Last Minute - Ordinary Meal!

One night, last week, we had an ordinary dinner, but with very special friends.

I didn’t know I would be having dinner guests - it just worked out that way. After a long day, our friends came to pick up their child, so we asked them to join our family for dinner.

I didn’t stress over what I was cooking, but I did think for a minute if I had enough food.

It reminds me of the question that one of my readers, Lisa, recently asked:

I would love to hear your tips on preparing for last minute or surprise guests. Years ago I had some recipes for meals that were completely from the pantry- but as I remember them they all tasted too canned and processed. I love having an item or two in the freezer, but I don't have a large freezer so that's a limited option for me and sometimes a hurried defrost affects the quality of the food. Any special hints or tips?

My originally-planned dinner was turkey breast, mashed potatoes and broccoli. I knew we could make the turkey breast stretch to feed another family because I usually buy this meat (Costco) knowing I can get 2 meals out of it! It’s easy to throw in a couple more potatoes, and I changed the broccoli to a large salad and pulled 2 loaves of bread out of the freezer to bake.

What do I Keep on Hand for Guests?
Here are some homemade items that I keep on hand, for last minute dinner guests:
Frozen lasagna
Frozen Potpie (just add fresh vegetable and crust, and then bake)
Turkey breast (kept in refrigerator)
Spaghetti Sauce (pre-made and frozen)
Ground turkey, already seasoned (frozen) to make FRESH enchiladas or tacos
Leftover meat (frozen) to make a “fresh” potpie or casserole

My fridge always has fresh veggies and salad greens, and I keep a loaf or two of Costco’s wheat bread in the freezer. (Remember all you have to do is bake a frozen loaf at 350, for 23 minutes? Crunchy and delicious!)

It was simple and tasty, Yes! But seriously, this ordinary meal was not the highlight of the evening at all, although we raved over the delicious, tender meat and fresh salad. The highlight was when we went around that table and shared about our day – all of us from ages 5 to 45 – and we laughed and laughed as we shared funny stories. Humor is always welcomed at our dinner table.

And what I love, is that it was another memory created for all of the kids. I’m so glad I was open to “last minute,” and I didn’t get hung up on all the “entertaining” details that could have overwhelmed me or bogged me down.

Do you feel like you are open to last minute guests, or do you feel like you need a certain amount of time to prepare?

(If you didn't get to read, Finding God in the Mundane ... hop on over to Crosswalk.com and read, Finding God in the Everyday Tasks of Homemaking, here!)


Sandy Toes said...

I do have last minute guests..sometimes when we are leaving for church we will just invite a family. Many times on Sunday I use the crockpot..throw together a salad...we have ice cream in the freezer and make a quick ice cream sundae bar....mix up a frozen lemonade in a pitcher with a slice of lemon. I use to stress out but most people just love the fellowship!

Your salad looks wonderful and I love the idea about the frozen bread!

Great post!
-Sandy toes

ValleyGirl said...

Last minute or surprise guests are my biggest hospitality nightmare!!! I really need to follow your advice and plan better so that I can feel comfortable with a bit more spontaneity!!

Christine Lynn said...

Thanks to my kids I have learned to stretch meals! I never know if it is going to be just my husband and I or six others... I don't really stress over the food as much as I do over the comfortable state my house is usually in...lol I guess I have come to view it as a time to fellowship more than anything, although this state of mind has taken me awhile to get to. I do like the idea of a couple frozen loafs of bread in the freezer. Thanks for your ideas here.

Tamara Jansen said...

I love the spontaneous drop in dinner! I'm not as good as my sister at making sure to have enough food in the pantry for just such an occasion but......there's always a slice of bread to top everyone up.

It's the memory of a good time that lingers :)

AmyOK71 said...

I think that I am one who needs time to prepare. I always feel like I need to make a big dinner is we have guests. Occasionally we will have one of my daughter's friends for dinner and I don't stress as much for that but if it were a family coming to dinner I would be planning like a mad woman! I love the idea of having bread in the freezer and will definitely be buying more and doing that. Thanks, I love this blog, I learn something new every time I read it and I will try to follow the advice too :)

Juliana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Juliana said...

