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How do we afford to have people over for dinner? - Page 2

post #21 of 37

We do a 3 lb chicken as 3-4 meals here. There are only two of us, but the key is that we always do roast chicken on shabbat if we do roast chicken. Almost always, I get the chicken in a bit late, so we snack on challah before dinner, and by the time the chicken and veggies are ready, we've eaten half a loaf of challah.  It's not exactly healthy, but we always eat 1/2-3/4 loaf of challah on shabbat, it's our tradition, I guess.  That means we eat a breast or a breast and a half, and veggies.  Then the other breast or half breast gets thrown in with also eggs and tofu in a stir fry, or something where there is just a smidge of chicken, and then we often will do a leg a meal.  Sometimes we'll do two legs in a meal.  Plus wings for lunch.  Basically, even when we do roasted chicken, we don't eat the chicken as the main part of the meal, and every other meal pretty much is chicken in something else. (Like tonight was a chicken leg and two wings in curried lentils and potatoes, and rice.  There are still the wings and lots of curry left for tomarrow's lunch)

But if we have roasted chicken at my mom's house, then yeah, we'll eat most of the chicken in a sitting (4 people). So if you want a chicken to last a long time, I don't recommend eating it as slices of roast chicken.

post #22 of 37

Bean soup and biscuits or tortillas, polenta served with beans and veggies, with pesto if I have some in the freezer stash or the garden has fresh basil for me, or, for something that dresses up nicely, pasta e'fagoli and a salad. Sometimes a big pot of refried beans, salsa, greens and tortillas, or if I want to do something more exciting, I can dip into my freezer stash of tamales ($100 made us more than 16 dozen tamales, split between 5 families, that was 3 dozen tamales for $20 plus plenty to gorge ourselves on the day we made them, I just cooked up a giant pot o'beans to serve alongside, put out chips, salsa and guacamole and we had a party).

 

 

post #23 of 37

We'll often do cheaper cuts of meat for company, like chicken thighs. They grill really well. Or some kind of dish that has meat in it, but isn't all meat, like a casserole or curry. We add lots of filler items, like bread/rolls or salad. Things like beef stroganoff work well because you don't have to use a ton of meat and you can go heavy on the pasta. 

post #24 of 37

Sometimes dh makes barbecue for guests.  It's an all day affair, so it makes it an event.  Pork butt is pretty cheap, too.  I went to a party recently where they served barbecue, and it was a big hit.  You can make 3 or 4 different sauces to try, which is fun, too.

 

I often do Tex-Mex food, heavy on the beans, lighter on the meat.  Even for more traditional meatier dishes, like fajitas, there are enough extras that it cuts down on the meat serving sizes. 

 

At this point in my life, I have 3 little kids under the age of 5, and I try to keep entertaining very, very casual.  This works out for me, because casual is often cheaper, adn it's all good.

 

I almost always serve lemonade, tea, and water in pitchers.  Somehow, having those drinks in pitchers looks fancier than any other options, and people will choose them before anything else.  Cheap, looks pretty, and it's festive.

post #25 of 37

I really like soup for guests.  Soup (veggie or meat), a grean salad and bread. 

 

Sometimes, if we are having more than a couple of people over, I will just make 3 different kinds of soups in crockpots (ie, chicken tortilla, beef barley and cream of potato) and that is always a hit.  soup tends to cost less (and be easier to prepare ahead of time). 

 

If we are talking a fancy dinner party, that is different.  But for casual, regular get-togethers, this is what I usually do.

post #26 of 37
Thread Starter 

This is such a great post!!! Thanks for all the responses. I am bookmarking it so I can come back to it.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smokering View Post

 

Yeah, I don't get it either. I often see people on MDC saying that a chicken will last them for three meals (roast the first night, cold meat for quesadillas/casserole/whatever the second, the remaining meat and bones for chicken soup the third). We buy free-range chickens which are admittedly on the small side compared to conventional ones, but with three adults and a chicken-loving toddler in the house, one will barely feed us for a meal - and that's with roasted veggies and gravy and peas and so on, not just a slab of meat on a plate. Are American chickens so much more gigantic?

