...to accommodate unexpected guests.
From time to time we have unexpected guests to join us for a meal. Perhaps friends or relatives drop in, or my husband quite often invites friends and colleagues over at short notice. I have found it really useful to develop a few 'tricks' for stretching a meal to feed an unexpected guest or two (or even more!).
I don't usually serve a starter, but this can help to stretch a meal. This might be as simple as cutting some carrot sticks, opening a packet of crisps or breadsticks, and mixing up a simple dip. Alternatively, I often have batches of homemade soup in the freezer, that can be defrosted quickly in the microwave. A cheap, simple vegetable soup can be made 'fancy' by topping with some grated cheese, or a big crouton made from a slice of French bread.
Providing extra side dishes can bulk out a meal simply and cheaply. I often stock up of vacuum packs of part-baked loaves, and these are lovely to serve warm along side many main meals. Extra rice or pasta can easily stretch a meal like chilli or bolognese. Rice or pasta can also form the basis of a nice salad, and with the addition of just a few bits of finely chopped salad veg (eg cucumber, tomato, grated carrot, beetroot etc), mixed up with a bit of dressing will make a substantial, last minute side dish.
If I am serving something like a sausage casserole, I will cut the sausages up into smaller pieces. One sausage each would look pretty meal, but lots of smaller slices looks much more generous!
If I'm trying to stretch a roast dinner, I might not have any more meat to offer, but I can usually find more veg, like maybe a packet of frozen peas. If I need to serve lots of potatoes to bulk out the meal, I might try and serve them in two different ways, like mash and roast.
A substantial pudding can really help too. I don't often serve pudding, but I might do if I have guests. Pancakes are a really useful idea to have up your sleeve. I almost always have the basic ingredients to make pancakes, and I can usually find something to fill them with. Chocolate spread, golden syrup, lemons and sugar are all saples in my home, most of the time. Or I might slice up a couple of apples, fry the slices, and top them with some cinnamon and brown sugar. These make a lovely pancake filling, and just a couple of apples go a long way sliced up like this. The pancakes could be served with cream, or ice cream if you have it, or just a sprinkle of icing sugar to pretty it up.