Thursday, November 15, 2012

Entertaining for Less: Use What You Have

If you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner, you've probably started to think about what your menu will look like and what serving dishes you'll use.  Thanksgiving naturally lends itself to many side dishes, which means many serving dishes.  Are you looking at your serving pieces and thinking to yourself - well those don't match.  Or... do I even have enough?
I recently had a conversation with a co-worker who is hosting Thanksgiving.  She was really excited to use earth-toned pieces of pottery that she has as her serving dishes.  She thought they'd look great at a Thanksgiving table setting - and I agreed.  But she wasn't sure what to do about her dishes because they were stark white and she felt an off-white would go better.  I agree, off white would go better, but that's not what she had, so her options are either to buy off-white plates ($$$), or use what she has (free!).  I suggested that she does a fancy napkin in an earth tone on top of her white plates.  It would break up the starkness of the white and once people put food on their plate, they will never even notice how white the plates look against the earth-colored serving dishes.
Maybe you've been in that situation before, maybe you've never even given it a second thought.  Either way, here are 7 tips for you:
1.  If you own china, use your china.  If you're anything like me, you get to use your china maybe once a year.  You own it, you may as well use it!
2.  If you have a bowl that really doesn't match the rest of your serving pieces, try putting a cloth napkin or two in it, with the napkin overlapping on the sides and use that as your bread bowl.  The napkin will mask the fact that the bowl doesn't really match the rest of your pieces.
3.  Mix and match!  You don't have to have serving pieces of all one color, pattern or style.  Many times an eclectic mix of pieces will look the best.
4.  If you're short on plates, see if you can borrow from a family member.  If you can, then alternate the plates on the table.  It will look as though you did that on purpose to add interest to your table, not that you were short plates!  If you're only short, say two plates, then just place them at the heads of the table.  Again, it will look intentional if placed with thought!
4.  Re-use pieces if you can.  If you serve appetizers, you can quickly clear them away before dinner, wash the dish(es) and put a new side dish in it for dinner. 
5.  Just like with the plates, don't be afraid to borrow from family or friends, especially those who are attending your dinner, because you know they won't be using their dishes!  Borrow bowls, platters, condiment dishes, etc. 
6.  If you have a guest who is bringing a dish to share, ask them to bring it in a dish that can be served out of.  That is one less serving piece for you to find.
7.  Use a fancy plate setting to camoflauge mis-matched plates.  Maybe you end up with a few different patterns of plates on your table.  You can tie them all together with a uniform place setting.  Check Pinterest for inspiration or google "fancy place settings".  You'll find different ways to fold napkins, different ways to lay out your silverware and more!
Most importantly, remember that at the end of the day, it's the memories you make and the laughter you share with your guests that is really going to matter.  No one will remember if everyone ate off of a different patterned plate.  :)

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