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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Frugal Friday: Preparing for Company without Breaking the Bank

My mother-in-law and her husband are coming to visit over the weekend, and it got me thinking back to the first few times they visited us. I was newly-married, new to managing a home, and nervous about what they would think! I remember looking around the house to see what could be improved before they arrived. And I always found something that I needed to BUY. Surely a new plant stand would raise my silk arrangement off the floor and make it more eye-catching, right? A few extra throw rugs would make the kitchen look more homey, right? The lists went on and on.

Then came the meal and snack planning. I had to have the perfect meals and unique snacks. I wasn't into baking as much as I am now, so my goodies were mostly store-bought and more expensive than what we normally kept in the house. I usually ended up spending a full week's worth of grocery money on the food for their visit. Of course, they never ate it all!

Now that I'm a little older and - hopefully - a little wiser, I go about preparing for family visits much differently. And much more frugally. Let me share a few things that I do - and don't do - when company's coming.

The House
I'm still guilty of looking at my home through different eyes when company is coming. But I'm not as impulsive as I used to be. Sure, I might replace a shower curtain liner that's showing some wear, but that's something that I would do even if company wasn't coming. Whenever I see something that I have the urge to replace just because company is coming, I stop and ask myself one question. Would I be replacing this if we weren't expecting company? My purchases now depend on that answer. Curtains, bedding, and rugs don't usually make the cut these days. Now I wash things rather than replace them.

The Menu
Over the years, I've learned a great lesson. Hospitality and entertaining are two totally different things. If my goal is to entertain, I must surely buy the most extravagant snacks and plan the most elaborate meals. The goal of entertaining is to impress. That's not my goal.

My goal now is hospitality... making people feel welcome in my home. I want them to feel like they can kick back, put up their feet, and get comfortable. That means not slaving away in the kitchen for hours on end. In fact, I've taken to using my Crock Pot more when we have company for a weekend. Not only does it free us up to visit, but it helps me make more budget-friendly meals that taste great. And the house smells wonderful all day!

I also bake ahead of time and stash goodies in the freezer. I've found that breads and muffins freeze and thaw quite well. That means that I can skip buying breakfast goodies from the bakery, saving us a lot of money.

Snacks tend to come from our stockpile. I'll grab a bag of pretzels or tortilla chips and make a great black bean salsa dip. This is something that is made from ingredients that we already have on-hand, and it's something that we eat when there's not company in our home. Or I'll make a batch of cookies that we usually enjoy.

Keeping hospitality in mind and avoiding the mindset of entertaining helps me to be less stressed and to spend less cash. Those two things add up to a much more enjoyable visit!

For more frugal ideas, stop by Frugal Friday hosted by Life As Mom.


Abbi said...

Great post! I really enjoy having guests and could relate to parts of your post. I was very blessed to be raised by a Mother who did a great job of being hospitable using what she had. I do remember trying to get certian building projects (while growing up we were continually working to build our house) done before company would arrive!

FishMama said...

Great ideas! If only we'd known then what we know now.... I have been the same way.