Guest Post: How to Practice Hospitality on a Budget

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Guest Post by Meredith from Like Merchant’s Ships

One of our biggest frugal pleasures is sharing our home and food with others.  I can almost always whip up a neighborhood coffee or deliver a meal during hard times.

But how are you supposed to budget for hospitality? Will your own family end up eating rice and beans because you sent too many chicken casseroles elsewhere?

I struggled with this question until I created a hospitality envelope. Using our Dave Ramsey system for cash, hospitality gets its own category. Because I know I have money just for this, I’m no longer afraid to spend it.

When you don’t budget for hospitality, money might always be your excuse for not sharing with others.

How I divide the money varies month to month. $50 could stretch to cover one big party, five $10 meal deliveries, or ten $5 muffin baskets. What we don’t use one month rolls over to the next.

How much you earmark is up to you. What I can tell you is that when I spend in a way that honors our budget, God has a way of multiplying His provision.

One day I raced through the grocery store, putting together a delivery for a sick family.  Deals jumped out at me left and right, from super-clearance gourmet soup to Buy One Get One Free crackers and perfectly ripe pears. I ended up with a beautiful basket worth well beyond its $10 price tag.

Here are some ideas for hospitality on any budget:

  • Meet a new mother at the park. Bring the quilt, a jar of cold lemonade, and a listening ear.
  • Open your home to a group meeting. You provide a clean, welcoming space, hot coffee, and muffins.
  • Take a basket of sandwiches to the funeral home to help a family keep up their strength.
  • Offer to watch your friend’s children during her next doctor visit, serving up encouragement, quick pizza bagels and fruit.
  • Develop a repertoire of tasty but inexpensive meals for others and stock up when those ingredients go on sale.

Hospitality can be rewarding, but never more so than when you practice it with purpose. Here’s to sharing our blessings with those around us!

How do you practice hospitality on a budget?

Meredith enjoys documenting her family’s adventures in thrift at her award-winning blog, Like Merchant Ships.

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Comments

  1. says

    I really love this post as I think hospitality is becoming a lost art. There are so many ways to open your home and your heart to someone without breaking the bank. A couple of nights ago I hosted a ladies game night at my house. We had VERY little money in the bank, so I ended up asking each of the ladies to just bring one thing – a 2 liter drink, napkins, cups, etc., and I made a box of lemon muffins and a quick pudding dessert. Everyone had a wonderful time and I was still able to be hospitable on a budget. I think God blesses us in so many ways, and one of those ways is with a home – no matter how big or small, how cluttered or organized, we can still open our homes to others. Thank you for all of the time you put into this blog – you are making a difference in the lives of many families.

  2. Maxine says

    Every year around canning season, I buy extra jars. I then make 12 jars of 9 bean soup. I decorate the top with scrap material and include a verse. When I need something quick to take to a friend, I’ll ususally give them a jar of this with a pan of cornbread!

  3. Teresa says

    I have a hugh problem with this. My husband likes to have people over almost every other Sunday. We are on a budget of $40.00 which includes all household and diapers as well, for 6 people, and I can’t fit a extra 10-20 people twice a month into the tight budget. I have the veg. covered as we grow, can, or freeze our own, but meat, cheese, sides. I have a potatoe salad that is about $3.00 for 6 pounds I make, but what else can you make in bulk that would not cost a lot. We usually make brownies, pies, or rice crispy treats (thanks to all those cereal deals) for dessert. Drinks are normally tea, lemonade, or soda if I can get for less than $1.00 a 12 pack.
    As for gift giving I like the soups in a jar, fresh muffins, or a frozen entree. I make a gift basket of my favorite things as well for gifts. I make a house warming with household cleaners and candles. A baby basket with wipes, diapers, and all those free Johnson and Johnson items. And a wedding laundry basket with household items like sewing kit, picture hanging kits, or small kitchen gadgets that I find on clearance often. I then put them all in a new laundry basket and wrap it up with tissue. I also have started a new basket for those off to college. It has a phone card, bandages, tissues, envelopes, tape, pens and pencils. Most of these I all get free at CVS or when they go on clearance.
    Hope this helps. I would love easy to make items that cost little and feed a lot. Most prefered would be ones that could be made up the night before as I hate to be cooking while I have guest.

  4. Sherri says

    How funny, I was just getting ready to send an email about entertaining on a budget. I was looking for tips since I have several birthday parties and a going off to college party for my sister. I am doing my best to use what i have on hand to make “party food” and throwing together an inexpensive punch instead of doing canned drinks.