 

I do make a chicken casserole quite often for guests - I don't use a whole chicken, but I save a bit by using thigh meat as well as or instead of breast. And like a PP said, the meat does stretch further - people won't eat a whole half-breast when it's cooked in strips in a casserole. I can rarely finish a half-breast myself, so I don't think it's skimping or cheating people to serve them as much casserole as they can eat, knowing they won't be likely to eat as much. 30-40 grams per person does seem on the low side, though...


We are only two people right now... so I can't say how it would be if we had two kids eating food, too, but we can make a chicken last three meals, too. I roast a chicken over carrots, potatoes and onions and then we have that for dinner. Then the next day for lunch, we often eat it again. Then I strip the chicken of whatever is left and have a very small bowl of shredded chicken. I can either throw that in some rice the next day, or add some onions and stuff and make 1 or 2 chicken salad sandwiches. Or I guess we could add a bit to a salad. Then, I take all the bones and skin (I will save them from the different meals, too) and throw everything into a stock pot with maybe an onion, carrot and celery stalk. That makes well over a gallon of stock for us to use in our rice. 

 

But my mom and stepdad brought over a cheap chicken from the grocery store and the 3 of us ate ALL of it. There was almost nothing left. They each had some broccoli and a potato with theirs. I put mine on salad. I think DH and I appreciate an $18 chicken a lot more than a $6 one and we take our time with it and consciously try to stretch it. Well, I know I do at least.

 

post #27 of 37

I'm going to refer back to this thread a lot. I don't know how to cook vegetarian type meals at all. The few that I've tried (either no meat or very low meat) have gone over really badly with everyone at the table. Even dd1 didn't like the honey lentil loaf (I did, but I was the only one). I keep wanting to make more changes in the amount of meat we eat, but I never know where to start, and I'm easily discouraged when the reception is so bad.

 

Maybe I'll try those spicy black bean burgers. It will go badly on the cooking end, because I get insanely frustrated by new recipes, but I think dh might even like them...

 

And, velochic - I like what you said about portions. I usually eat a full half breast myself. I love chicken breast, but I really don't need to eat that much at a meal. DH and ds1 both like the thighs, wings and legs, but the rest of us all eat the breast (ds2 can occasionally be convinced to eat a drumstick). And, I definitely need to make some more stock, but I seem to find it much more hassle/work that most people do, at least the way people talk about it.

 

 

ETA: Of course, we'll see what happens when I have a teenager again. When ds1 was going through his massive growth spurt (he was 12-13, and put on 6" of height and 30 pounds of weight, in six months), it wasn't unheard of for him to eat 4-5 chicken thighs at a single meal.

post #28 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by cristeen View Post



 

Honestly, if the budget is so tight that you're going to try feeding 3 or 4 people off of one half of a chicken breast, I would question why you're feeding company.  If I were your guest, I'd feel extremely guilty, like I was taking food out of your family's mouths.  
 


I realize my point here was not well conveyed. I was not trying to say that you shouldnt have guests. I was trying to say that I would rather eat a bowl of pasta and not kill your grocery budget than have you stressing over how you're going to feed your family the rest of the week/month because you needed to feed me meat.

I was raised in a tradition of feeding guests, and ive lived abroad in that culture also. When we had guests we fed them what we had - in Russia this was bread (we went through 3 loaves/day, minimum) and butter, maybe some cheese or jam, fried potatoes, possibly eggs, pickles, but very rarely meat. If there was a pot of soup on the stove, they'd have some of that. If there was a bowl of crepe batter, they'd eat those. As a family we were only getting meat maybe once a week, and there were 7 of us to feed, so it didnt go far. No guests were offended by the simple fare.

Back here in the US, we mostly only had guests for holidays, where we were going all out (the rest of the year additions to the dinner table were treated as family). Even so, 2 holidays a year were celebrated w the Russian side of the family, and bread played a big role, along w tins of smoked fish, pickles, cheese, etc. There was more quantity than i ever saw in Russia, but the fare was still simple. We made it a point every year to invite non-Russian friends and no one ever would have thought to complain.

I guess what i'm trying to say is that this is very much a first world conundrum. In the rest of the world, people share what they have/can afford without worrying about what their guests are going to think about the quality of the ingredients. In most cultures, so long as the guest doesnt leave the table hungry, they're happy. If you can try to adopt this approach, it's liable to be much less stressful.
post #29 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Storm Bride View Post

And, I definitely need to make some more stock, but I seem to find it much more hassle/work that most people do, at least the way people talk about it.

