Every week we host a family dinner — known as “supper club” — for my Dad, step-mom, grandparents, “brother,” his expecting wife, and occasionally my great grandmother on Tuesdays. If you’re counting that’s a grand total of nine (½ if you count my future neice or nephew) mouths to feed each week. When you’re accustomed to preparing food for only two people, the jump to nine can be dramatic!
I’ve learned a lot about preparing meals for a crowd these past few months, so I thought maybe someone out there might benefit from my experience.
A Basic Formula for Entertaining Large Crowds
I try to follow a basic formula for our weekly dinners:
- one main dish
- a salad
- two or three side dishes
- an easy dessert
- fresh sweet tea; I also have bottled water available in the fridge
- paper plates
- paper napkins
- paper cups
When “supper club” first began, I used our everyday china for dining. After a few weeks of endless dishwashing, I made the switch to paper. It’s saved me a lot of stress, and makes entertaining easy. For holidays or special weeks, I sometimes use themed plates and napkins. After the hot pink and zebra baby shower, we ate on hot pink plates for a couple of weeks.
Sometimes I scour my recipe books for something to fix, other weeks I cook from my freezer, and sometimes I go to the grocery store with an idea and fill in the gaps when I get there. This week, we’re eating from the freezer and deciding on desert at the store.
The weather in Southeast Tennessee has been simply stunning, so I knew we would grill out this week. With that in mind I asked Travis, the grill master, what he felt like grilling. His answer: kabobs; specifically steak and potatoes, bratwurst with shrimp and chicken. With that in mind, I checked the freezer to see what we needed and headed to the grocery store. Here’s what I came back with:
When I’m planning the weekly menu, I also plan to have leftovers for Travis to take to work for lunch. However, some weeks we have very little left over. I also like to think about how I’m going to serve the week’s meal. I try to keep my most used serving pieces easily accessible, such as my salad bowl which used to live tucked away in a closet, but is now proudly displayed in my glass-front kitchen cabinets.
This Week’s Menu:
- chicken and pineapple kabobs with cherry tomatoes and onions
- shrimp and bratwurst kabobs with cherry tomatoes and onions
- steak and potato kabobs
- tossed salad with various dressings
- baked beans
- corn on the cob
- sliced baguette
- strawberry shortcake trifle
Do As Much Prep Work As You Can In Advance
I always try to plan my menus so that much of the prep work can be done well in advance of dinner time. There’s nothing like trying to prepare a huge meal within an hour of your guest arriving all by yourself. I know I can get it all done, but why put myself through that kind of stress?
Here’s what I did in advance this week:
- prepared strawberry shortcake trifle the night before
- cut steak, chicken and pineapple the night before
- marinated meats for several hours in the morning
- prepared salad in the morning
- thawed bread in the afternoon
- thawed corn and removed husks in the afternoon
- assembled the chicken kabobs and shrimp kabobs a couple of hours before they hit the grill
Since all of my major work was done early in the day, it meant I could easily prepare the rest of the meal within the hour of our guests arrival, which was made especially easy for me this week with Travis’ help at the grill.
Key Steps to Hosting a Large Dinner Party
- Plan ahead: prepare your menu and do your grocery shopping at least one day in advance.
- Follow a basic formula when meal planning: one main dish, two or three sides, bread, dessert.
- Ensure you have enough serving pieces for the dishes you want to prepare.
- Use paper plates, napkins and cups to help with cleanup.
- Do as much prep work as you can in advance.
- Keep the beverage options simple offering only one or two choices.
- Salads are easy to prepare in advance and always a crowd pleaser with health-conscious guests.
And, that’s it!
It’s no secret that we do quite a bit of entertaining around here. I’d love to hear what you do to make entertaining at your house simpler.