Company’s coming! Fun/Cheap/Free ways to host LOTS of people.

WOA NELLY I'm a bit tired.
Why, you might ask? 
Let me tell you.
  • I drove to Oregon by myself with an 8 month old and 2 year old (12 hours, baby!). Be sure to check out how I survived HERE.
  • Spent 5 days there (and had a great time!)…but my darling children decided to get up nice and early and keep me up during the night (no one ever sleeps as well on vacation, right?).
  • I then drove back to Utah 12 hours (caravanning with my folks, luckily),
  • Arrived home at 10:30 pm (after losing 1 hr with time change). Pulled in the driveway, turned off the ignition…
  • …then heard the “beep beep!” of my aunt and her family driving in right behind us from San Diego.
It was perfect timing that I technically “beat” them to my house, but it sure didn't give me any time to prepare to host an extra family for the weekend!

Seriously, entertaining is top of my list of favorite things to do. But it can be expensive if you're not careful!
Here are a few tips off the top of my head for you…

How to host LOTS of people, the fun/cheap/free way!
SHOPPING PREP:

I woke up early on Saturday and ran to the store to get groceries. We didn't even have milk in the house because I had been gone for a week! I used my deal shopping/price-matching method to save about half on my bill (see here). Be sure to plan your meals BEFORE going to the store. See below for more tips on that one.

A few things I stocked up on at Walmart:
  • Cereal
  • Ground beef
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro, taco shells, refried beans, olives, avocados, black beans, corn (taco stuff)
  • Cream cheese
  • Pickles, mayo, tomato and other sandwich fixin's
I also went to Costco and got:
  • Toilet paper (can't run out of that, now can we…)
  • Salsa
  • Tortillas (good and cheap)
  • Bagels
  • Milk
  • Rhodes cinnamon rolls for Sunday morning. (I usually make my own with THIS incredible recipe but for the sake of time I bought frozen ones. P.S…they were awesome.)
  • Cheese
  • Orange Juice
  • Lunch meat
  • Bread
  • Eggs (the huge 5 dozen pack)
  • Tortilla chips (huge 3lb bag for $3)
PLAN OUT MEALS:
Make sure to plan out your meals!!!!! I cannot stress this enough! If you go to the store and simply “stock up” on whatever you THINK you'll need, you WILL spend lots of unnecessary money. I guarantee it. Have a plan, its easier than you think.
Here's what we planned:
Friday Night:
  • Costco pizza (one 1/2 cheese 1/2 pepperoni, and one 1/2 combo 1/2 pepp and sausage.
  • Bagged salad.

I had no time to prepare food since I was driving in from out of town myself, so I had my hubby pick up two Costco pizzas and bagged salad. Cheapest, easiest, best. That way if people were hungry when they got to our house they could eat pizza. It was a great plan because people ate the pizza all throughout the weekend.

Saturday breakfast: 
  • Bagels + cream cheese, butter, jam, peanut butter – whatever toppings people wanted
  • Toast + all the bagel toppings
  • Cereal & milk
  • OJ
Saturday lunch:
  • Sandwiches (got an array of cheese and meat from Costco)
  • Chips
  • Soda (my uncle works for Pepsi and brought discounted drinks for us)
  • Pasta salad
Saturday dinner:
  • Went to dinner as a family. Always a good time!
Sunday Breakfast:
  • Cinnamon rolls (the Rhodes frozen ones from Costco)
  • Eggs (scrambled with cheese and a little milk). Though…if you fry your eggs you use less of them because typically it will only be 1 egg per person. Just a side-note 🙂
  • Ketchup and salsa for egg toppings
  • Waffles (from a mix that we had bought previously from Costco)
  • OJ
  • Milk
  • Waffle toppings: whipped cream, strawberries, homemade syrup (I'll give you that recipe soon!), store-bought syrup, peanut butter, Nutella, ice cream, the works! Most toppings I had on-hand already.)
  • Bagels/cream cheese
  • Toast
We just laid it all out on my island, buffet style. People could eat what they wanted and it was all very filling and cheap.
Sunday Lunch:
  • Leftover Costco pizza
  • Leftovers from the restaurant (for whoever had them)
  • Sandwiches (we laid all the cheese, toppings, and meat out on the island buffet-style and let people create their own sandwiches. Much easier that way.)
  • Leftover pasta salad
  • Leftover green salad from pizza night
Sunday Dinner:
  • Taco bar
  • My homemade salsa (easy!) and store-bought salsa
  • Chips
  • Salad
The taco bar was soooo easy. I cooked up all the cheap ground beef I price-matched.