I just love you blog! It is filled with so many neat ideas.
About last minute surprises, I'm not sure. If it's someone that comes to my house frequently I don't mind inviting them at the last minute. Otherwise, I like to have at least a day in advance to have them over.

Lisa B. said...

Hi Sandy...nice to hear from you...thanks for your post on my blog.

I love your blog and check it often, I am always encouraged by your posts and love your meals ideas and table settings.

You're a great encouragement to "keep on" even when others don't always return the blessing.

Have a great day!

Ginger@From The Cocoon said...

I have to admit that I prefer some notice...part of my OCD behavior and not being prepared. These tips are great! Thanks!!

RosyRose said...

what a delightful site you have! My friend told me about it over coffee yesterday.
I have lots of guests, many of them at the last minute because that's the kind of people we are. One time my niece invited over 20 kids here on a Sunday eve after church. It was scary to come home with 13 kids on my front porch, knowing my dining table was full of folded laundry from yesterday! I got in there from the garage and did the hide the dishes in the oven, throw the laundry back in the basket trick. The kids had a great time--And we did too! Thanks for your inspirations! Blessings!

Rhonda said...

I'm great with drop-in kids and teens, but...I'm not usually so ready-at-the-last-minute for families. I wish I was. I really, really want to be. Thanks for the tips! You make it all seem so much simpler!

G. said...

What great tips! I find myself inviting guests over impromptu when I know that what I planned on making feeds alot. I usually plan all of my meals a week ahead so sometimes If we have people over last minute I'll swap meals and make one that feeds more than just a few and then not plan on leftovers. I have a question for you...I often wonder if you have to serve a dessert or not. I always feel like I need to have one but, If people come over at the last minute, I often don't have one planned. What would you do, or what do you do?

Mod Girl said...

I enjoyed this post... very "real life"!

Exercising hospitality is a delight for me but I'll be the first to tell you that with little ones I've subscribed to the belief that it is hard to do.

A few weeks ago we had a similar impromptu meal in our home with another family and it was such a blessing. I held to our typical Saturday lunch fare -- grilled hot dogs, sandwiches, chips, and fruit and it was quite easy. The kids ran in and out of the house playing while we adults chatted around the kitchen island.

I experienced firsthand that hospitality is really only as hard as I make it. If I focus on loving others first and offer what we have with generosity and grace our meal and fellowship will be easy, enjoyable and edifying. What could be better?

Anna said...

Gosh I need to take this advice! Unfortunately I do freak out a 'little' with last minute guests. Usuallyu it doesn't even have anything to do with the food but rather more that I would like to have enough time to get the house 'perfect'. Therein is the problem and my husband is constantly telling me that it does not in fact need to be perfect!

Jen said...

First of all your salad looks awesome...I dont have last minute foods for meals...now snacks and appetizers I can do.....

Kirstin said...

Because we're pastors and we just do alot with young people...I'd often get a phone call from hubby saying "so and so is coming to dinner"...often times I had to think do I have enough food. 9 times out of 10 I've made it work. If I was short something, he would ask them to pick something up and they're always willing. A few times he showed up at the door with someone extra, but I don't totally mind...I did tell him it would be nice if he called me first so I made sure I made enough. C(:

Betts said...

I usually plan ahead for guests, but there have been a few times where I've paused to think about quantity and said, "Why don't you stay for dinner?" I love the looks of surprise that question can elicit. Perhaps they can't imagine doing something like that themselves.

~j~ said...

Love that table setting! It's so simple and elegant! I love having unexpected guests for dinner, it's always amazing how there always seems to be enough...

Ms. Tee said...

We don't have a lot of families at the last minute, but we do have extra neighborhood kids sometimes!

I love the idea about the fresh bread. It's funny how memories can be attached to aromas like that - the smell of bread in the oven reminds me of my childhood. What a great thing to do - we have Sam's here - maybe they have some!

Thanks for the ideas and have a great weekend :)

Org Junkie said...

I've done the last minute thing on a few occasions since I started reading your blog and it really wasn't as bad as I thought. In fact it was less stressful because I didn't have time to worry about anything!

