It’s 4:00pm on a Friday afternoon and you unexpectedly find out that you’re having company over for dinner. Now what? Do you run around in circles trying to figure out how you’re going to pull this off? Or do you calmly pull out your go-to meal and basket of tableware ready to get the party started?
My husband and I love to have company over for dinner! We enjoy good conversations with great friends, and our kids love to stay up way past their bedtime. But where we differ is I like to schedule these dinners well in advance (at least a week), and my husband is more spontaneous (maybe an hour or two).
Consequently, this spontaneity has caused me a lot of stress and anxiety over the years. No matter how many times I tell my husband I need more advance warning, the last minute invitations continue. So I learned that in order to reduce the amount stress surrounding unexpected company, I need to be prepared.
7 Tips & Tricks for the Unexpected Dinner Guest:
What’s for Dinner?
Always have one large meal on hand that you can easily throw together without requiring a trip to the store. For us, it’s spaghetti. I always have a bag of pasta, spaghetti sauce, and ground beef (usually frozen). Cook up some carrots, broccoli, or throw together a salad and you’re good to go. Bonus points if you have a loaf of french bread lying around.
- Sandwich Buffet – Grab all your sandwich fixings (meats, cheeses, lettuce, tomato, bread, etc.) and lay it all out on the counter. Give guests the option to build their own sandwich creations. Bonus points if you have a panini press.
- Taco Bar – If your pantry is usually stocked with beans, salsa, corn, and rice, keep some tortillas and ground beef in the freezer and you’ll be ready for a fiesta.
- When all else fails, grab take-out. There is absolutely nothing wrong with ordering pizza or barbecue from your local restaurant.
Set the Table.
Keep a basket in your pantry that is always stocked with disposable plates, utensils, cups, napkins, etc. When it’s time for dinner you can easily grab the basket and have all your tableware at your fingertips.
Don’t Forget the Dessert.
I always have a box of cookie mix that I can quickly whip up, but you can also store frozen cookie dough, or even keep pre-made cookies or other desserts in the freezer (just remember to pull them out ahead of time and defrost).
Keep Thirst at Bay.
We keep a mini fridge stocked with soda, beer, wine, juice boxes, etc. Another option is to keep various concentrated drink mixes on hand that are easy to mix up, or remember water is just fine.
Check the Bathroom.
I do a quick wipe down of our guest bathroom (or better yet recruit someone else to do it). If needed replace the toilet paper, change the hand towel, check the toilet (my son is still working on his aim), and quickly wipe down the counters (I keep a container of cleaning wipes under the sink).
Set the Mood.
To help create a more inviting atmosphere (and maybe hide the odor of two stinky kids) I light a few candles. A diffuser with essential oils is also a great option.
Lastly, know that you’re not Martha Stewart and it’s perfectly OK that your house is a little untidy, you do live in it. And it’s OK that you’re not serving a 5-star meal. The fact that you got food on the table in record time is worth a metal. So don’t ramble off apologizes and ask your guests to ignore your mess. What matters most is the time you spend and the conversations you have with good friends.
So take a deep breath and welcome your unexpected guests into your messy, crazy, and sometimes chaotic life.