4 Easy Tips to Keep Your Hosting Costs Low and the Quality High

 Image by  Carina König

Image by Carina König

A hesitation people sometimes share with me regarding being more hospitable is the expense associated with opening up one’s home. While there are usually some additional costs that come with hosting, there are many ways to keep the expenses low and the quality high!

One example in my life comes from my brother, a missionary in Spain. He and his wife host people in their home frequently and have been invited to many delicious Spanish meals. Yet, they have noticed that these experiences amongst the Spaniards are fewer and farther between than one might expect.

Their conclusion has been that, because the hosts feel that they have to make the affair into a delicious production, their practice of offering the very best in every course and glassful can get expensive. Hence, they opt to host infrequently.

 Photo by  Cel Lisboa  on  Unsplash

Photo by Cel Lisboa on Unsplash

To a lesser degree, I do see this same effect in the U.S. Perhaps we don’t roll out the red carpet for a three-hour midday meal the way our Spanish counterparts do, but we still fear that hosting might break the bank—or the monthly budget anyway.

Because I came from a large family and am part of a medium-sized church with numerous fellowship events, I have regularly hosted a number of sizable gatherings in my home. In doing so, I enjoy offering a tasty main course while still being a good steward of our family’s resources. Along the way, I’ve made some money-saving discoveries and hope that they help you as well!

1. Choosing the main course meat is the first step in keeping your expenses low.

The pork sirloin tip roast at Costco comes in a 4-pack for around $2 per pound. When compared to the cheapest red meat counterpart at Costco—the beef chuck pot roast for around $5.50 per pound, the extra $3.50 per pound adds up when you consider cooking the 20-plus pounds of meat required for a large group.

There are myriads of delicious recipes for pork sirloin. My most common go-to is simply roasting it in a slow cooker with a favorite barbeque sauce. Once the meat is done, I simply drain the extra liquid, throw the roasts in my Kitchen Aid mixer and let the machine “pull” the tender meat for me. Then I throw it back in the crockpot, add some more BBQ sauce and stir. That’s it!

Serving BBQ pulled pork sandwiches is an easy and popular large gathering dish, especially in the summertime. Invite your guests to bring a salad, watermelon, or their favorite side, and dinner is served!

Another popular dish using a pork sirloin is carnitas tacos. Place the roasts over some sliced onions and cover them with chili powder in the slow cooker. Then pull once done—same as with the BBQ recipe. It leaves nothing to be desired! Again, serve over rice or place in tortillas and invite your guests to bring the different toppings. Voilà.

 Photo by  Amie Watson  on  Unsplash

Photo by Amie Watson on Unsplash

Chicken is another inexpensive meat, and the Internet is full of delicious recipes. When I’m looking for an idea, I just start searching images and stop when I find one that looks like what my taste buds are interested in!

 Image courtesy of  Yummy Healthy Easy

Image courtesy of Yummy Healthy Easy

One recipe that takes a little more prep time—and that looks a bit extra fancy—is our summertime favorite, Cilantro Lime Chicken with Avocado Salsa, found here.

If you’re up for trying something new like I did a few weeks ago, use this Thai peanut chicken served over rice recipe for a delicious crowd-pleaser.

 Image courtesy of  Dinner Then Dessert

Image courtesy of Dinner Then Dessert

2. Host a baked potato or salad bar.

For a baked potato bar, you provide the baked potato and ask others to bring the toppings. Bacon bits, sour cream, chives, butter, grated cheese, and avocado are just a few suggestions.

For a salad bar, you can provide the lettuce or the meat to go on top. Ask others to bring dressings, croutons, crumbled cheese, chopped veggies, another meat option, sliced pears, etc.—the list could go on! Both of these ideas allow people to make the dish exactly to their taste.

 Photo by  Anna Pelzer  on  Unsplash

Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash

3. Invite your guests to bring an appetizer, side dish, dessert, or drink to share.

Asking others to bring something meets a few needs. It relieves you of the need to purchase, prepare, cook, and serve every element of the meal, and it also helps in covering your expenses.

Usually when hosting, the meat and the wine can be the most expensive pieces, especially when hosting a large crowd. As I always enjoy cooking the main meal, I don’t hesitate to ask friends to bring a bottle of wine to share, which they are always happy to do.

 Photo by  Kelsey Chance  on  Unsplash

Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash

Most invitees will offer on their own, but if you aren’t sure they will, you can always word your invitation in the following way: “We’re barbequing this Saturday and we’d love to have you join us. We’re providing the meat. If you can come, please bring a side or drink to share. Let us know if you can make it!”

 Photo by  Kirsty TG  on  Unsplash

Photo by Kirsty TG on Unsplash

4. Keep your decorations and hospitality pieces simple.

If you feel required to purchase bouquets of fresh flowers, or to have beautiful glasses, plates, etc. on hand but don’t already own them, ignore the urge to go shopping. Either commit to using what you already have in your home or ask a friend if you can borrow items that you know will help add a desirable touch.

 Photo by  James Cousins  on  Unsplash

Photo by James Cousins on Unsplash

I hope some of these ideas point you in a direction where you can comfortably begin (or continue) exercising your hospitality muscles. Remember that those you invite will enjoy an opportunity to get to know youbetter and aren’t expecting a gourmet dining experience. Don’t let the idea of perfect get in the way of the good.

That being said, if someone were to look at my monthly expenses, they would accurately conclude that the bulk of my “personal” purchases revolves around food and hosting. I sometimes splurge on things that I want to have on hand. I’ve slowly developed a collection of cloth napkins, tablecloths, glasses, and dishes that bring me joy. But more often than not, the added monthly expenses are just what come from having people in our home.

When I look back on my life someday and assess how I spent my money, I know I won’t regret the extra expenses that have come with hosting. The friendships that have been forged and deepened over a shared meal will be some of the richest experiences on this side of heaven.

The apostle Peter encourages us,

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet. 4:8-11)

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Susanna Hodge blogs at The Hodge Lodge at www.thehodgelodge.com. This article was first published under the title "Hosting on a Budget."