Grace said...

it doesn't sound like you need any help dealing with last minute guests! i live way out of the way, so i don't deal with too many drop-ins, but i'm glad to have a plan if that changes! :)

Life in the Bizzy Lane said...

thanks for the awesome tips!
this sounds small but for last minute guests i keep spoons dipped in chocolate in the freezer for acoffee treat!

lazy susie said...


Your post stuck in my head all day yesterday. We live in the country, and rarely get drop-ins. If someone is dropping off a child, the rest of the family is usually at home (big families!).

But I kept thinking about it...

Then at 4PM when I realized that I had an empty seat at the table (teen at sporting event), I called up a widow and invited her to fill it. She said, "Well, bless your heart!" That's a phrase I love hearing.

She asked if it was a special occasion; I told her that it was just a simple family meal. She was delighted to join us.

She brought brownies and homemade jelly and a wee autumn candle for our table.

I am going to try to remember to do that more. Elderly folk eat so little that it is easy to include them without worrying about running low.

Thanks for planting the idea. God bless!


Apron Thrift Girl said...

Well at the moment I need to refill the pantry so I'm struggling to get meals on the table for us. This weekend though I'm planning to restock and hopefully be open to last minute guests coming for dinner. I love the idea of it and I hope by next weekend I'll be prepared.

Dee Light said...

Sides are always a great way stretch a meal. Thanks for sharing your tips. It sounds like you had a great time.

Do I feal prepared for the unexpected guests? Yes, but I gues it sort of depends on my day. But like you said the food was great, but not the most important thing. We should all keep that in mind.

Amie said...

I'm wide open for last minute guests. Enough food...very important. But like you said, things can be stretched and added without too much of a problem. I think pasta is a wonderful way to stretch a meal...and steamed frozen veggies or bread.

Amie said...

I loved Susan's comment about inviting their elderly neighbor! Sweet!

Bahama Shores Mama said...

I often have unexpected guests. My husband is a college coach and he is often bringing a player home for dinner.

And we seem to have one of those homes where people don't feel the need to leave :) Even when we have playdates with the mom and kids, husband's will call from work and end up coming over to join us for dinner.

I love those nights....

Lisa said...

Thanks for addressing my question! You have great ideas and a great perspective. I love to plan ahead, but I want to remain flexible for those last minute "God appointments" and I agree that the fellowship is always so much more important than the refreshments! I have gotten away from the pre-prepped items in my freezer, and that is a great idea I should begin to do again. A package of cooked taco meat doesn't take any more freezer space than a package of raw hamburger, but the meal pulls together so quickly.

Thanks for helping us keep it simple and focus on the priorities!


Belinda said...

Ohhh! Last minute guests is a skill I definitely have to work on. Lots of ides in your post! Thanks!!

Belinda (who is hosting a bible study on her blog - my first one! - come join me at http://careerasamum.blogspot.com/2008/10/bible-study-welcome.html)

:..Rebekah..: said...

I LOVE the napkins!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a great post! We do have last minute guests from time to time. Sometimes it's for dinner, sometimes an impromptu lunch. Sometimes it's just something as simple as having one of the mom's from the school bus stop over after school for fresh baked cookies. That's always fun because we get to chat while the kids can unwind from school and play together! I used to stress about it thinking everything had to be just perfect, but I realize now that people are more comfortable with imperfection!

I'm so glad I found your blog. It's very inspiring! I hope you don't mind if I add you to my blogroll. I'd love to come back again for another visit!

Have a great weekend,

sarah said...

looks like a very nice dinner table for a spur of the moment thing...love it!


Demara said...

I am definitely not ready 'food-wise' for last-minute guests, but perhaps my husband is (he's the one that cooks). I AM however ready to entertain them, I think. We haven't had guests for a while...but it was great to read about yours!

Gombojav Tribe said...

Spur of the moment gatherings are usually the ones I cherish the most!

I just found your blog, via Lady Dorothy's.

I'll be visiting again!


Barb said...

This is the kind of event that would normally freak me out - unexpected guests for dinner. You make it look so simple to make just a few simple changes and suddenly it's easy. I'm sure I'm never going to forget this post.