Frugal entertaining at home [classic article]

That office holiday party this year – if it still exists for you – is likely to be at your house or the boss’ house instead of a restaurant. My mom used to tell of a boss in great times who would have potluck parties at his house…certainly in these times, it’s a necessity rather than a flinty choice.

Having the office party at home offers some opportunities that the bricks and mortar restaurant doesn’t. If the food offerings are planned intelligently, guests can bring spouses and the host can invite a neighbor or two. You can get some throw pillows from Target and spread those all around for extra seating. And, let’s face it: a friendly new face or two can keep the “office” party from feeling like a board meeting. That extra leeway might let you invite the charming elderly neighbor or the interesting art student. Not only will that spice up the conversation, but also, they’ll appreciate the opportunity to share a meal outside the house this holiday season.

The trick is to keep some staples in the cupboard, fridge and freezer that can be “stretched” to accommodate unexpected guests. These can include biscuit mix and interesting jellies, soups, chili, stews, big containers of mayo and sour cream – along with dip mix, even some cream cheese. Don’t be like “this guy” (“This Guy,” do you remember yourself?): one time many years ago, I was doing a project with a wealthy, prominent businessman. I was starting out in my career and at the point when I had to look prosperous – even though things were very, very tough. Pitiful, as a matter of fact. This guy invited me home to his family for dinner. I was thrilled! One less meal I had to scrounge up. He called his wife who said, “We’re having pork chops and I only have two. You’ll have to un-invite her.” She could have butterflied them, or made a casserole, or ordered a pizza.

Always be the hospitable one. I’ve heard of some poor mountain folks who will toast some bread and spread them with some homemade preserves as their “fancy” dessert they offer to guests. If you do something like that with love, people will understand.

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