How to Plan Meals for House Guests

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You’ve got house guests coming for the weekend, and the big question is what to feed them to let them know you’re glad they came. Aside from wanting to please their palates, you’ll need to take into account your guests’ food allergies, any special dietary needs, their likes and dislikes, the increased cost of more mouths to feed, and the time factor; you won’t want to be spending hours in the kitchen when you could be enjoying your company.

  • Find out from your guests well beforehand what foods they may be allergic to and what foods they just plain don’t like. Questioning people on this last point can be a bit tricky. Whereas a person allergic to shellfish or someone diabetic who is avoiding sugar may readily let you know these facts, the same people may be hesitant to tell you that they totally dislike fish and never touch tomatoes. You can get around guests who are reluctant to share this information for fear of being “too much trouble” by simply offering choices. For example, “We can’t decide between grilled fish and grilled chicken for Friday night. What do you think?” Another option is to offer choices at mealtime; for example, you might grill both chicken and fish and eat what your guests don’t.

  • Budget your weekend dollars by planning one large meal which will provide leftovers later in the weekend; this strategy will save you both time and money. A turkey cooked for dinner will provide sandwiches for the next. You might prepare a roast for one meal and make some roast beef hash with the leftovers.

  • Make festive meals inexpensively by coming up with a theme. You could have a Mexican fiesta one night by simply setting out all the ingredients for tacos: shells, cooked and seasoned hamburger meat, shredded cheese, chopped onions, tomatoes and lettuce, and some taco sauce. Guests might enjoy helping to prepare the ingredients. Or you might prepare Asian stir-fried dishes which require only a small amount of meat or poultry, and, again, let guests help with the preparations to save on time. Adding a few “props” to your meal like a sombrero centerpiece or chopsticks increases the fun.

  • Consider serving brunch and an early supper instead of three meals one day. Inexpensive dishes such as pancakes and waffles can be dressed up with fresh or frozen fruit. Make personalized batches of scrambled eggs with add-ins (mushrooms, chopped ham or green peppers, for example) chosen by the guest. For supper, consider homemade soups which you can make ahead of time and freeze. See link at the end of this article for recipes.

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid the impulse to buy expensive food items you don’t ordinarily purchase. You’ll feel more comfortable cooking what you’re used to and you can use any extra money for weekend entertainment.
  • Read labels carefully when cooking for guests with allergies or special dietary needs; there are often hidden ingredients in food products where you would least suspect them.
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