sunday per month). My son and husband have their own routines to help, and it is EASY now. Much of the preparing is done the Saturday before the meal, and I set my alarm for an hour and a half earlier on those Sundays when we are entertaining to get as much as possible ready before leaving for Sunday School.
I find it very do-able, and it has blessed our family to get to know SO MANY members of our congregation.
Do you have other ways of keeping entertaining costs to a minimum?
What rewards do you receive from entertaining?
I would love to read about them in the comments!