I used to find it a lot of work, mostly on the straining/cooling/storing end, but we discovered a new technique that works great. We let the stock cool in the stockpot to room tempish, then ladle it out and through a strainer into 1 qt yogurt containers (about 1/2 to 3/4 full), which go straight into the freezer. It saves us a lot of work.
post #30 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by cristeen View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by cristeen View Post



 

Honestly, if the budget is so tight that you're going to try feeding 3 or 4 people off of one half of a chicken breast, I would question why you're feeding company.  If I were your guest, I'd feel extremely guilty, like I was taking food out of your family's mouths.  
 




I realize my point here was not well conveyed. I was not trying to say that you shouldnt have guests. I was trying to say that I would rather eat a bowl of pasta and not kill your grocery budget than have you stressing over how you're going to feed your family the rest of the week/month because you needed to feed me meat.

I was raised in a tradition of feeding guests, and ive lived abroad in that culture also. When we had guests we fed them what we had - in Russia this was bread (we went through 3 loaves/day, minimum) and butter, maybe some cheese or jam, fried potatoes, possibly eggs, pickles, but very rarely meat. If there was a pot of soup on the stove, they'd have some of that. If there was a bowl of crepe batter, they'd eat those. As a family we were only getting meat maybe once a week, and there were 7 of us to feed, so it didnt go far. No guests were offended by the simple fare.

Back here in the US, we mostly only had guests for holidays, where we were going all out (the rest of the year additions to the dinner table were treated as family). Even so, 2 holidays a year were celebrated w the Russian side of the family, and bread played a big role, along w tins of smoked fish, pickles, cheese, etc. There was more quantity than i ever saw in Russia, but the fare was still simple. We made it a point every year to invite non-Russian friends and no one ever would have thought to complain.

I guess what i'm trying to say is that this is very much a first world conundrum. In the rest of the world, people share what they have/can afford without worrying about what their guests are going to think about the quality of the ingredients. In most cultures, so long as the guest doesnt leave the table hungry, they're happy. If you can try to adopt this approach, it's liable to be much less stressful.

 

I definitely agree with this.  Once a month or so we get the whole in-law family together for dinner.  We used to all go out to eat and it would be very expensive!  But now my MIL just makes a huge pot of marinara sauce, cooks some meatballs on the side makes a salad and a loaf of bread.  I think this meal could easily go without the meat balls..but I don't think she spends a ton of money on them.  The meal is fairly cheap and everyone loves it!  No one complains about it being too plain.  The point is to get together and enjoy ourselves..not to impress upon others the extravagance of food fare!
 

 

post #31 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magelet View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by Storm Bride View Post

And, I definitely need to make some more stock, but I seem to find it much more hassle/work that most people do, at least the way people talk about it.



I used to find it a lot of work, mostly on the straining/cooling/storing end, but we discovered a new technique that works great. We let the stock cool in the stockpot to room tempish, then ladle it out and through a strainer into 1 qt yogurt containers (about 1/2 to 3/4 full), which go straight into the freezer. It saves us a lot of work.

 

Yeah - something like this would probably work. I cool it, then strain it into a big container, then scoop it into whatever I'm going to store it in. (One of my problems is also storage. I have very limited space for empty containers, so I've actually been freezing most of my stock in Ziplocs! It's a PITA to fill them).
 

 

post #32 of 37
When we make fajitas I count 1/2 chicken breast per person & if we're not having many people I usually throw in 1-2 onions & some peppers. That along with chips & salsa seems to go a long way.

Something else that I like a lot is to have more small tapas type items instead of an actual sit down dinner. You can make a couple of different kinds of crostini inexpensively for a group - my favorite is one make with zucchini, tomato, onion, garlic & balsamic vinegar but I also like a rosemary cannelini bean puree or sauteed mushrooms with arugula. I also like to make a bean dip with lentils and cumin. You could also make polenta topped with yummies. Another yummy is chickpeas tossed in olive oil, cumin, chili powder & garlic then roasted until toasty. If you just pick a couple of things like that and set them out along with an assortment of pickles/peppers/olives/shaved cheese etc. you end up with something pretty inexpensive & unique.
post #33 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Storm Bride View Post



 

Yeah - something like this would probably work. I cool it, then strain it into a big container, then scoop it into whatever I'm going to store it in. (One of my problems is also storage. I have very limited space for empty containers, so I've actually been freezing most of my stock in Ziplocs! It's a PITA to fill them).
 

