10 Money Saving Tips for Playing Neighborhood Hostess
How to Deal with Being the Neighborhood's Best Summer House
Dear April Masini,
Summer's coming, and I'm dreading it. As a stay-at-home mom, I somehow become the neighborhood caretaker. Admittedly, I try to give my kids the best summer possible. We have a swimming pool and I welcome them to invite friends to use it. When the kids are over, I usually provide snacks or lemonade, and out of sheer concern, I'm always watching them when they're in the pool."
But to be honest, sometimes my kids aren't even inviting their neighborhood buddies over. They're dropped off while their parents run a "quick errand" or something and I end up hosting a pool party three days a week!
I don't want to be rude to my neighbors, and I feel like a precedent has been set. How do I get out of this!?
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Super Mom,
One of summer's most common mom problems is being too swell of a hostess -- so swell in fact, that everyone in the neighborhood is sending their kids to your house -- and you're stressed out!
Why? In addition to having your brood plus the neighborhood's broods, kids are hungrier in summer than other seasons because they're active, they're swimming and they're hanging around more and you're stuck feeding them -- all! You don't have to break the bank catering to the neighborhood.
Follow these tips for lunch that works and keeps you from going bankrupt.
- If the children are young enough to be scheduled, schedule play dates from 9-11 or 2-5 so that meals not expected to be served during those times.
- Practice saying the words, "Playtime's over for the next hour! Everyone needs to go home so Janey and Joey can have lunch and some quiet time. If you'd like, you can all come back in two hours." Once you begin saying this, it will get easier. It's also nice for your kids to get some down time.
- Confess your problem to the other moms, who's kids you're feeding. No one will feel badly about being made aware of your problem. You may feel ashamed, but once you see that the other moms are understanding and empathetic -- and maybe even share the same problem -- you'll develop an even closer set of neighbors and friends who will become your problem solving team.
- Schedule lunch at each of seven neighbors house for all the kids each week. You will be happy to be generous for your one day a week when you host -- and you may even save money with this round robin lunch program that is not unlike a neighborhood carpool.
- Make super cheap lunches. PB&J with chips and milk may not be the lunch of champions, but it works. Cold pasta salad is pretty reasonable to make if you supplement it with vegetables and cheese chunks instead of meat. Popsicles by the jumbo box-load fit the bill. Hard boiled eggs with celery sticks and carrot sticks are cheap and easy. You don't have to make veal marsala or broiled salmon for these kids -- they just want to chow down.
- Instead of expensive juice boxes and individual drinks, stock your fridge with big pitchers of water with lemon slices, so even though it's cheap, it will look fancy and special. You'll save tons of money this way and it's healthier than sugary drinks.
- Paper goods can be expensive, so rather than using paper cups, use acrylic, reusable dishes and glasses that don't have to continue to be replaced every time they're trashed.
- Shop smart. Much of the expense of feeding a family or just the friends of all the kids is the last minute shopping trips where impulse buying -- or panic buying -- runs rampant. If you're prepared with a weekly or bi-weekly warehouse, discount store shopping trip, and your pantry is stocked full of bulk food, you're going to save money and cut the stress of "What do I feed everyone??".
- If the kids are old enough, plan a restaurant lunch -- NOT hosted by you. Tell the kids and their parents that you're dropping the tweens or teens at a local restaurant that is appropriate for the kids, and they should each bring enough money to cover their own lunch. Let someone else do the pick up driving since you're doing the dropping off. It gets other parents involved in the problem -- and the solution.