Eat Well, Spend Less: Entertaining in Small Spaces

This month in the Eat Well, Spend Less series we’re looking at summer entertaining, and I’ll be taking a look at how to entertain in small spaces comfortably and with ease.

My husband and I enjoy entertaining and always have. We invited over 300 family members to our picnic-style reception, where we provided the food with the help of my loving mother and her sisters. One week after my son was born, we had 50 people over to a backyard “meet the baby” barbecue at our college rental, which also served to host many card nights and dinners with friends.

When we moved to our current house three years later one of the first things we started doing was inviting people over, beginning with a full blown Oktoberfest. Since, we’ve had birthday parties, baby showers and plenty of neighborhood barbecues, each hosting a number of people, who were sometimes all confined to the indoor areas of our modest home.

For us, the first rule in entertaining frugally and hosting events is to host in the space you already have available and make the food yourself. If you were constantly renting out party rooms or pavilions, you are not entertaining on a very tight budget. Same goes for catered food versus food you prepare. Sure, there are certain occasions where stuffing a large number of people into your apartment or condo isn’t plausible, but when you just want to invite friends over for a birthday, a baptism or casual get-together, utilizing the area you’re already paying to live in will leave funds available for food and drink.

While entertaining in smaller areas can be a challenge, especially when having large groups over, we’ve never been deterred. Instead, we focus on getting together with people we love seeing with plenty of food and fun.

Utilizing Space Wisely

  • Use outdoor space whenever possible. During inclement weather this may not be a possibility, but if the sun and temperatures cooperate, that extension of your home can be a lifesaver when the time is right. All you need are a few chairs or a lawn game or two to make the party extend beyond the indoor area of your house.
  • Are you a fan of side tables, coffee tables and knickknacks? It’s time to stash and stow to accommodate guests. It doesn’t take long, but a simple task of moving seating to the outer edges of the room and doing away with coffee tables that crowd walkways will make small rooms feel more inviting and cause there to be fewer people in traffic jams and tripping over each other. Store extra tables in the bedroom with the door closed until guests leave.
  • Make designated kid zones. Giving the kids a project to do or a game to play in a separate area will keep them from being underfoot the entire time guests are over.
  • If you’re doing a sit-down meal, look for ways to get one long table, perhaps even set up in the living room if you’re short on dining space, by expanding your current table with leaves or adding card tables to the ends. Even here, you can utilize buffet serving by having everyone fill their plate along a counter-served buffet prior to sitting down or set up Lazy Susans to make serving easier.
  • Bonus Tip: Bright lights and mirrors can make small rooms feel more open, even when packed with people.

Regarding the Menu

  • Don’t lock yourself down to a sit-down meal; consider the alternatives. Buffets are a great way for people to mingle and munch when they feel the need, keeping seats open for those eating and standing room for the friends who are catching up in the corner. Finger foods work wonders
  • Finger foods are a great way to avoid needing a seat for everyone to sit down and use utensils. Chicken or beef skewers, caprese bites and other poppable appetizers are all good choices.
  • Do as much as possible in advance and choose food that has very little last-minute prep associated with it. Leaving counter space clear for serving or a bar area will help cut down on clutter when working in small spaces. Chose food that is easy to prepare ahead like pasta salads, ribs, or don’t hesitate to make your meal a potluck. (See Jessica and Aimee’s posts for more potluck tips!)

As you prepare to entertain in your small area, remember that the purpose of inviting people over is not about the space you’re inviting them to. Focus on what’s important: the people you’re inviting to share your small space with you.

As always, you can check out what others are writing in the Eat Well, Spend Less series and how they are entertaining this summer:

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  1. Amazing tips as always girl. Now can you invite us over already???

  2. These are excellent tips for entertaining. That food spread looks really superb!

  3. We are moving into a much smaller house next month, and I think these tips will be very helpful. We enjoy having people over (not as many as you, maybe!), but I was feeling a little deterred since our house will be so small.

    • Nikki,
      Don’t be deterred…we too live in a pretty small house (conveniently across the Street from Shaina) and love to throw whopping parties. Some people sit on each other, others just crash on the floor but the reality is, no one cares. It’s just so much fun to be together!

      Party on!

  4. Nice list of some really good tips!


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