Monday, September 10, 2007

"Green" parties

As usual, I got too flustered to photograph the food! My brother had flown in from overseas to run the Air Force marathon. We wanted to have a "welcome home" party, inviting all the friends and family to wish him well.

My grandparents had 10 children, so our enormous family gatherings always included paper plates. Cleanup was enough effort without 50 plates to wash! Since we only expected 20-25 people, I pulled out my stash of blue-and-white patterned plates. I planned a fork-only menu to minimize silverware. I put dessert forks and dessert plates on a separate counter.

We served the food on my kitchen island. Dirty dishes in the sink would have spoiled the fun, so I set a dishpan on a tiny table next to the trash can. This system worked beautifully! At the end of the party, I loaded the neatly stacked dishes directly into the dishwasher. Cheaper and almost as easy as paper.

Does your family use real or plastic to entertain? Do you have any tricks for managing the cleanup?

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanksgiving and Mother's Day is always at my home. NO I do not use paper plates either. Have never cared to eat off paper...somehow using a paper plate spoils the meal for me..to me if you take the time, make an effort to serve a nice meal, go to the trouble to select food that people enjoy etc. to serve it on a paper plate is like saying YOU are NOT worth a glass plate and the time it will take me to wash that plate later. I have some plastic plates that we use for BBQ's and in our camp trailer but we do not throw away plates or cups or forks etc.
I have a large 'farm house' sink that is deep. So I do put the plates etc. right into a sink of hot soapy water after a meal. If it is family or very close friends that I am serving I might go ahead and load my dishwasher too. (there will always be more than one load) Then we sit back, visit, play games, and just be a family.
I am so glad you got to enjoy time with your family this weekend. Family is so important. I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters. We do not get together as often as we used to. We live all over now. However we do get together for Thanksgiving and Mother's Day. Our mother is all we have left. We lost our father 4 years ago. So we treasure the time with our mother.
Thanks for sharing your blog. It is always a fresh breeze. Roxie

Bev said...

Usually it is paper plates, but I really would like some nice dinner ware for entertaining. Especially at Christmas and Thanksgiving! Glad you had a nice time and I really enjoy your blog!

Anonymous said...

My dad's family is very large, so to help with the amount of dishwashing to be done, we started using plastic plates, cups and cutlery. What did Granny do? WASH IT! Her daughters got so frustrated, but Granny was raised very poor and didn't believe in throwing anything out that couldn't be reused. :-) I miss her.

I LOVE the blue & white dishes! I have a reproduction set of the Blue Willow patterned dishes and think they are so nice. They can be elegant and casual.

Toni_KY (PH member)

Anonymous said...

My mother cracks us up, because she washes the plastic SOLO cups, too, in addition to the piles of glassware, plates, etc. And then puts it all in the dishwasher to get really clean!

I have a dear Auntie who always comes to family gatherings with beautiful paper plates, appropriate to the season, as her hostess gift. Wouldn't you know they sit in the cupboard unused (except for finger-food desserts. Then mom uses them).

In my home, we use paper outside only when doing hotdogs or burgers, where it's fun to toss them in the fire for entertainment when you're done : ) You just can't beat a real plate for presentation and function. Plus, maybe its strange, but I have always loved the camaraderie of clean-up in the kitchen. Some of the best conversations are had when we're tag-team washing, drying, nibbling and putting away.

Deb Meyers

Cat from Scaling Back said...

I like to use real dishes because it doesn't make sense to use something once and throw it away when there is an alternative. I'm still using paper towels a lot, though. My grandma (like the Granny mentioned by someone else in your comments) was an example to my family when she live with us. She used to gently rinse her used paper towels and lay them out on the counter to dry! We'd giggle at her but now that doesn't seem QUITE so ridiculous anymore.

btw, I have some enamelware plates for entertaining, though not as much as I'd like--enamelware is lightweight, and plates stack compactly because they're so thin--plus they can take a bit of "abuse" on picnics or in large group settings.

