Here's the story of two dinners, two great sets of friends, and two different effects on our pocketbook.
Saturday, a friend that lives about an hour away was going to be in the neighborhood, so I invited her family over for dinner. I'm big on hospitality- the act of opening my home, inviting another into my life to see a little of my world, hopefully making them feel at ease and comfortable and loved- this all matters very much to me. Spur-of-the-moment hospitality is a bit more of a challenge, but I try to always be ready for anyone who might stop by, or for any chance to open my home. This month, because I'm sticking close to a meal plan, what I serve to guests is limited to what's in the pantry, fridge, and freezer.
I was trying to come up with what to serve my friend Saturday, and my husband suggested chicken alfredo, mostly because it's one of his favorite meals. I knew that would be quick and easy, and I knew I had the sauce ingredients on hand, so I was set. Until I actually started cooking it. Yes, I had the sauce ingredients on hand, but I didn't have as much fresh fettuccine in the freezer as I thought- and I didn't have a full box of fettuccine in my pantry, either. The solution? Cook fresh pasta and dried pasta together for the grown-ups, and throw some egg noodles on the side for the kids. The kids would probably want the noodles plain, anyway. I baked up some rosemary bread, and made a vegetable tray with carrots, broccoli, and cucumbers from the garden, plus some grape tomatoes I picked up free at the grocery store. I heated up leftover roasted chicken to top the pasta. Dinner is served!
Our guests didn't seem to mind that the noodles didn't all match, or that the chicken was actually leftovers, or that fresh vegetables were a weird side with pasta, or that I had dinner ready a bit before they got to our house, so things weren't piping hot. I remind myself that the point of Hospitality is to have a welcoming home, and that was accomplished. Thankfully, I also had grace-filled guests!
Fast forward from Saturday to Monday. I get a call Monday morning asking if we'd like to join our friend to celebrate her birthday at a local restaurant. We chewed on this decision. We really like the restaurant. But it's our No-Spend month! But we haven't hung out with these friends in a while, and we've been meaning to, and a birthday does only come once a year... We caved, and went to dinner. And had a fabulous time. And ordered water to save some money. All in all, we ended up spending $25 for a very similar meal to what we had Saturday for "free"- rosemary bread, fresh vegetables, chicken alfredo.
Moral of the story? Dinner at home is always cheaper. Friends can visit anywhere. Dinner doesn't have to be perfect. Small sacrifices (because, although $25 is a lot of money for this month, it's small on the scale of things) made to strengthen relationships are worth it.
I sometimes selfishly host dinners rather than go out with friends for the above reason- I know that I can spend about $6 on ingredients for a good-sized group, or I can spend 4 times that on dinner for just my husband & I. Hospitality is (most of the time) less expensive than getting together elsewhere, with the added perk of the intimacy of the home rather than a public place. Hospitality matters- even during a No-Spend Month.
Previous Total: $13.40
New Total: $38.40