How family dinner can save you money

By , Guest blogger

One of my readers recently wrote to me, telling me about the “family dinner night” they host. Here’s how it works.

Once a month, on a set day that everyone knows about (they do it on the second Friday of each month), they have a “family dinner night.” Once you’re invited to this event, you’re always invited. “Family,” to them, includes everyone important to them, regardless of whether they’re

About a week beforehand, they send out an email to everyone who is invited and whose address they have, announcing the theme and asking for help in preparation. Attendance is not required; it’s just something available for those who want to attend.

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Those who can help will show up about an hour before the meal to assist in dealing with the meal prep and often bring an item or two to pitch in.

The meals themselves are “assembly line” meals – tacos, grilling, salad night, soup night, finger food night – which means that as people arrive, they can go through the “buffet line” and fill up their plate.

They usually put extra effort into a few specific elements of the meal, like making fresh salsa for the taco night or carefully marinating a pork loin on grilling night or making a great from-scratch dressing on salad night or from-scratch breadsticks for soup night. You get the idea.

This provides a social evening for the hosts without an incredible cost (yes, there’s the food cost, but it’s often reduced by people showing up early and bringing stuff). Even better, a few of their friends have started hosting their own “family dinner night” on different nights during the month.

I think this is a spectacular idea in many, many ways.

It’s a great way to add a low-intensity regular social event to your calendar. These are the kinds of things that build bonds long-term with your friends and acquaintances.

It allows you to mix social circles. You likely have valued friends and family from different “circles” who have never met each other and interacted. Having them meet in a very casual environment like this is a very good thing, as you can often bring about new connections, friendships, and even (sometimes) deeper relationships.

It’s inexpensive. Such buffet-style meals are usually fairly inexpensive on their own and they get cheaper if you have friends that bring pieces of the buffet, too.

It’s replicable. It often spawns similar events from other friends and family members on other nights during the week. Obviously, you have a very high likelihood of being invited.

In fact, my wife and I are considering starting our own “family dinner night” in June or July, once our child has arrived. We have hosted dinner parties before, but this moves the whole thing into a more casual domain.

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