Living in New Orleans, it isn't difficult to convince family and friends to come visit for a few days, which is why our extra bedroom has been more guest room than office in the year since my family and I moved here. We rarely had weekend guests when we lived in Los Angeles, so figuring out how to plan with, shop for, and feed a houseful of guests has been a learning process, but we've finally landed on what works for us.
Here's how I make sure guests are happy and well-fed all weekend, while keeping it low-stress and easy for me.
If you haven't already read it, check out Faith's post on 10 things she does to prepare for houseguests, which has some great tips for getting ready both in the kitchen and elsewhere in the house.
→ Read more: 10 Little Things I Do for Houseguests
Keep a running list of restaurants you like.
Some friends have favorite spots they tried years ago, or places they've read about, but most people who visit don't care about doing a ton of pre-trip research. They just want to try some of the restaurants my husband and I love. I am notoriously terrible at remembering my favorite restaurants offhand, which is why I keep a running list of places we have tried and really liked. This doesn't just apply to nicer dinner spots; it's also useful to have a list of more casual spots for lunches or easy dinners out.
If you want to get a little geekier about it, you can create a custom Google Map and email it to guests before their arrival.
Figure out a rough plan for meals.
Here in New Orleans, dinner reservations are essential on weekend evenings, so I usually shape the meal itinerary around where we have to make reservations. Our usual itinerary with guests looks something like this:
My Weekend Guest Itinerary
Day 1: Thursday
- Guests arrive in the afternoon
- Early evening drinks & snacks while we discuss the plan for the weekend
- Casual dinner out at a restaurant nearby
Day 2: Friday
- Coffee & breakfast at home
- Lunch out while exploring town
- Dinner out at a nice restaurant
Day 3: Saturday
- Coffee & breakfast at home
- Lunch out or picnic lunch eaten at a park
- Dinner cooked together at home (or out at a nice restaurant)
Day 4: Sunday
- Coffee & breakfast at home (or brunch out at a restaurant nearby)
- Guests depart in the afternoon
Since we live in such a food-focused town, this schedule gives plenty of opportunities to try local restaurants, but it also gives us a lot of time to relax in the morning with our often jet-lagged guests.
Friends who love eating out are happy to try another restaurant on their last night in town, but I actually prefer when guests choose to stay in that night, and we spend an unhurried evening cooking, drinking wine, and maybe playing a board game together.
Go grocery shopping.
Before guests arrive, I do a big shopping trip for all the drinks, snacks, and breakfast supplies we will need for the weekend. I also buy ingredients for one simple meal that we can cook on the last evening. (If we don't end up cooking this meal because our guests want to eat out or just want to eat something else, I cook it for dinner after they leave.)
My Weekend Guest Grocery List
- Non-alcoholic drinks
- Wine and/or beer
- Coffee beans
- Milk, half-and-half, or other coffee additions for guests
- Ingredients for Breakfast Day 2
- Ingredients for Breakfast Day 3
- Shelf-stable snacks (chips, nuts, crackers, etc.)
- Refrigerated snacks (crudité, cheeses, dips, etc.)
- Ingredients for Dinner Day 3
- Ingredients for Breakfast Day 4
- Sandwich fixings and other picnic supplies
What to Serve
I usually make a snack (or two) that keeps well in the refrigerator before guests arrive, and focus most of my cooking on breakfasts during their visit, with an easy dinner thrown in.
Simple but satisfying snacks.
I like having a few snacks on hand for nibbling with pre-dinner drinks and chatting, or to tide over anyone who is feeling hungry between meals. Because the food here in New Orleans is typically quite rich, I try to keep snacks on the lighter side. Crudité and dip, nuts, a good soft cheese, and crackers are some of my favorites.
Guest-Friendly Snack Recipe Ideas
Healthy and hearty breakfasts.
Since I don't typically cook a lot of dinners while guests are in town, I enjoy making sit-down breakfasts on the mornings when I don't have to work. With days that usually include a lot of walking and heavy eating, I like to prepare breakfasts with a lot of protein, fiber, and fruits or vegetables that will keep guests satisfied but not weighed down until lunchtime. Big vegetable frittatas, baked oatmeal, protein-rich baked goods, and fruit salads (or breakfast salads!) are a few options that are easy to make for a group.
Guest-Friendly Breakfast Recipe Ideas
Mostly hands-off, easy dinners.
When we have friends in town, I'd rather be relaxing with them than working in the kitchen, so I like preparing dinners that are very forgiving, so I can easily delegate cooking tasks to any guests who want to help out. Curries, chili, roasted vegetables, braised meat, or assemble-your-own meals like tacos are all crowd-pleasers that don't require too much hands-on time. They also make good leftovers for anyone looking for a late-night snack!
Guest-Friendly Dinner Recipe Ideas
Do you have any tips (or favorite recipes) for feeding weekend guests? What is your approach?