    Also, potluck is always a good idea! A few guests have offered to bring dishes which will substancially lower my costs and time spent preparing. I used to always make way too much or feel like i had to make enough for everyone in case someone didnt bring what they were assigned. I have found out that we can make do with what we have and enjoy each others company no matter what is on the menu.

  5. Kim says

    Teresa,
    Perhaps you could have these frequent guests “share the load” a bit and have these get-togethers become more of a potluck. Having people over should be a joy, not a strain. I’m sure most would be glad to help a little if asked.

    Kim from Philadelphia

  6. Honey says

    I love her blog! Well, my comment is not so much about what I do, but about the example of others.
    I am the recipient lately of some friends’ abundant produce, eggs from their chickens, and homemade laundry detergent (the husband made it!). And I reciprocate when I have a bunch of something like my recently picked berries. So sharing your good deals and frugal finds can be a way to be hospitable on a budget. And just delivering something simple at a time of need is great. My husband is laid off. We have 5 children and I do not work as I homeschool them. My friend called me today and was cleaning out her pantry and garden and asked if she could bring some things to me tomorrow. I was happy she thought of me. I think being thoughtful of others is the key. Another time when we moved and I had 2 newborns and a toddler, a friend brought tuna salad sandwiches-very simple, but a real practical help to me! And when I had my 4th and 5th children (and two 2 year olds and one 2 year old at home) someone brought a meal, but also an inexpensive bouqet of flowers to grace our dinner table. Also, someone brought diapers they had caught on clearance. I could write a book on this subject, having been the recipient of so much of God’s kindness.Thanks for the ideas! I especially liked the one about a muffin basket, because that doesn’t cost a lot, but can really serve a tired or sick person. I think I’m gonna try that one!

  7. Honey says

    Teresa, I used to have more elaborate, gourmet-ish meals for company, but having 5 children (and the families we invite over usually have a few children) I have started making spaghetti, tossed salad, and homemade garlic bread. Everyone likes this and with coupons and sales, it can an under $5 meal to feed a crowd! And you can make your bread salad the night before and put spaghetti in the crock pot and not be stressed. Then you can enjoy talking with your friends.

  8. Michelle says

    Teresa, when we are having a crowd over, I make baked rigatoni. I can always find deals on pasta, sauce and cheese, so it is an inexpensive meal. You can get it ready the night before and just pop it in the oven the next day.

    Another idea is vegetable soup. You can buy clearanced vegetables – they don’t need to be the prettiest veggies since they all get cooked down, anyway. Soup can be started the night before and you can let it simmer all day – it just gets better and better the longer it sits. Bean soup can be hearty and filling and cheap, too!

    Make a couple loaves of bread, brew up some iced tea and enjoy your guests. I’d focus on meals that don’t need meat, because providing meat to a crowd can bust your budget!

  9. Janet says

    I do the same as far as recycle deals as gifts or use them when I have others over. I was recently able to make a huge food basket and toiletry basket for a fellow homeschool family who is having financial difficulties. I thinned out my stash and was able to bless others. I always get the free deals at CVS just for this purpose. I think we always need to be open to those in need or our frugality turns into selfishness. Janet

  10. says

    Soup & Sandwiches, Having Black Cow Nights, Taco Salad, Potluck is a good idea too. Most people ask what they can bring…take them up on their offer. And offer to bring a dish too when invited. Helps everyone out plus you get to try new dishes & recipes. Hospitality should be less about the food and more about the fellowship. (preaching to the choir here since I love to cook)

    A hospitality budget is such a necessary thing – really gives you more freedom to invite people over and help. Otherwise, it can get very costly, especially feeding a large crowd.

  11. Tessa says

    Thank you so much for this post. I feel that we all have a responsibilty to help those who are in need, and if I can help out in anyway I feel it is a blessing. I love that you willingly set aside money to help others. I want to follow your example so that I will be looking for ways to help out.

  12. Lyn says

    I enjoyed this post, thank you, Meredith. I definitely think this is her forte. It really shows.

    Meredith, I would love to have your thoughts on more options for hospitality outside of the home. With health issues I find it very hard to entertain at home with all that is involved, yet would still like to find a few good ideas to bring cheer to others that are frugal and easy. Muffin baskets are a good suggestion and I’m wondering if you have any more ideas up your sleeve? I’m looking for ideas in the $5-$10 range. Thank you.

