Does the thought of entertaining guests strike fear in your heart?
When I was growing up, having “company” was a bit of an ordeal. We prepared for weeks. My mom entertained beautifully, but it seemed like a lot of work and pressure. Having guests required planning and cleaning and cooking and set up.
Thankfully, I finally discovered that entertaining and showing hospitality are not necessarily the same thing and it changed the way I looked at inviting people into our home.
I was fortunate to hang around a family that was excessively hospitable. Slowly, I realized that people didn’t really care about the color of the napkins or the type of tablecloth. Yes, there is a time and place for etiquette, but most people came for the food and the fun.
Great hospitality only requires 2 basic ingredients: making people feel welcome and putting food in front of them. Anyone can do that on some level.
1. Make people feel welcomed
It’s funny that we all want perfect looking houses, yet these houses don’t always make people feel welcome. Think about the places you love being. I feel most comfortable in a space that looks “lived-in” and has comfortable places to sit and talk — in the kitchen, the family room or around the patio.
If I am in someone’s home and they are very apologetic for its condition, I feel uncomfortable, so no matter what state your house is in, smile and greet people with open arms and ignore your house.
Sometimes, I quote my favorite poem for a laugh
“Come in, sit down, relax, converse,
Our house doesn’t always look this way,
Sometimes, it’s even worse!”
Try to arrange at least one room or area so the furniture is facing in together to make talking or playing games easy. If all your chairs are facing a screen, it can be hard to interact.
Help your children practice greeting visitors, looking them in the eyes and stating their names (“I’m Matt. Nice to have you come over”). This is a great life skill to practice right in your home.
2. Offer people food
This can be tricky, especially if it is spur of the moment.
We all know running a household largely boils down planning ahead. As soon as you finish one meal, your family is asking, “What’s for dinner?” As soon as you buy toilet paper, it is running out. Ninety-percent of running a home is anticipating the needs of your peeps.
It’s the same with having guests. You don’t need to run a 5-star resort, but a simple back-up plan can make it easier to include extra people for meals or overnight stays.
I keep a few tricks up my sleeve, because it isn’t whipping up the snack, it’s thinking up the snack. This changed my reaction from panic to delight when people stopped by.
Work with ingredients you usually keep on hand (and maybe stash a few for emergencies)
Here are a few of my “go-tos” to help you think of your own.
- Popcorn and juice mixed with sparkling water.
- Tomato soup (canned) and grilled cheese. Grilled cheese can be quite gourmet with deli cheeses, fresh spinach, mayo, homemade bread. This is always a crowd pleaser.
- Deli pizza (frozen) or order delivery.
- Scrambled eggs on avocado topped with salsa and shredded cheese.
- Before church, pop 5 or 6 chicken breasts in a crockpot with a couple cups of water and a hand full of rice. Season as you like. Then you can ask someone back to the house for a hot, tasty lunch.
- Black beans, rice, shredded cheese and salsa.
- Fried egg, cheese, Canadian bacon (or ham) on an English muffin.
- Chef salad (basically whatever is in the ’fridge).
- Chicken Kiev (kept in the freezer) with rice and salad.
- Pasta, pesto and (frozen) sausage.
- Sliced apples and caramel dip (1 cup br. sugar blended into 8 oz. cream cheese).
- Costco hotdogs grilled with onions, pickle relish, buns, chips and lemonade
- Breakfast food is easy anytime — pancakes or French toast
Gathering to snack, eat and visit brings people together, adds to the fun and communicates a big WELCOME to your friends and family. There. That’s not so hard!
About the Author
Jennie Lodien is the author of Thrifty and Thriving. She is an enterprising mother, graphic designer, home manager, and friend. She and her husband skillfully live on a small budget and are always looking for creative solutions to life’s demands. They live in Minnesota, the beautiful state of 10,000 lakes, and are parents of three young adults.