If you knew that a friend busted their budget in order to invite you over for dinner, would you enjoy the dinner? Probably not. Keep this thought in mind when you entertain.
When preparing for dinner guests, wondering, “What will they think about the water stains on the ceilings?” is normal. Hoping the lasagna is tasty is okay. But overspending on the dinner – hoping it will assuage your anxiety of what they think of you – will only leave you feeling worse in the end. Just smile and remind yourself that the human connection with your guests is paramount to appearances. Because, as Dr. Seuss said, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Here are a few things to remember as you prepare to open your home to loved ones this holiday season.
If It’s Good Enough For You, It’s Good Enough For Your Guests: It’s easy to feel like you should serve steak and all the trimmings to your guests. But with practice, you can make almost any meal – even a sandwich (who doesn’t love a gooey grilled cheese sandwich with piping hot tomato soup?) – a well-received culinary creation. Recently, my father complimented a pasta casserole I had thrown together and asked “What is this recipe?” I answered: “It’s called What I Had in The Fridge Casserole.”
Also, beans are a great bargain and a wonderful guest food, especially in the winter as the chill makes warm and hardy foods even more appetizing. My husband is Colombian so arroz con frijoles (rice with beans) is a big treat in our house. Serve them with a nice slice of avocado, a sprinkle of fresh cilantro, and a dash of Tabasco sauce and you have a beautiful and satisfying meal. And if all else fails, there’s always green eggs and ham.
Alcohol: If you don’t drink alcohol, you don’t need to buy alcohol for your guests. You don’t buy cigarettes for your friends who smoke do you?
Or if you do drink and you enjoy the $3 bottle of merlot from your local grocery store, serve it to your guests. Don’t spend $15 dollars on a bottle of wine you have never even tried out of guilt or trying to cover your frugal tendencies. Unless you plan to tell your guests how much it cost they may never even know how special they are supposed to feel about your splurge.
Over Preparing: The fear that guests will leave hungry can also trigger reactive spending. I have found that when we have guests over, we are often laughing and talking too much to chow down like we would if we were eating leisurely in our normal environments. Reasonable portions are fine and running out of food need not be avoided at all cost.
Decorate: If there are flowers in your yard or along the roadside near your home, put them in a vase on the table. They will be as enjoyable as a $5 battered bouquet from the grocery store. Even a bouquet of greenery will do if no flowers are blooming.
Dessert: Good old fashioned chocolate candy or a couple of scoops of ice cream can be as appreciated by guests as a rich slab of cheesecake. Just serve whatever dessert items you normally have in the house. Not only will you save money, you will also avoid finishing off the rest of the cheesecake the next day.
Beverages: We rarely have soft drinks at home. We drink water, hot tea, and occasionally coffee, wine or beer. So when guests come, depending the occasion or the meal, we may only have water to offer. Of course, we make sure to keep glasses full and guests tended to, regardless of the beverages served.
Finally, if you serve to guests the things you normally eat, you know where the deals are on those items and you won’t end up with a lot of overpriced leftovers that are more likely to go to waste. Let the conversation and relaxed atmosphere be the star of the show and that will be the thing people remember about time spent in your home. Part of the joy of time with friends is really getting to know the other person. If you present an image that is false, then you are doing that out of obligation, guilt and/or fear of what others think. That’s PR not hospitality.
Image courtesy of Matt McGee