I love even the word hospitality. It brings about memories of
neighborhood boys reaching in the ever-filled cookie jar, meals shared with
friends, college students enjoying hamburger dip and corn chips as they discuss
deep theology and the basketball team, tea parties, a wedding open house,
homeschool graduation, and sipping coffee with a good friend.
These days I deal with the fatigue which comes from over a decade of living
with a chronic illness. While I no longer can whip up a last minute
gourmet meal, I can be prepared in such a way that opening my home to family
and friends is still possible. I have prepared ahead by stocking my Hospitality
What is a Hospitality Pantry?
It was in a book by Emilie Barnes that I first read about the concept of a Hospitality
Pantry. It differs from keeping items in our normal pantry as
these are specifically set aside for those times we have guests in our home.
Whether it is a full meal for a visiting family or tea time with a friend,
planning ahead for guests makes the difference between me enjoying hospitality
or feeling tense when someone stops by because I have nothing to offer.
These days I try to keep at least a couple main dishes and perhaps a side
dish or two in the freezer. I know women who plan ahead by doubling their
main dishes when preparing their family’s dinner and freezing half for
later. Others prepare a few dishes just for the freezer on a scheduled
By having meals in the freezer that can be popped in the oven and heated at
the last moment, it does give freedom to invite family and friends to share a
meal… even after working full time or spending the day with adorable but
I must admit, there have been many times in my life when my freezer meals
were made by Stouffer’s but sometimes good enough is… good enough. As
with anything, if we wait until we have the perfectly prepared pantry or a
filled freezer then we will come to the end of our life without offering
hospitality to anyone.
Of course, we can open our home to others without offering a full
meal. Living with intense fatigue, I most often serve beverages and
“something baked” when I invite people over.
I was already thinking of this post when I read the story of unexpected
company dropping by on the Mountain Musings
blog. They were able to enjoy a time of fellowship together with a pie
defrosted from the freezer. Now, I don’t know about you but give me
coffee and pie and I’m a happy guest!
At one time I had planned on becoming a pastry chef so baked goods are my
specialty. Many baked items freeze beautifully. My daughter
and I recently catered my son’s wedding reception and we started baking for the
freezer a month ahead of the wedding!
If wrapped to prevent freezer burn, unfrosted layer cakes , cupcakes, and
cookies all freeze well and only need to be defrosted when company stops
by. One can either make a quick homemade frosting or keep containers of
frosting on hand (when whipped with the tiniest amount of milk or cream, they
are much more like homemade).
I have kept my Hospitality Pantry in various areas over the years. As
with any pantry, you have to make certain it is not in an area that gets too
hot or damp, and the items are protected from harm (ants, mice, etc.). I
have some items in an antique cabinet in my kitchen but I’ve also used a large
Rubbermaid container on a shelf in the garage.
Stocking the Hospitality Pantry
Since circumstances can prevent stocking the freezer with home baked
goodies, I like to keep a couple boxes of Pepperidge Farm or various gourmet
brands of cookies in the Hospitality Pantry. Nothing
expensive but a brand I know is dependable for guests.
If you have small children stopping by your home, child friendly cookies
with no artificial colorings would be helpful to have on hand. I used to keep
shortbread, Nilla wafers, and those little crackers one uses in their clam
chowder. My sister kept animal cookies on hand when Christopher was
little and he adored her for it.
In my regular pantry, I have a few boxes of mixes (brownie mix, cake mix,
scone mix, etc.) that I use from time to time. I prefer making things from
scratch but there are days if I don’t use a mix, it will not happen… and my
son likes the boxed brownie mix better than mine. Sigh…
I do want to do a little something more than put everyone on a sugar
high. I purchase blocks of cheese when they are on sale and keep good
quality crackers in the Hospitality Pantry. Since they are my
“go to” meal when I don’t feel well (along with a piece of fresh
fruit), I normally have them available for guests, too.
I also stock up on cream cheese when it goes on sale, there is an abundance
of both sweet and savory recipes which have cream cheese as their base.
Should you be opening your home to teenagers and college students, they are
the easiest to feed! I used to keep the ingredients for making our
favorite hamburger dip on hand as well as microwave popcorn, chips, salsa in a
jar, and frozen appetizers they could bake themselves… and most importantly,
clean up themselves!
For last minute grownup meals, I keep rice and pasta for a quick meal by
adding a favorite condiment. I currently have a few favorite items such
as Thai Peanut Sauce, a jar of Alfredo Sauce, and the ever present Marinara
Sauce in the pantry.
All are good quality that can be used to make a main dish just as they are
or “doctored” with favorite extras such as fresh Parmesan cheese for
the Italian dishes. When using such items, remember to never serve to
guests what you have not already tried with the family!
For kid friendly meals, there is nothing like having a few boxes of Amy’s
Mac and Cheese in the pantry. Kids also love little tea sandwiches and
most will think canned fruit is exceptional if served along with the sandwiches
on a pretty dish.
A few friends of the family are vegetarian so I always keep items on hand to
make meals that contain no meat. For instance, a lentil soup can be put
together quickly and only takes about an hour to simmer.
Some other suggestions are: coffee – regular and decaf, flavored
syrups for coffee, plain and flavored cream for coffee, various types of tea,
iced tea mix, lemonade mix, hot chocolate mix or cocoa, Splenda for those
needing artificial sweeteners, and if one must… soft drinks even though I
discourage them in my family these days.
I have collected pretty dishes and serving pieces through the years, most
quite inexpensively purchased at thrift stores and garage sales. I love
to set a pretty table.
However, I also keep paper plates and disposable cups on hand at all
times in my Hospitality Pantry. There are stores in my town that
sell beautiful paper plates and napkins at “clearance” prices.
Since we eat with our eyes… setting a simple but pretty table will make
the most humble of foods appear as a feast.
A Pantry Postscript
I love cookbooks, so much that I read them as one does a classic novel…
and you know what I discovered long ago? A good cookbook or cooking
magazine can be one of the best investments you can make.
You will do a lot of cooking in your role as mother and perusing cookbooks
and cooking magazines will provide the information needed in this role as
homemaker. I give you permission, within your budget obviously, to build
a homemaking library.
Let’s say you pay $20.00 for a cookbook filled with recipes you know you
would enjoy making. Then let’s say you only find two recipes you will use
for your family. Even then… that means you have two recipes you will
use over and over, most likely for years. Better yet if the cookbook
gives advice on how to cook and bake!
Magazines are getting expensive but I find locating very good recipes even
easier in them. Most likely because food magazines tend to be somewhat
specialized in the audience they want to reach.
Magazines like Taste of Home and Paula Deen often provide
simple recipes while Bon Appetit is there for the gourmet. Some
food magazines are associated with a season or holiday and while they tend to
be more expensive than the others, they are good to keep on the shelves to use
year after year.
Remember… you will only become skilled at what you do often.
Expand your skills by reading, watching cooking shows, and even taking cooking
classes. I don’t believe anyone is a bad cook… only an uninformed cook.
My Hospitality Hero
I once wrote a blog post where I shared my hospitality hero. He
is Mole… as in The Wind in the Willows, instead of Martha…
as in Stewart. Mole offered what was in his cabinet at the
moment. With just a little preparation, so can you.
What are some of your tips for preparing to offer hospitality to others? What items do you like to have on hand to serve those who enter your home?
This post is part of our Hospitality series, featured at Mom Heart throughout the month of September. Click on the Hospitality image in the sidebar to see all the posts in this series so far!