How to Be the Perfect Dinner Hostess (When You’re an Introvert with Social Anxiety)

Hosting a big dinner can make anyone anxious, especially if you’re an introvert. These hosting tips streamline ALL prep work involved, so you can experience a night of no-stress!

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I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels totally anxious when company comes for dinner! I can't say I love having people over, but her system of streamlining everything is exactly what I need to lower my stress level. And after the guests go home, I can just climb in bed with a book. :) #introvertprobs #hostess #hosting #introverts

So here’s the thing.

As much as I label myself a total introvert (here’s me in my new favorite shirt!), I do enjoy having company over for dinner. Not every week, of course—this girl needs her alone time to recoup from social situations like church and the grocery store! But about once a month, we invite friends or family over for a meal (and then there was that time I hosted Thanksgiving!).

I’ll be honest…I used to be terrified of these situations and the work they required. Cleaning, preparing a huge dinner with five complementary side dishes, guiding conversation and making sure everyone has a good time…that’s a lot of pressure!

Over the years, I’ve come up with my own system to make company meals much easier than when I first started hosting. If you get nervous having people over too, these hosting tips make all the difference!

1. Keep a list of company-approved meal plans {and use them}

I’m not sure why, but I used to think the more complicated the dinner, the more I impressed my guests. Not so! In fact, the more complicated the dinner, the more my guests feel uncomfortable because I’m stuck in the kitchen juggling pots and pans. Not good.

Now, I have about five different company-only meal plans. These include crockpot meals, casseroles, biscuits from the can, and other non-fussy make ahead dishes that don’t require a lot of babysitting as guests arrive.

It not only makes my guests feel more at home, {because we can just chat in the kitchen while I tend to this and that}, it also makes me feel a lot less stressed. Win-win!

Here’s the printable I use to keep track of all my meals. Just click on the image below to download a copy, then tuck into your recipe notebook for easy reference!

Company coming over? Plan ahead of time with three easy meals that can be used for any big dinner! Think crockpots, simple dishes, and make ahead meals that can be prepped the night before. This handy list is awesome to include in your recipe notebook!

Download the Company Meals Printable

Note: Don’t be afraid to let others bring side dishes, bread, or dessert to complement your meal either. The less you have to do, the better!

2. Clean the Day Before

If you follow my Weekly Cleaning Schedule, you shouldn’t have too much heavy cleaning to do before guests arrive. But if you do, you definitely want to get this done the day before, and clear your schedule of other activities so you can focus on this one task.

Here’s why—if you plan a ton of things to do on the day your guests arrive, you won’t feel your best when dinner rolls around. As introverts, we tire easily from social interaction, and you want to be as alert as possible when your guests ring that doorbell. Being conscious of your energy levels will do wonders as a hostess!

This also gives you enough time to do a last minute pickup of toys and paperwork, light candles for ambiance, and fluff pillows and blankets to create that homey feel.

3. Plan Ahead to Streamline Prep

Prepping vegetables, coordinating cooking times, and getting everything on the table is one of the most stressful parts of hosting dinner {at least for me!} I probably go overboard in the planning department, but this helps me pull together a meal without feeling too anxious.

First, I take all the recipes I need out of their respective notebooks, or if they are in a cookbook, I flag each of the pages. Keeping these pages together means I don’t have to go searching later. Then I write the time I want to serve dinner on a Post-It note, and work backwards to figure out start times based on how long each recipe has to cook.

How to Be the Perfect Dinner Hostess {When You're an Introvert} - Hosting Tips

It looks something like this:

  • 6:00pm – Dinner on Table
  • 5:50pm – Put together salad
  • 5:45pm – Garlic bread in oven
  • 5:40pm – Prepare garlic bread
  • 5:10pm – Lasagna in oven
  • 5:00pm – Assemble lasagna
  • 4:45pm – Start lasagna noodles

See, I told you I was pretty detailed! But this lets me know that if I start at 4:45pm, I’ll have everything ready by 6:00pm.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner for the First-Time Host

4. Make Use of Un-filled Moments

As each dish simmers and cooks, there will be moments when you don’t have specific food-related things to do. Be strategic and make the most of this time!

You can:

  • Set the table
  • Choose bowls and serving ware for each dish
  • Wash any dishes in the sink
  • Wipe countertops
  • Freshen up your clothes, hair, makeup, etc.

That way, you won’t be cramming in tasks during that 60-second sprint from stove to table.

NOTE: If your guests show up early, have a task that they can help with {they usually ask!}, or provide a bowl of peanuts and other finger foods to munch on before dinner. This allows you to still get things accomplished, but your guests don’t feel ignored.

Hosting Tips - How to Be the Perfect Dinner Hostess {When You're an Introvert}

5. Have a System to Pick Up and Put Away

I’m a firm believer in sharing the workload instead of having everything fall on the wife and mom. Sounds good, right?

The thing is, you have to plan so pick up goes as smoothly as possible.

Know ahead of time who will help pick up, put away, wash the dishes, and clean crumbs off the table. Decide whether you even want to wash the dishes or leave them in the sink until guests leave.

Oftentimes when we have company, I prefer to place my everyday dishes in the dishwasher, but will leave scrubbing the big pots and pans until after our guests are gone. I want to make sure I’m spending adequate time with them, and it gives me a break from the kitchen!

Hosting Tips - How to Be the Perfect Dinner Hostess {When You're an Introvert}

One Final Note:

There is a strong possibility that things can, and probably will go wrong. Not fun to think about, I know, but even with all the prep work in the world, I still have yet to experience a perfectly seamless dinner.

Sometimes the green beans are undercooked, or the chicken is over cooked. Other times, I’ve forgotten to offer drinks or put napkins on the table. Don’t let that be discouraging! The thing is…your guests understand and won’t hold it against you.

They’re just happy to have the pleasure of your company, and as long as everyone has a good time, that’s all that really matters. Let me say it again—that’s all that matters. So don’t stress!

Now go invite someone over for dinner, okay?

What hosting tips make dinner less stressful for you?

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  1. Lasagne is a wonderful meal when hosting but let me tell you about a secret taught to me (and my mom) by her best friend. Prepare the lasagne one day ahead to time. This allows lasagne to flavor through, kitchen and pans all cleaned up. Day of guests, pop lasagne into oven, make toss salad, warm frozen rolls or Italian bread in oven. Use store bought pound cake, topped with strawberries and blueberries for dessert. Easy, peasy. One more most important fact. It’s not about the food, it’s totally about the fellowship and relationships. Totally. About. Fellowship. And. Relationships!

    1. That is such a great tip! I have some freezer casseroles that I like to have on hand for the same type of thing!

  2. I love having people over, but don’t do it as much as I should – or want to! We have a guest book that anyone who comes over for a meal gets to sign. I love looking back over it. You have great tips for organizing but the most important is to just enjoy it and the conversation that comes with it.

    1. It is easy to get so overwhelmed with the details that you forget about your guests for sure. I’m glad I’ve learned this system because it helps me sit down and enjoy the company a bit more.

  3. We’ve had guests over for a meal at our place twice in the almost two years of living together. One was my friend and we ended up cooking a stuffed shell recipe together, which was SO fun! The second time we had our parents over for cake on my birthday. It was frustrating to have that many people over! I couldn’t find enough cups, all we had to drink was water anyway, and I felt like I was scrambling to get everything ready before the ice cream cake started to melt.

    Needless to say I’m not a very good hostess on the few occasions I need to be 😉

    1. Planning a “let’s cook this together” dinner with the right friends can be a whole lot of fun! I’m totally with you on the frustrations of having a lot of people over. We have enough place settings now…. but they might not match. 🙂

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