Growing up, I always loved it when my family had guests at our house. However, it’s only in the past few years that I’ve come to see more fully how important hospitality can be in cultivating relationships with those around us. This can take the form of having a dinner party or house guests, or it can just mean offering a friend a candy bar when she stops by your dorm room or office. Whatever form hospitality takes, it can be a beautiful way of showing God’s love to others, whether they be close friends or new acquaintances.
At this point you might be thinking, “This all sounds great, but hospitality can be awfully expensive.” Never fear, I’ve got some tried-and-true life hacks to help you out! I discovered these when I was a college student leading Endow groups on my campus. I found that serving refreshments during our meetings was an important part of ensuring that girls felt welcome and at ease. (It was also an incentive for them to actually show up for meetings.) However, I was working on a tight budget, so I figured out a few tricks along the way. You might find these helpful if you host group meetings, as I did, but they can be adapted to work for all sorts of occasions. You can even keep supplies on hand for impromptu visits from friends, so you can be a great hostess on just a few minutes’ notice.
Drink ware Paper cups are ok, but real glasses are so much classier! Plus, they’re more eco-friendly. If you already have a set of glasses, great, but if not, considering investing in some mason jars. They are inexpensive and come in all shapes and sizes; personally, I like the ones with handles, but that’s just me. Mason jars are quite popular now, so you can find them all sorts of places: online, at the grocery store, at the craft store, etc. Ideally, check out your local dollar store–I was able to buy a set of 12 for $12, and the quality was great.
Napkins, plates, etc. If the occasion calls for paper plates, napkins, etc., why go with boring white? It might seem trivial, but putting in the extra effort to pick out the right napkins shows your guests how much you care. Again, finding a dollar store nearby can be super helpful here. I was able to buy a pack of 30+ napkins for a dollar, and there were so many cute designs to choose from.
Food If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, my condolences! Their baking mixes are a life saver; they are easy to put together, inexpensive, and taste amazing. I especially like their scone mixes, since all you have to do is add water! The mixes tend to be around $3, and they serve about 12 people, so it’s a great deal. I also love their Pound Plus chocolate bars; you get over a pound of high-quality chocolate for about $5, and you can keep it on hand for those days you don’t have time to bake.
Drinks Now you need something to put in your mason jars or glasses. My favorites: cold brew coffee and fruit-infused water.
- cold brew coffee- One great thing about cold brew is that it almost doesn’t matter what coffee grounds you use to make it. On a whim, I tried it with some cheap coffee I got at the dollar store, expecting the taste to be on a par with the price. Boy, was I wrong! Whenever I make this, people rave about it. If you haven’t made cold brew before, it’s quite easy. Just soak the grounds in cold or room-temp water for at least eight hours, strain, and serve to taste. (It will be quite strong, so make sure you have ice, milk, water, and sugar on hand.) You can strain in through a coffee filter, but this will take a while. If you have a French press, you can use that, or if you make cold brew often enough, it might be worth buying something specially designed for the purpose. For example, check out this cold brew coffee maker with the filter built right into the pitcher. It even comes with a fruit-infuser attachment! If your container is air tight, you can keep your cold brew in the fridge for days.
- berry-infused water- Fruit-infused waters have been getting more popular recently, but did you know how easy and inexpensive it is to make at home? Just keep some frozen berries on hand in the freezer…I like to use the Trader Joe’s cherry and berry blend. If you like a stronger flavor and you have the time, you can soak the fruit in water overnight and then strain it. The fruit won’t look very pretty by this point, so add a few extra frozen berries to each glass before serving. Alternatively, you can just put the fruit in right before serving; the flavor won’t be quite as strong, but it will still be delicious, and your water will turn a lovely purple-pink color that looks so pretty in your glass mason jars!
I hope you find these tips helpful! Just one last thing–I’ve mostly tried these out on female-only gatherings, but if you’re serving guys, double the portion sizes and don’t worry quite as much about pretty napkins. 😉