  13. Emily says

    I love having people over for dinner at least once a week, but I am always looking for something easy and inexpensive to make. I just did a baked potato bar the other night and I spent a total of $13 to prepare a meal for three couples. It was so easy. I just bought 6 huge baker potatoes, onions, bacon, shredded cheese, green onion, chili, broccoli, sour cream, and I made my own ranch dressing. I have a lazy susan serving platter so I put all the toppings in the lazy susan and we all enjoyed making our huge potatoes. I had a fruit salad on the side.

    To make it even cheaper you can ask everyone to bring their favorite topping.

  14. says

    Thanks for the post. Hospitality is one of my personal challenges…I am petrified of something going wrong or the setup not meeting the “expectations”. I am a very practical person and maybe too practical for most people. I do not have the creative skills for table arrangements and in cutting and preparations. Having said all that, I have to find a way to overcome all these shortfalls and just do it so I can use the power of food to reach out to my neighbors – my latest mission to reconnect neighbors http://www.toolzdo.com/community. These are some great tips. Thx.

  15. says

    I love this, I can’t wait to send my readers here to read it. It’s a great post full of tips anyone can use because sharing our bounty is one of the greatest pleasures of frugality.

  16. Patti says

    I am in a Mommies group who dines out every Monday. This summer we decided to celebrate all our birthdays on
    the same day to reduce gift giving. I offered to hold the celebration at my home and asked everyone to bring a salad. I dressed my table with bright colored zinnas, used leftover colorful plates (a few green, pink, yellow). I provided lemonade and tea and for dessert I made home- made peach ice cream. We ate outside and everyone loved it!

    My dad used to make home-made ice cream for us and invite the neighbors over. I now have a collection of his favorite recipes and many fond memories of those times.
    My parents (in their late 80s) still have people over just for dessert rather than a whole meal.

    Breakfast baskets are always enjoyed, especially by new parents and when there is a death in the family. Most folks forget that meal.
    Thanks for the great ideas!

  17. carla says

    I am having a group of ladies over for a birthday celebration for one of or missionaries. I decided to just have a birthday cake, that I will make, and a bunch of grapes or some other fruit and iced- tea & coffee. The rest of the evening I have decided to have a time of singing, sharing, fellowship and praying. Very simple and will be inexpensive. Before, I would have had several desserts to choose from, which is not necessary! A dessert is much more frugal than a whole meal. I plan on spending $1 on a mylar balloon from the Dollar tree as my only decoration.

  18. says

    I too love to have people over and often they are unannounced… some family members often “pop” by and spend the day with us, esp. Sunday afternoons. My Hubby is always amazed at the amount of food I manage to pull together for people to snack on and enjoy while we sit or play games together.

    I don’t go above and beyond our normal grocery budget to allow for this. I simply stow away some of the things that make good snacks or meals for guests. Hubby never realizes how much food we really have because I have several small stockpile areas and I often switch where I put the “good stuff”, often tucking some things in the back of the fridge whenever necessary too.. He’s unaware of it and we don’t need to eat it all ourselves anyway… esp. the not so great for you snacks.

    Pasta dishes and soups are inexpensive and quick, and take less meat than many other dishes. I always tend to have ingredients for these items on hand and often change the recipes I use a bit to make them different each time.

  19. says

    Prior to getting married, my husband always entertained with paper plates, and when we gather with his side of the family, they still do that, because no one wants to do dishes for 75-80 people (in addition to the food prep dishes). His family is all in town, so we often get together. For our last family BBQ, everyone brought meat for their family to share and a side dish. We often bring salad, which is not real expensive, as there will usually be 3 salads brought. I only have to bring one bowl, and during the cooler months of the year, all of the lettuce comes from my garden.

    In lieu of meat, we have done baked potato gatherings (plus salad) for large family gatherings as well. We do not buy the giant potatoes like Emily mentioned above. We just get several bags of potatoes (probably 60 lbs, at .20 a pound on sale, so only $12, and each family will bring sour cream, green onions, cheese, or some other part of it. Each family usually brings 10# of baked potatoes.

    Potluck really makes it less expensive.

    But, for small family gatherings, I do the dishes and use cloth napkins. For birhtday parties, we only invite grandparents, and we usually have dinner and dessert (often with one set of grandparents bringing the ice cream and the other bringing a salad).

    Sometimes, we only have family only for dessert. Having a family over for just dessert is an inexpensive way to entertain as well.

