Food is often integral to hospitality (an aspect I truly enjoy), but sometimes it can be hurdle, even if you’re experienced in the kitchen!
Increased cost, limited availability of ingredients, lack of time, and another’s food sensitivities or allergies can cause us to hesitate offering a bite to eat to someone who stops by unexpectedly. Consequently, we often miss out on the accompanying conversations that naturally occur around the table.
The goal of this post is to offer some practical ideas for each of these obstacles, and hopefully, we will find it easier to open our doors wide, even if it feels inconvenient in the moment.
We Can’t Out Give God
“I, who had not a single shilling regular income, who had not a single fee for any thing I did in my service, either as minister of the gospel or Director of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, was so abundantly cared for by my Heavenly Father, because I really depended on Him, and really trusted in Him, and did not merely say so.” – George Müller, A Narrative of Some of the Lord’s Dealings
If you are yearning to embrace hospitality but feel as though you’re being held back by a stressful financial situation, may I encourage you to read the story of George Muller.
He often found himself with dozens of mouths to feed and not a crumb to offer. This made him realize his total dependence on the Lord to provide, and he was never disappointed. Not only was he daily reminded that he could not out give God, but so were all the children God had sent for him to feed their tummies and their souls!
“He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.” Proverbs 22:9
Fast And Frugal Meals
If money is tight, the cost of feeding extra mouths is easy to calculate, but there are hundreds of ways to quickly stretch a meal for pennies.
Here are a few of my favorite tricks:
I learned this one from my Mom.
She makes a pot of soup every Saturday for Sunday lunch, in anticipation of inviting any number of guests over after church. All she has to do is add water and perhaps a little more salt while it reheats on the stove. A couple extra buns and crackers on the side, and she can turn a meal for 8 into a meal for 16 with minimal effort and cost.
It’s hard to go wrong with Chicken Soup! This is the recipe I like to use.
Bacon and Eggs
This doesn’t work for Muslim or Jewish friends, but is otherwise one of my favorite meals to prepare for several reasons.
- It’s ultra frugal (eggs are one of the cheapest and healthiest forms of protein available!),
- it’s a great option for gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-conscious guests,
- it’s versatile (add some veggies to the eggs if you have them available, yogurt or fruit on the side, and a loaf of bread to stretch it even further),
- it’s quick to prepare (20 minutes tops. I like to cook bacon in the oven by laying the slices on a cookie sheet and baking for 20 minutes at 400 F, while I prepare the eggs),
- it’s suitable for every meal of the day,
- and almost everyone loves it!
Bone In, Skin On Chicken Thighs
Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are one of the cheapest and most delicious cuts of meat. All that’s required is sprinkling them with your favorite herbs and spices (this is how I season them, but even just plain old salt and pepper will do!), and baking them in the oven until the skin is crispy and juice runs clear.
They turn out every single time and can be paired with potatoes or rice (cooking rice in chicken broth makes it special), and another vegetable for a hearty meal that doesn’t cost very much and is acceptable in almost every diet and religion.
It doesn’t get much faster or cheaper than noodles and jarred marinara sauce (we love the Kirkland Marinara Sauce from Costco). You don’t even need to add meat. A loaf of bread and a Caesar salad round it out.
Our favorite twist on this traditional Dutch dessert requires only 3 ingredients, can be made in a hurry, and you don’t even need to measure anything. Stir vanilla yogurt together with sweetened whipped cream and frozen berries (we like raspberries best). Delicious!
Other fast and/or frugal foods:
- grilled cheese and tomato soup
- chili (this is our favorite recipe and it make a HUGE batch!)
- tuna melts
- homemade pizza
- tacos or wraps
Help! I’m Out of Butter!
This happened to me the last time we had company at the last minute, and I panicked for a second because I was also out of baking, and being a holiday, the grocery stores were closed!
I found a few packages of instant chocolate pudding, a brownie mix, and a sleeve of Oreos in the pantry. Layered together with a tub of thawed Cool Whip in a big glass bowl, this impromptu trifle ended up being a big hit and no ever knew I hadn’t a clue what to serve half an hour before!
Sometimes the aftermath of serving a meal can be a deterrent to having guests over, but I have accepted the fact that there is absolutely no shame in paper plates or paper towels. They are decomposable, and make quick work of cleaning up. Guests may be hesitant to help load a dishwasher for fear of doing it “the wrong way,” or working in a kitchen without knowing where things go, but nobody is intimidate by stacking up a pile of paper plates for the recycle bin.
Food For The Body, Food For The Soul
“Food cannot take care of spiritual, psychological and emotional problems, but the feeling of being loved and cared for, the actual comfort of the beauty and flavor of food, the increase of blood sugar and physical well-being, help one to go on during the next hours better equipped to meet the problems.” – Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking, pg. 124
Food enables us to show hospitality, even if our homes are too small, or too messy. Dropping off a casserole at the home of a caregiver, a new mother, the sick, and the lonely is tangible way to show love. Caring for a person’s physical needs opens the door to their spiritual ones.
“Jesus alone saves, and all I do is show up.” – Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key
“Radically ordinary hospitality is this: using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God.” – Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key
For your consideration:
What is your go-to meal for unexpected company? I’d love some more ideas!