Sponsored/affiliate disclaimer: This post includes an Amazon Affiliate link to the Ninja Coffee Bar System. I received a Ninja Coffee Bar System from Ninja as compensation for my review of that product. In addition, should you click my Cyber Monday link to the Ninja Coffee Bar System, I may receive a percentage of the sale from Amazon as compensation. Thank you.
I live near a popular tourist destination and often have guests staying in my home. Is it expected or necessary that I cook all or most meals for my guests for the duration of their stay?
Should the guest offer to cook some meals or treat their hosts at a restaurant, and if so, how often? Would it be rude of me to ask my guests not to cook their own food in my kitchen during the time when I’m preparing family meals?
Signed, “So Tired of Attempting Big Breakfasts for You”
What a great question, thank you! I can definitely relate. Since our family moved to central Florida, we have had more guests in one year than we had in over a decade in Chicago. I think we counted 17 families last year—Disney and Universal, we should be on your payroll!
Having guests should be fun, but it is true, it can also be stressful. Prepping the house, helping folks plan tourist excursions, and just having your schedule thrown off and people in your space can put a lot of pressure on a host.
Add to that the need boost your grocery budget, have snacks available, and make meals for everyone, and you (and your wallet) can begin to feel worn out by guest visits.
You are right: your home is not a restaurant (or a hotel, for that matter.) I can hear the frustration in your letter—I fear your hospitality has already been taken advantage of, and you may need a temporary break from hosting. Honor existing hosting plan, but then take a breather for a few months. Visit guests at landmarks, for meals, etc., but keep your home for your own family for a respite, and you might feel more ready to host in the future.
Once your guest suite is open for business again, the critical part to making hosting work best for you is to state as clearly (and kindly) as possible what you will be able to do for guests while they are visiting prior to their arrival. Not making breakfasts? Let them know where to pick up cereal or pastries. Need them away from your stove while you are getting your kids ready for school? Tell them they can cook dinners, but hot breakfasts aren’t a possibility.
Here’s where it gets sticky: I cannot guarantee that every guest will honor your boundaries. Some guests are exceedingly thoughtful and actively appreciative to their hosts, others go into “vacation mode” and seem to be clueless as to the impact their presence has on the daily runnings of the home in which they are staying.
We have found that the most frustrating aspect to hosting comes when individuals aren’t reading the feel of the room. Sometimes we like nothing more than lazily hanging out over coffee and visiting. Other times, though, we actually have to get to work: we aren’t on vacation, after all.
If a guest says they will be leaving to see the sites by 9:00 a.m., and they are still in their pajamas at 11:00 a.m., you can be happy that they feel welcomed and relaxed, while simultaneously wondering if you will ever get to your to-do list. The feelings aren’t mutually exclusive, and “host guilt” will make you reluctant to say, “I wish I could chat with you all day, but I really must go.” I get that.
Do your best, and don’t be afraid to let guests know when you need a little more space or can’t provide them with a meal. I know it can be difficult, but it is much better to gently remind them of the limitations at your home (and in your kitchen) than to become resentful and bitter throughout their stay.
The last thing you want to do is to lash out at the end of the visit, saying something like, “Do you know how expensive this was?” or “I just want people out of my kitchen, it’s making me nuts!”
It’s also absolutely fine to tell folks that you love having guests, but you have a lot because of your location. While you’d love to do all of the cooking for everyone at each visit, it just isn’t feasible.
Let me address your specific questions. Is it expected that you provide every meal? Should they cook for you or take you out? Is it rude to ask them to stay out of the kitchen while you are using it? Here are my bullet-point thoughts:
- It is lovely if you have basic necessities available, or at least make room in the fridge and pantry for some of their staples. This isn’t the same as making meals, it is simply making guests feel at home within your home (and ensures no one gets grouchy from hunger.)
- Including guests at your meals, as a family practice, is part of the joy of having people in your home; that said, depending on how many days people are staying, asking them for help with groceries and supplies is absolutely acceptable. If someone is spending two nights, making a few dinners is not a hassle. If they are staying two weeks, you aren’t expected to subsidize their vacation meal budget.
- Only ask for guests to cook if you are willing and able to relinquish your kitchen, while simultaneously helping your guests find all the supplies needed to make a meal. It may feel like something you’d like, especially if you aren’t an avid cook, but the reality of it may not live up to your expectation.
- Understand that your schedule absolutely will be disrupted. There is no getting around it. People on vacation aren’t in their normal routine, nor are they in their space—by accepting guests, at all, you are accepting that your normal routine and space will be knocked out of whack.
- Is it okay to ask people to stay out of your kitchen while you are cooking for your family? If the expectation is that they will make their own meal using your kitchen, you have to negotiate time—or shifts—in the kitchen. It would be horribly rude to make them sit and watch you cook and eat during normal meal hours while they are hungry, forcing them to eat late; at the same time, if it is clear that you aren’t serving them dinner and it would be a good night for them to eat out, have at it.
- Guests, when staying in a person’s home, you should absolutely consider cooking or taking the host out for a meal as a thank you, particularly if you stay for more than a couple of days. The cost-savings, alone, of staying with a friend (as compared to staying in a hotel or renting a room) is massive. A few meals or groceries shouldn’t be a burden.
- Guests, remember that your host isn’t a short-order cook or a maid, they are a friend or family member excited to see you and happy to help you have a wonderful vacation. Jump in where you can to be helpful: cleaning dishes, folding laundry, or simply staying out of the way or out of the home when everyone starts to get overwhelmed.
Now, if you are going to cook, I suggest easy, cheap things that you can make in bulk, then just leave in the fridge ready for cold or reheated consumption. Your best bet: couscous. Couscous is so inexpensive, takes minutes to prepare with a little bit of hot water or some broth (use that turkey stock you just made, for example), and is very filling.
Couscous also transforms leftovers into something new. Make a roast or a whole chicken and some veggies on the first night guests arrive, then on day two, make fresh couscous, throw in the shredded meat and veggie leftovers, then sprinkle with a little lemon juice or vinegar to brighten the flavors. Add a can of chickpeas and really bulk it up. Have some jarred artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, or peppers? Throw ’em in. Make it clear that, if people are hungry, there is couscous in the fridge.
Breakfast intrusion seems to be a particular issue for you, so I recommend making the guest room as breakfast friend as possible. Recently, I received a Ninja Coffee Bar System (Affiliate Link) from Ninja for review. Having tested this machine out, I can say with confidence that it would make a terrific addition to a guest suite, as it could provide even the pickiest coffee drinker with a cup of joe they’ll appreciate. Single servings and whole pots of coffee, cold or hot brews, even milk frothed for specialty drinks—this coffee maker could help keep guests in their room and content, so everyone has their own space.
Want to keep them in their room longer? Try the system with the thermal carafe. Affiliate Link
I wish you luck with your revolving guest-room door. May your visitors be gracious, your home be uncrowded, and your dinner plans be reservations at your favorite restaurant.