After browning it, I heated the ground beef with a can of refried beans. This is an easy way to stretch your meat. You can also add a can of corn, black beans, chili, or anything else you'd like. I recommend NOT cooking and serving the ground beef alone – you will go through much more that way. Stretch yo' dollar, baby!
We then laid out bowls of tons of toppings: lettuce, tomato, red onion, cilantro, sour cream, cheese, salsa, refried beans/meat mixture, chips, olives…anything you can think to put on a taco. We had hard shells ($1 per box at Walmart) and tortillas, or people could use the leftover salad to make a taco salad. It was delish!
You could also serve it with Spanish Rice. We didn't do this for the sake of ease, time, and dishes, but you certainly could.
Most family left on Sunday, but for the remaining guests we did repeat breakfast of cereal and bagels on Monday, ate lunch at the mall when we all went shopping, and had leftover taco fixings for dinner. Easy.
Here are other good menu ideas for feeding a large group on-the-cheap:
  • Pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches
  • Burgers and hot dogs (grill)
  • Anything that can be made in a crock pot (easy to cook, you can serve it right out of the pot, and usually feeds a crowd.)
  • Soup bar (make a few kinds of soup in crock pots and let people choose what they want)
  • Taco soup bar
  • Potato bar (bake a ton of potatoes – you can even do this in the crock pot – and have a whole table of toppings)
  • Hawaiian Haystacks
  • Breakfast for dinner (pancakes or waffles go a LONG way, crepe bar, etc)
  • Spaghetti
  • French bread pizzas (buy a bunch of french bread loaves and use them as pizza crusts. Top with whatever and bake. They are really filling, and can feed a crowd!)
  • Pasta bar (like I did HERE). Different pastas and sauces, with a few toppings.
Try NOT to plan meals where you need “one” of something per person (except for a baked potato bar). For example, I don't recommend making Parmesan Chicken for a crowd because everyone person will need their own chicken breast. That is not only expensive, but it's a bigger blunder if you over or under judge how many people you are going to feed. Make something that people have to SCOOP and it will be much cheaper, easier to cook usually, and will have leftovers that are easier to reuse 🙂
By having a “bar” type meal it gives people options and will feed a crowd easier.

 

Entertain Your Guests:
I had an easy job of entertaining my guests this weekend because they all came into town mainly for the purpose of watching General Conference together as a family.
In my church, General Conference is where our church services are broadcasted world-wide for free, and the talks (or sermons) are given by the leaders of our church. So we get to watch church on TV, which occupied much of our weekend.
We have a huge theater room in our basement and a TV in our basement family room, but everyone ended up hovering where the food was…upstairs near the kitchen. Keep that in mind when entertaining – people usually gather where the food is!
  • When watching a movie (which we did in addition to watching Conference) make sure there are enough seats, blankets, and pillows for everyone to be comfortable.
After watching Conference, as per my son's request, we watched his favorite movie…the Justin Bieber movie. Oh yes, the extended cut version. It was awesome.
Let's just say that there was a dance party after the movie. I'm just sayin…
  • When you have guests in town, be sure to plan a list of fun activities to do together in advance.
  • Google “things to do in ___” and list a city. You'll be shocked at what you find.
  • Go to your city's official website. They will often times have a calendar of fun/cheap/free things going on in your city. Take advantage of things!
  • Search through blogs that are based out of your area. There are tons of sites and blogs that list fun things to do in Utah, for example (see HERE and HERE for examples)
  • Check your local paper and watch local commercials to hear for events and fun things going on in your area.

For us, our weekend was pretty filled as it is, but we squeezed in a few fun activities.

  • On Saturday we went shopping, then out to dinner.
  • On Sunday we stayed home and watched Conference, played games together, celebrated my cousin's birthday, and watched a movie.

PLAY GAMES!!!
The funnest and free-est (is that even a word??) thing you can do as a family is PLAY together! Get out some old school board games, or play fun party games (like this one HERE), set up Bocci or horse shoes in your back yard, play kick the can…get everyone involved (yes, even the adults) and PLAY. Those are the memories that will last a lifetime, I promise.

  • On Monday we all went shopping again (naturally), then went to a local trampoline gym. It was a blast! It was the perfect place to go because it was fun for everyone, regardless of their age (from adults on down to our 2 yr old.). Be sure to look for coupons when you do something that involves a fee. Often times you can get group discounts if your group is large enough.
I recommend making a list of:
  • Outdoor activities
  • Indoor activities
  • Activities to do at home
  • Free activities
  • and activities that cost.
If you have a pre-made list then it's much easier to decide as a group what to do because you can simply present options to people. You will be so busy playing hostess the last thing you want to do is rack your brain to try to come up with things to do because everyone is bored!
If you know company is coming, keep your eyes peeled in advance for daily deal site deals, coupons, specials, group discounts, etc. Try not to pay full-price!
Lastly…
STAY SANE, AND ENJOY!
Hosting at all (especially a large group) can be stressful. You're worried about people having fun, having enough to eat, keeping your house clean, etc. Just don't be a stress case and ENJOY. A few quick tips:
  • Keep a laundry basket on-hand, one per floor of your house. A few times each day run through the house and anything that doesn't belong, throw in the basket. Then at the bottom of each set of stairs put everything that belongs UPSTAIRS in one basket, MAIN FLOOR in another, and BOTTOM FLOOR in a third. Any time you to up or down the stairs take the basket with you and toss it where it belongs, or make a neat pile and take care of it when you get a sec.
  • “Set it and forget it” before you go to sleep. Run your dishwasher, and run a load of laundry (towels, for example) every night when you go to sleep…even if you don't have a full load. By keeping on top of it you will have less chaos to take care of at the end of the week.
  • Enlist help. We would occasionally have a “blitz clean-up” where everyone takes 5 minutes and cleans up anything they can in 5 minutes. We would usually do this BEFORE an activity (like playing games or watching a movie)
  • Divide duties. If the ladies prepare dinner, have the men clean up. Divide and conquer, baby!
  • HAVE FUN. Trust me…if you're stressed out about your house being dirty or your meals being perfect, people will NOT have fun. Let go of control, order, and quiet for the time being, and enjoy having a house full of people who love you! Just keep telling yourself, “this soon shall pass…” and leeeeeeet gooooooo. Take a deep breath, and go join the Justin Bieber dance party rather than scrub your kitchen floor by yourself. Trust me, it'll just be filthy in an hour again anyway 😉
So there you have it. Those are a few tips for entertaining, feeding, and hosting a crowd – with OR without much advance time to prepare. Hope that helps, have a fun weekend!

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