 


We used to ziplocks, and it's horrible. It took so much time. Sometimes we'd end up leaving the stock simmering on the stove for 3-4 days, just topping up with water, to avoid bagging them. We had several pots of stock go bad, after we cooled them, but didn't want to bag them and avoided bagging them too long, and forgot them overnight. We save our yogurt containers, they all stack inside eachother so it doesn't take too much space, and it's so much easier.
post #34 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magelet View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by Storm Bride View Post



 

Yeah - something like this would probably work. I cool it, then strain it into a big container, then scoop it into whatever I'm going to store it in. (One of my problems is also storage. I have very limited space for empty containers, so I've actually been freezing most of my stock in Ziplocs! It's a PITA to fill them).
 

 




We used to ziplocks, and it's horrible. It took so much time. Sometimes we'd end up leaving the stock simmering on the stove for 3-4 days, just topping up with water, to avoid bagging them. We had several pots of stock go bad, after we cooled them, but didn't want to bag them and avoided bagging them too long, and forgot them overnight. We save our yogurt containers, they all stack inside eachother so it doesn't take too much space, and it's so much easier.


I'm going to switch - if I can break the "throw the containers in the recycling bin" habit. We eat a lot of yogurt around here...

post #35 of 37

Let your stock simmer down until it is very, very condensed.  Then just let it cool til it gels.  Scoop out onto a cookie sheet and stick in freezer til frozen.  Then bag and pop in freezer.  Or pour into ice trays and then pop into a bag when frozen.  Takes up way less room.  If you don't want the fat that rises, just scrape it off before you use it.  I keep it on ours. 

 

I have found that most people who come to my home for eats understand that they are going to have something they've never had put in front of them.  If they were rude about it, I wouldn't invite them back, but I cannot imagine any grown ups I know (and not even most kids I know) being rude. They might just politely decline.  But MOST people have tried what I made and most people seem to love it.  I make all kinds of things, and many ethnic dishes.  The thing that gets most people when they come here is the meat.  We eat alot of meat because it is easily available to us (our farm, or trapping, fishing, etc).  But the meats are not the same as in a grocery store.  We eat lots of domestic rabbit, goat, feral pig, etc.  We make our own sausage, use goat milk, and lots of our homestead eggs.  I'm a great homestead cook, though, and most people are stuffed when they leave.  I try to have many different dishes to choose from, and I think that is really key to keeping it interesting.  As someone else said, be daring.  Most people around me are pretty mainstream, but even they can be adventurous, lol. 

 

Use what's cheap/easily available to you and what you love to cook.  Others will taste the joy you put into it.  Don't worry about impressing anyone with anything other than flavor! (well, presentation helps since we taste w/our eyes first).  There's simply nothing wrong w/a big ole pot of rice and beans and a platter of raw veggies and home made smoothies or smoothie popsicles for dessert.

 

FTR, I just simmered and deboned 3 fryer size rabbits recently.  I get a bit more meat off of one of those than you would a regular chicken since the meat:bone is higher.  BUT, I have already made 3 meals of tacos (I added cooked black beans), 1 batch of scrapple which was enough for 4 meals if I serve w/eggs, 1 20 ga pot of soup (half of which went in the freezer), 1 big batch of spaghetti (enough for supper for 6, lunch for 6, and several servings into the freezer), 1 stir fry that was big enough to feed all 6 of us, plus 2 adult guests, plus lunch for 2 days afterwards, and still had enough meat to freeze in portions for 5 more meals, which will likely have leftovers for at least 2 people's lunches.  It's all in how ya use it.

post #36 of 37

Pasta with pesto, pasta alla arrabiata (spicy tomato sauce), can you get a whole chicken to roast? It would go further I think, depending on how many guests, plus bones can be used for stock ,etc. Couscous with feta, olives and some red pepper for warm weather, lentils used as a base for a salad type dish or served warm with some homemade bread and olive oil, bean based dishes.   

post #37 of 37

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