    When I’m taking a meal to someone (for instance, when a new baby has been born, or to family who has lost a loved one) , I’lll take a meatless spanish rice http://theprudenthomemaker.com/spanishrice.aspx
    and a salad. Or I’ll make a soup and some French bread. I usually make a double batch of soup and we have enough for ourselves that night plus bread for us as well.

    When enteraining at home, we serve water to drink. If it’s a fancy party, such as a baby shower, I’ll make a simple punch with cold water, home canned peach (1 quart) and pear (1 pint) nectar, a bit of canned pineapple juice (drained from one can of pineapple slices), and float some frozen rapsberries on top. I also offer water alongside that. Another punch I have made is to buy 1 can of frozen pink lemonade (the Kroger brand is really strong and is perfect for this, because it can be diluted and still be good), make it with triple the water, and float 2 sliced lemons, 2 sliced limes, and 1 sliced orange over the top, with a few frozen raspberries. If the punch gets low, keep adding water.

    I’ll serve something like Tuscan Tomato bread soup http://theprudenthomemaker.com/tuscantomatobreadsoup.aspx with french bread http://theprudenthomemaker.com/frenchbread.aspx and a salad (often from our garden).

    If we’re just having one family over, we’ll serve a meatless chicken fried steak http://theprudenthomemaker.com/mockchickenfriedsteak.aspx salad, and french bread.

    If you grow flowers in your garden, you can cut them to take to a friend on her birthday (I brought a friend roses this spring from our garden), or for any other reason. You can use the flowers to decorate your house. In spring, you can also use flowering branches from trees and bushes in your yard. In the fall, you can also cut branches from trees in your garden and bring them in (if you live in a cold enough place where the leaves change colors; here they just turn brown). This spring, I decorated my table with roses, larkspur, and grape leaves in an arrangment from my garden.

    We had 60 people over for dessert (while living on our food storage) during a church progressive dinner (adults only). We used things we already had in the pantry (including brownie mix, made with water, oil, and powdered eggs). I made a couple of different desserts and was still able to participate as a hostess. I knew I couldn’t afford to have a smaller group over for salad, as we didn’t have any growing in our garden or money to go to the store, or for a main course or appetizers, but we could have the final group all over for dessert because of what was in our pantry. I think I made 3 pans of brownies (3 boxes at $1 each plus the cost of eggs–and I had powdered on hand, water, and oil) and minature cupcakes, and carrot cake http://theprudenthomemaker.com/carrotcake.aspx using some carrots my grandmother had brought to us (plus the first punch I mentioned above).

    A progressive dinner gives a large group a chance to have fun, especially if the groups are mixed for each house. It gives several people a chance to host (though not all have to host) and breaks up the expensive of the meal. If you do appetizers, salad, soup, and dessert, it can be less expensive.

  20. says

    Meredith is always such a joy to read. Remembering that hospitality is within everyone’s reach is a great lesson. I always like to pull together baskets of things that I get free/cheap with coupons, which doesn’t necessarily have to be food. New homeowners always appreciate cleaners, air fresheners, etc. It always makes a great gift, because they are things everyone needs & uses.

  21. ann says

    I am famous for a cheese and cracker platter. I stock up on Wheat Thins and others when I can get them at .50 a box. Buy extra bricks of cheese when you can get them at a steal deal. Easy thing to have when company is over, or to take to a family who needs a little something.

  22. Elizabeth Sue says

    What a beautiful and helpful post. Meredith your joy and eagerness to serve is lovely.

  23. Melissa says

    I have really enjoyed reading this post. My husband and I do not like having people over because of the expense and strain it puts on us to have a clean house–we’re both artists. But that being said, we love to visit with our friends and family and I’m always looking for things that I can bring that aren’t a bottle of wine or flowers. Great tips, ladies! Thanks for helping out this new wife.

  24. says

    I think the best thing to do is pick a theme and have everyone bring something. That way you do not have to buy everything nor do you have to do all the work. I provide drinks and a main dish.. voila little work, a little out of pocket expense, and a lot of fun. We pair this with game night another cheap idea!!

  25. says

    This is the season for prolific zucchini, and we have lots. So the girls and I are baking loaves and mini-loaves of zucchini bread, which we will individually wrap and freeze. That way, we have them handy to give as gifts, thank-yous, for quick hostess snacks for company, or to supplement a meal for someone in need.

  26. heather says

    First off, just wanted to say what a giving and thoughtful person I think you are! God bless you! I love being able make a meal to take to someone or entertain, so a hospitality envelope is a GREAT way to be able to do this without feeling like you are breaking your budget! Thanks for the wonderful idea!