Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Feeding More Than Just Your Own Family

Karla asked...

My husband is a pastor, and we should entertain more than we do. I hardly ever have people over, because it seems that any good meals are so expensive and hard to make. "Hard to make" never works out for me, and "Expensive" doesn't work for our budget. Is there any way you could suggest a few easy, company-worthy meals that won't break the bank? Thank you so much.

When we started this lower budget, one of my worst fears was not being able to provide a yummy meal for company. I thought that our days of guests for dinner were over mainly because I felt like I had to make a big deal over a meal when guests were here. I guess my main focus was "impressing with my meal" rather than enjoying the company of others. Very Mary vs Martha of me. But I was really hung up on it.

But when push came to shove I couldn't stand NOT having people over, so I changed my focus from impressing to providing a good meal, and our entertaining become much more relaxing and enjoyable and everyone still walked away with a tummy full of a good meal.

I use the same basic guidelines for guests as I do with our own families meals. We use meat in small portions, (usually as a part of a casserole) make sure that the side dishes are filling, and drinks are usually water in a pretty pitcher with a slice of lemon, or a homemade batch of iced tea or lemonade.

To bump it up a bit for company I usually offer a dessert, make sure my table is set with a tablecloth and the nicer dishes and glasses, and take my presentation up a notch by serving out of dishes rather than the pans I cooked in.

And it's always acceptable to invite people over JUST for dessert. What a frugal way to provide some hospitality and not feel the pressure of a whole meal.

So here are a few guest menus to get you started. They are easy to prepare as well as budget conscious. I've used these with my own guests with much success.

Dinner for 8-10

Baked Chimichangas with bowls set out for sour cream, salsa and guacamole, Spanish Rice, Green Salad, water with lemon slices and Apple Cake.

Crockpot Taco Soup, green salad, Cornbread, water with lemon slices, Easy Lemon Pound Cake.

Crockpot falafel served in a pita with lettuce, tomato and cucumber sauce, green salad, lemonade, sliced fresh fruit with whipping cream.

Ground Beef Gyros in pitas with lettuce, tomato and cucumber sauce, green salad with feta, tomatoes and olives, apple dumplings with ice cream.

Just dessert (usually offer fresh coffee)

Chocolate Torte with fresh strawberries and cool whip. (Very thrifty, delicious and impressive on a plate.)

Apple Dumplings with french vanilla ice cream. (these are INCREDIBLE!)

So don't hold back. There are ways to provide hospitality without feeling the need to serve fancy and expensive meals. Your guests really are coming to see you, not the food.


Michele said...

I would also add

Any soup with salad and bread
A baked potatoe bar with salad
Spaghetti bar (meat sauce, veggie sauce, white sauce) with a salad and bread
Make your own pizza (great with kids)
Grill hotdogs
Dessert can be brownies with powder sugar or fresh fruit with whipped cream or in the fall baked apples.
Or for families you could decorate your own cupcakes.
People like to make their own you don't have to have a large varity just some. It also gets them up and mingling.


Farmgirl Cyn said...

I SO agree with your response. Many times we have folks over for a big pot of homemade soup and that wonderful No Knead New York Times crusty bread. Most always our guests ask if they can bring something, and I will usually suggest dessert or a bottle of wine. Or how about burgers and dogs off the grill? With a homemade simple pasta salad and lemonade? Yum. Entertaining on a budget can most certainly be done!

shopannies said...

thanks for great ideas I love to entertain and like you struggle with a budget

Amy said...

That crockpot falafel recipe looks great. Thanks for the link.

As for entertaining, our friends ALWAYS ask what they can bring. I think it's important to take people up on the offer. What about having a couple families in and suggesting a potluck. So much fun.

NeedANap2 said...

Our pastor and wife serve sandwiches a lot. I don't think it's really about the FOOD but the love - having people into your home and talking with them. :)

Michelle said...

What a great question...and great suggestions! Thank you for sharing this...

Michelle in HI said...

Great ideas.

One of our favorite company meals is fondue - we pick up extra fondue pots and forks at yard sales and thrift stores.

It's very inexpensive and easy to make a simple cheddar cheese fondue and you can serve it with whatever is on sale (our favorite is crusty bread, sale priced kielbasa, and apples slices). It always creates a really festive atmosphere!

Duckygirl said...

I think some of our best times were spent over bowls of taco soup at your house. :)


Live Simply- Live Well said...

Hey I just stumbled upon your blog and it is great!

Do yall have an HEB grocery store in your area? We have them all over Texas and they do some awesome deals. Each week they have a "meal deal" Basically, you buy the main dish, and you get all of the sides for free. For example, a few weeks ago I bought a pot roast for 11.00 and I got a free 12 pack of soda, mac and cheese, salad, shredded cheese, a disposable cooking pan and a loaf of bread. It was awesome!
This week I bought a pack of whole wheat pasta and got green beans, french bread, and ice cream for free.
You should check it out.
Plus they have all of these deals called combo-loco's all over the store. If you buy this, then you get something for free.
Its worth checking out!

Emily said...

Skip the Coolwhip and use real cream. Just whip it with your mixer (stand or hand held) adding a smidge of sugar and a little vanilla at the beginning. So much better, better for you and the world than anything pretend that comes in a plastic tub!

Gayle said...

I prefer the real thing too but we have some lactose intolerance at our house.

Chrissy Shelton said...

Gayle, Chrissy here! Can I invite myself over!!! I LOVE your cooking!!! ;-) And I LOVE you and your precious heart!!!!

Betsy said...

We've done fondue, too. The broth version is practically free if you make your own chicken broth. Our guests usually bring their favorite "dippers" and then it's a super budget friendly meal! (And everyone always loves it because no one takes the time to do it at their own house)

Cindy in Ferndale said...

this advise is perfect! :o)

Michelle in Orygun said...

So....can somebody share their fondue recipes??? We like fondue too, but what with the swiss cheese and the wine and all, it turns into a "special occasion" meal.

Miss(es) Canadian Pie said...

What wonderful ideas! Thanks!!

karla said...

thanks gayle! your links look good. i'll try them soon! :)

Michelle in HI said...

This is very similar to the cheddar fondue recipe we use:

Much easier and more frugal than fussing with the fancy Swiss cheeses.

BTW, I love the idea someone mentioned of having guests bring their favorite dippers!

Mrs. B, a very peculiar person said...

Growing up in a family where EVERY penny spent HAD to be spent frugally, I learned very early on that having folks over for a shared meal is NOT about how fancy the meal is. It is about sharing yourself, your family and your time with others.

When ever we have folks over for meals, I serve them the exact same meals we normally eat. However, like you Gail, I do serve them on my nice dinnerware and I spruce the table up.

EVERYONE has always had a fun time of fellowship and EVERYONE has ALWAYS accepted subsequent invitations.

I've actually served guests entire meals that cost less than .80 per serving ...

pinto beans & rice, cornbread
vegetarian fried rice, egg drop soup
vegetarian stuffed cabbage rolls, salad and bread
charro beans, Mexican rice, homemade flour tortillas
vegetable soup, homemade bread
large salad, homemade bread


McNew Family said...

Goodness, gracious - we made the suggested baked chimichangas, spanish rice and apple cake for a dinner on Saturday night. It not only was delicious, easy to prepare and frugal - we fed over 20 people! Thanks for the ideas!