The first tip is for those who are really struggling. If the phone rings and it's mom and dad wanting to drop by for the day, or weekend, with grandma, and you already bought the week's groceries, admit it and ask them to help out. Don't cringe. I know how hard this is. I've been there. You can't NOT pay the electric bill to entertain relatives. What you do is saying something like "It's a little tight this week, could you bring lunch? (or dinner, breakfast etc.)." If you know your parents have a freezer full of chicken or beef, ask them to bring enough for one meal. Do what you need to do for your family. I served meals that were cheap and fed a lot of people. Spaghetti, beans and cornbread, chicken quarters grilled or baked and Sloppy Joe are all meals that will feed extra people.
Let's fast forward to my frugal tips that I use today. We are doing better, as I mentioned, but I'm still cutting corners when I can. Often when my husband's family visits they are bring my two nephews. Plus, there is always the chance that Chuck's brother, his wife and their kids will drop over on Saturday night. We never know until the last minute. We always joke that one day Chuck's parents are going to pack up all their neighbors and bring them along. Their motto is "The more the better!". So, when they are planning a visit I look at the sales in the paper and at what I have at the house already, and I come up with a menu for the weekend.
Friday: Boneless BBQ Chicken, cornbread and usually they bring salad or veggies and dip.
Saturday: Sloppy Joe in the crockpot, corn and fried potatoes.
Sunday: Roasted whole Pork Loin, baked potatoes and whatever vegetables or salad are on hand.
Dessert for one of the days: Brownies
I came up with this menu based on several things. First, I had a bag of boneless chicken I bought earlier in the week,and it was still on sale, so I picked up another one. I already had cornbread mix in the cupboard. They usually bring raw vegetables or salad. I put the chicken in the crockpot and season with garlic pepper. When it's just cooked through I throw in the BBQ sauce and stir it to coat, turn it down on low and cook until it's time to eat. If put it on high around lunch it's done in plenty of time. The cornbread I make according to the mix, and throw in some shredded cheese if I have it leftover or a can of creamed corn in place of the liquid.
I already had a couple of packages of ground chuck and two cans of Manwich. I bought one more package of ground chuck on sale, and an envelope of Sloppy Joe spices (McCormick) to add to the canned stuff. I also picked up frozen corn and I already had potatoes on hand.
The pork loin is the "nice" dinner for Sunday. It was on sale for $1.59 a pound, which is a very good price. I was able to get a 9 pound pork loin. This is easy to cook in the oven. I share the basic recipe below. You can get it sliced free, but I like roasting it whole and slicing it myself. I bake potatoes along with it, and serve with a salad or another vegetable.
ROAST PORK LOIN
8-10 pound pork loin
fresh herbs: sprigs of marjoram, basil
garlic pepper (or garlic powder & black pepper)
Place the pork loin in a roaster pan. Add about a cup of water to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the pork liberally with garlic pepper OR you can use black pepper and garlic powder or granules. Season with salt. Cut sprigs of marjoram and basil (dried herbs can be used also), wash and lay on top of the pork. Place the roaster covered in a 325 degree oven that has been preheated. Roast for 60 minutes. The pork should register 155 degrees F. or more, taking the temperature in the thickest part of the meat.
Once it's done, remove from the oven and uncover, then let it sit for about 15 minutes before slicing. It cools and sucks up some of the juices in the pan.
The thing with entertaining family on a budget is to never be afraid to ask for help, and don't look a gift horse in the mouth. If someone calls and wants to know what they can bring then tell them what you need. If they don't offer, then ask. There is nothing wrong with asking people to bring a dessert or a salad to help out. Once you start doing this they will often just volunteer to bring things the next time.