This is post number two of the “Elements of Hosting” series. This time we will go over elegant ways to feed your guests without overspending. This is not always easy, as most of us go overboard in our efforts to keep guests happy and impressed.
The fact of the matter is that good food is often simple food. The recipes that make the biggest impression are rarely overly complicated. By keeping your priorities in mind and approaching each meal with an attitude of fun, you can make the experience welcoming and enjoyable for everyone involved.
Making A Plan – Good Food Starts With A Good Menu!
If you’ve read my other posts, you know that I consider strong planning skills to be one of the foundations of elegance. All of the elements of hosting require some form of organization, but perhaps no area is as vital to your guests’ experience as your menu.
A good menu isn’t just a list of meals. It’s a journey, taking you and your visitors through each mood and phase of the activities you are engaging in. Thinking of food this way is how you elevate your hosting skills to new heights and turn an event into an experience.
A good menu considers three things. The purpose of the event, the needs of the attendees, and the atmosphere you, the host, wants to create for the experience.
Perhaps you are hosting a party in October and you’d like to manifest a warm, rustic atmosphere. Feeding your guests with fruity cocktails and a hot dog bar will not only fail to add to this theme, but will also actively undermine it.
In contrast, preparing a crockpot full of mulled cider and putting out a board of crusty, warm french bread and several cheeses will fit in perfectly with your Fall ambiance. This kind of thoughtfulness can enhance your guests’ experience exponentially.
Something I enjoy doing before hosting is listing a “mood board” of the flavors, foods, and aromas I associate with a specific theme. This provides a great starting point for menu planning and puts me in the right state of mind to host elegantly.
Whatever your method for feeding your guests, give some real thought to the experience you are trying to craft. Every event – whether it’s a party or just one guest staying overnight – should produce a specific mood or atmosphere. Don’t leave it to chance!
Due Diligence – Take Some Time To Research The Meals You Will Feed Your Guests With.
One of the most reliable ways to reduce stress and spending is by researching the recipes and food ideas you have before you try to make them happen. Grocery shopping, especially when you are in the hosting mindset, can become very expensive very quickly.
Not only that, but failing to look into your plans can lead to pitfalls that might ruin your whole experience. You should make yourself aware of exactly how much effort, time, and investment each part of your menu will require. All you need to save yourself a world of trouble is half an hour, a notepad, and an internet connection.
When planning your menu, leave room for notes and a pricing section next to each meal. Glance at any comments you see on online recipe pages and note down suggestions, concerns, or observations from people who have already made the meal.
Yes, these comment sections are often boring or redundant, but you can also find a lot of insight (or timely warnings) that will help you.
Looking up the webpage of the grocery store you frequent will almost always yield an item catalog, complete with food prices. Many of these sites even allow you to create a virtual grocery list that will calculate the price of your trip ahead of time. Or, to save even more time and stress, you can simply order the entire list for pickup!
Most of us are peripherally aware of these resources, but few of us slow down long enough to use them before hosting. I can tell you from experience that doing so will make a huge difference in the way you feed your guests. It will make the entire event more elegant and more enjoyable for you as well as your guests.
Armed with knowledge, your menu will be not only seamless, but also budget-conscious.
Time To Spare – Meal Prepping Is Your Most Powerful Tool.
How many of us spend the hours prior to an event frantically cooking, then cleaning up a kitchen that looks like a battlefield? My hand is raised high, dear readers – or at least it would have been not so long ago.
What I have learned (through much trial and error) is that meal-prepping is a Godsend of the highest order. There is a secret to stress-free hosting, and that secret is this: the experience does not have to be rushed.
Not only should you meal-prep the items that can be prepped, but I suggest you plan the whole menu around meal-prepping from the start. A stressed host is operating at half capacity. By cooking the vast majority of your guests’ meals a week or more in advance, you are investing not only in your own happiness, but also the enjoyment of said guests.
Going back to the rustic Autumn theme mentioned before, here are some examples of what you could do.
If you make a few loaves of rustic french bread, these can be frozen until you’re ready to heat them up and serve them with cheese and accompaniments. You can make a crock pot of cider ahead of time and refrigerate it until the event, then pour it back in the pot and heat it on the “warm” setting.
A pot of simple stew can be created, frozen, and served with more bread. Something like homemade Mac n’ Cheese or a pre-made rotisserie chicken can be stored, too, and you can simply use steam-in-bag frozen vegetables with your own spices and additions for easy sides. Feeding your guests doesn’t have to be “fancy” in order to also be elegant.
This kind of planning relies more on your own creativity than anything. That, and a bit of self-awareness – don’t allow yourself to fall into a rushed mindset and forget to think of ways to prep.
In Conclusion – Simplicity And Elegance Go Well (And Taste Great) Together!
It is natural for a host to want to impress their guests, but there is also such a thing as “overdoing it.” By sitting down to think about the logistics as well as the needs of your hosting menu, you will naturally create boundaries that will stop you from over-stressing or overspending.
Food is the oldest art form, and a little focus goes a long way in making sure that yours makes a lasting impression. With practice and a positive mindset, you’ll be creating memories in no time.
If you have any advice or experiences to share, please do! I love to hear from you. Stay tuned for my next “Elements of Hosting” post! <3