I don’t have the gift of hospitality, but I try! Recently, Dear Husband and I had some friends over for brunch. There were four guests joining us, and we had a budget of 30 dollars. DH and I don’t have an entertaining fund, so the 30 dollars came from whatever was leftover from the previous month’s grocery budget. It could have been 50 dollars (lox and cream cheese on bagels). It could have been 10 (peanut butter on bagels), but it ended up at 30.
I donned my husband’s late grandmother’s circa 1975 apron for inspiration (she was such a good hostess), and got to work.
As for the menu, I kept these thoughts in mind:
- It’s summer and quite warm even inside the house with the air conditioner desperately trying to keep pace. A hot brunch would be uncomfortable, though coffee would probably be necessary because it’s kind of a brunch staple.
- DH and I are on a lower sodium diet for health concerns.
- One person in our group is a vegetarian.
- DH and I have six matching plates and plenty of flatware, but we don’t have six matching napkins.
- Higher quality foods (local, organic, free range, etc.) are a priority when possible.
- Our brunch budget is 30 dollars.
- Our guests offered to bring banana bread (because everyone likes banana bread), cinnamon rolls (OMGosh, they’re awesome when homemade), and cheesy potatoes (true comfort food).
With all those thoughts bouncing around in my head, I checked store prices online to see what we could afford. Well, it wouldn’t be French toast with mascarpone and pecan filling no matter how delicious the recipe was. It wouldn’t be cold oats with chia seeds and cardamom, either. I had to think more in terms of basic recipes with no exotic ingredients because exotic almost always equals expensive. (Did you know cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world? Citation: http://www.luxury-insider.com/dining/guide-most-expensive-spices.) This is the affordable menu I came up with:
I know food prices differ depending on where you’re living, but with the budget in my head and the shopping list in my hand, this is what I paid:
Organic blueberries $2.99 for a pound
Low sodium bacon $7.98 for 24 slices
Yogurt (nothing special here, just the store brand) $3.98 for 64 oz
A small box of fancy-schmancy granola $2.79 for 11 oz
Organic, cage free eggs $2.50 for a dozen
Worcestershire sauce $1.29 for 10 oz
Paprika $1.00 for 2 oz
Cream $1.49 for 8 oz
And the free stuff because we had it already:
Sugar for the coffee
Flowers from outside
TOTAL, with a 3.2 % tax: $24.79
Woohoo, I still had 5 dollars left to find some napkins. Thrift store to the rescue . . . or so I thought. All they had were Christmas napkins, not exactly the right vibe for midsummer unless you live in Australia! But I did find three pieces of summery fabric at the thrift store that kept me within budget, so I pulled out the sewing machine and made some napkins.
The napkin fabric coordinated well with the flowers, so I guess I made a good choice going with the summer fabrics rather than the pre-made Christmas napkins!
The night before, I cooked up the bacon then refrigerated it. We could bring it to room temp before eating. I boiled the eggs (THAT made for a steamy summer evening), and refrigerated the resulting deviled eggs.
I made 3 layers of the yogurt parfait and stuck it in the fridge. (The granola, the fourth layer, would go on just before guests arrived so it’d still be crunchy.)
Then, cooking all done and food tucked away in the fridge, my vegetarian friend emailed me and said she wouldn’t be eating the bacon (yup, knew that), eggs (oops), or the yogurt (uh-oh, had she gone vegan?). See, this is why I don’t have the gift. I reminded myself to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling,” and optimistically decided my dear friend would enjoy a cinnamon roll or two.
Attempting things you’re not good at is always a learning experience. I learned:
- Apparently, only DH and I are fond of coffee on summer mornings. (Did I mention I don’t have the gift of hospitality?! Thank goodness we had cold drinking water from the fridge.) Perhaps iced tea would have been just as frugal and more appealing to folks.
- I need to check with each guest beforehand about the menu.
- It really does help keep you cool by serving chilled foods on a hot summer morning.
- I didn’t see any napkins with mitered corners at the thrift store or online, but since I sewed them myself, I was able to add that detail. Hey. . . I’ll have to do a post on sewing napkins from thrift store fabrics!
- It is possible for me to stick to a predetermined hostess budget.:-)
Make this day even better, consider:
- When I was a youngster, maybe 13, I thought I’d like to write a novel. Actually, I’ve written four since then, but they were all horrid, so they have been discarded and deleted. Through the writing and rewriting process, I learned that I lack knowledge about story structure, so I borrowed a library book on the subject. Maybe my fifth novel, written with more understanding about structure, will be a decent read. The thing I’m getting at is don’t put off a dream you’ve held onto for a lifetime. I don’t know if I’ll succeed or fail, but it’s exciting to try!