Should Entertaining Be Part of a Grocery Budget?

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The place where I really struggle in sticking to my grocery budget of $40 a week is with entertaining and taking meals to people. Both of those are things I enjoy, ministries even.

Through Sunday School, I am often called upon to take a meal to a family with a new baby or someone who is sick. I like to bring food into work and be able to help out co-workers who have had surgery or are down for the count. My work team is close-knit and visited me several times when I was on maternity leave (once bringing me a Subway cold cut combo–the pregnancy “don’t” that I craved).

Mr. V and I also love to have people over, despite my abysmal housekeeping. I like to think the meals make up for the state of the house. And when I have people over, I feel compelled to serve salad, main course, sides, dessert–an actual meal, as opposed to what Mr. V and I usually eat (a casserole; a meat and a veggie; grilled cheese). And don’t get me wrong–I LOVE it. I love to feed people and it blesses me to have other enjoy my food.

But usually we do things on the spur of the moment. I don’t take into account a meal for company when I plan our menus, because who knows if we will have people over that week. And so, quite often, I end up spending another $20 here and there at the store buying ingredients for these meals. And then I feel that I’ve gone over my grocery budget–time and again.

What do you do? Do you always have the fixings for a company meal on hand? Or a casserole you can make up in a flash to take to a sick friend? Do you have a separate budget for it? I would love your input on this.

5 thoughts on “Should Entertaining Be Part of a Grocery Budget?

  1. Jessie,

    I would make entertaining a budget item. It sounds like you do it quite often. We work off a cash budget and also sub-categorize our savings. We have our normal tithe but we also have a category for "donations". We allocate a certain amount each month for random things that come up that we want donate to. You could do that for entertaining and friends in need.

  2. I have just been thinking of this same thing. We had 4 other couples over on Sat. night and it really blew the budget … but I love having people over. One alternative is to potluck it … fix the main dish and have other couples bring appetizer, sides and dessert. This softens the blow to the budget a bit. Also, most of the meals I fix serve 4-6 people. So, sometimes, if I have another couple (or family over) I will fix what I was going to fix anyway for the adults and then make hot dogs or something easy for the kiddos. That way, I am not spending any extra money.

  3. Sounds like you need to budget for it – maybe an average of what you've had come up in the last three months? For me, I usually take pasta to people – so that's pretty cheap and often already on hand. But for anything more elaborate than that (like the party we had this weekend for my high school and college friends who have recently turned or are turning 30), I never remember to budget.

  4. Never have had a food budget. We just buy what we need/want/gotta have. When times were leaner, however, I didn't buy things like cookies, snacks, chips, cokes, and so forth. When the kids were in jr high and high school, I never knew how many we'd have for supper or spending the night. But we always managed to have enough and to share.

    Not much help, huh?

  5. Can't really speak for myself (our whole budgeting system needs an overhaul), but my parents (who also entertain and/or provide meals for families they go to church with quite a bit) have a monthly amount budgeted for "Hospitality" and they really stick to it. My mother will adjust her plans regarding the food to fit whatever is left of her budget. Whenever we do finally get our budgeting act back together, I plan to do something similar.

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