4 Ways to Save Money on Meals While Hosting Out-of-Town Family

by Jessica Sommerfield · 3 comments


When you live on the other side of the country from your extended family, it’s a special treat when they come to spend a few weeks with you for the first time. Not only do you get to spend quality time together, but you get to show them your neck of the woods and play the role of tour guide for a change. Hosting and introducing the family to your state or region may be fun, but it can also be really expensive — especially if you’re used to living frugally.

If you have out-of-town family visiting this summer, here are some practical ways to address the financial strain it might create without letting it stress you out or take away from enjoying the time you have with your guests.

1. Start anticipating and stocking up on foods they enjoy.

Everyone has their own favorite go-to products, brands, and eating habits. While your guests may politely eat your organic, all-natural peanut butter, they may be secretly wishing they’d brought their own stash of JIF. It can get expensive to purchase items you don’t normally use just to have them in stock for your guests, but it’s also a part of being a good host who tries to make visitors feel as at-home as possible.

To prepare, ask them to get you a list of their favorite snacks and staples and start looking for sales ads, digital and print coupons, and close-out deals. Purchasing these items on sale will put less stress on your grocery budget while still accommodating your family members’ taste buds.

2. Eat at home as much as possible.

It can be tempting to get carried away by taking everybody to all your favorite restaurants around town. After all, it’s a special occasion! Unfortunately, this can also de-rail your usual eating-out budget much faster than a slightly higher grocery bill, even if you split the tab. The first tip is to make meals at home several nights a week and keep eating out for on-the-go weekend tourist activities. Even if you don’t enjoy cooking or think you’re good at it, choose the few things you do well and your efforts will shine. Grilled burgers with unique toppings or homemade pizzas are a few fun, cost-efficient options.

When you do eat out, focus on restaurants that double as entertainment or ambiance – something memorable, not just your everyday chain restaurant. Since these types of places tend to be more expensive, keep your eyes on Groupon, other deal apps, and local coupons in the mail that can save you as much as 50 to 75%. If you haven’t already, set your favorite site’s preferences to receive email alerts for restaurant deals.

3. Use your dinnerware.

It’s easier to grab a pack of paper or plastic dinnerware when you’re feeding a few more mouths, but the costs add up fast too. If there’s ever a time to use your own dishes, it’s when you have guests. After all, guests are usually eager to pitch in and help clean up the dishes or at least load the dishwasher.

4. Stick to your routine.

Your guests don’t expect you to prepare a four-course meal for them every day. They probably don’t eat like that at home, and neither do you. For instance, if you tend to eat light breakfasts, offer your guests options, but don’t feel like you need to prepare a buffet breakfast bar every day. Instead of assuming they expect large breakfasts or dessert every night, take the pressure (and expense) off by sticking close to your usual meal routine. They’ll understand.

Entertaining out-of-town family is a blast, but it doesn’t have to blow your grocery budget or go against your frugal kitchen habits. Expect to spend a little more while your guests are in town, but prepare ahead of time, look for deals, and stick to your routine in ways that are both manageable and courteous.

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  • This is, more or less, what we also do when family and close friends come visit 🙂

    We live abroad, so the only way we see our loved ones is by visiting each other. So, in order to not break the bank, my significant other and I just go about our normal lives, while enjoying our visitors’ company.

    Cooking for more people does indeed cost extra, but that has never been an issue. In fact, home cooked meals are ‘the norm’ when people come visit for a few days, especially because I love cooking and I always insist on preparing recipes from the local cuisine (Italian food is just awesome!)

  • This is a great post! We face this challenge every time our daughter (and sometimes her friends) come home for a visit from college. It’s expensive! 🙂 These tips are fantastic though and very useful. Thanks.

  • Connie says:

    My dear sister fed us and her 3 daughters and their families for 4 main meals when we visited to help with some major farm clean up chores. She was so organized. She cooked a lot ahead and froze (maid rites, dessert bars), made easy lasagna one night, made great ham and cheese sandwiches with Hawaiian rolls, made use of easy muffin mixes plus easy cold cereals for quick breakfasts. Easter dinner was a nice beef roast. She did this all while directing and participating in most of the farm clean up process. I plan on emulating her “plan ahead process” when 2 of my daughters visit for a week in July.

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