Cat from Scaling Back said...

In my comment above I should have stated that "I like to use real dishes *nowadays* because *increasingly* it doesn't make sense *to me* to use something once and throw it away. . "

I'm afraid I came off a bit negatively.

Dana said...

I recently bought a collection of plastic summer plates for use around our house--when we have sandwiches for lunch, etc. They are brightly colored which my daughter loves and are not disposable which I love!! When we entertain, I use "real" plates, etc. I'm looking about thrift stores for another set of plates to coordinate with our white ones for a splash of color!

Anonymous said...

Every Wednesday, some of my daughters' friends' come over after school so they can do badge work.

First they have snack. Then badge work. Then the girls stay for supper.

You bet we use paper plates on those nights! I just wish I had a cheap source of paper cups too!

-- Jora

My daughters think it's unfair enough that they end up finishing the kitchen after their friends have done 'helping.'

Actually, their friends are getting better ... last week, the girls cleared up, put the food away, and started the dishwasher. Now, they didn't do a perfect job, and there were still a lot of things I needed to finish off, but it's definitely progress.

AmyG said...

I collect chinsa plates and bowls and platters. Most of them are Homer laughlin, but not all. I only have one or two of each pattern. I love to set my table with a simple cream table cloth and all those pretty mis-matched floral patterns.

nannykim said...

I do not have a dishwasher and I don't want one. I always use real plates--I do what you did--just put them in a dishpan to soak. After the guests leave I unwind by doing the dishes and listening to Christian cds--My husband often helps with drying--it becomes a blessed time together. If I decide to air dry I use corelle plates because they are very thin and leave more space in the drain.

Laura Leigh Dobson said...

hi! i just wanted to say that i have been reading your blog for a few weeks now. i love it!!! keep up the good work. i am a "newlywed" ('bout a year) and am always looking for things to inspire me in budgeting, creativity, and of course being a godly woman/wife. thanks for your blog. . . keep it up!

nea said...

what a wonderful idea, meredith, to plan a fork-only menu! also the dish bucket near the trash!
we held a 3rd birthday party yesterday afternoon for our toddler and due in part to the age of the guests, we didn't want to use nice dishes, so opted instead for the compostable/biodegradeable plates and utensils. they went straight into the city green bin (not a material we can put in our personal compost box) after the party was over.

Alison said...

Your cleanup system sounds great, I will try it next time we have a large gathering. I try to use the real dishes and utensils too...between my Fiestaware and dollar stores plates, and the old and new utensil sets I have service for 20. If we have more than that I use paper and plastic for the overflow.

Simply Stork said...

we have a large family too and we do not use paper plates...we drag out the china and silver and set the table...when dinner is finished we all scrape scraps into the trash and stack them up along with the cups and soak the silver in a bowl...after visiting for a while we head into the kitchen and visit while doing dishes together...rinse load and wash...many hands make for less workloads for all.
~simply stork~

Anonymous said...

I never use any kind of disposable dishes, cups or utensils unless we are hosting "the 5,000" =-). We haven't used paper napkins in over 20 years. I have collected an assortment of cloth napkins at yard sales for next to nothing. A role of paper towels hangs on the rack for months. I keep old socks, towels, etc. in my rag bag for hasty cleanups. Styrofoam actually repulses me. I refuse to drink from it. All of our family keeps stainless steel to-go mugs in the cars for drinks on the run. Many places even give you a discount if you bring your own cup in. All of this is so easy.

Jordana said...

My mom always used real dishes and glasses when she entertained (although I admit that it was rare that she ever had people over). She picked a huge number of plain white Corelle dishes for social occasions.

It's so much nicer not to use a paper plates and plasticware.

Amy said...

I think this is a great idea and we do something similar in our house. In the summer, when we dine outside, I actually take the dish tub out with me and clean the patio table off by putting everything in that. It makes clean up so much easier.

When we dine indoors, I fill a dish tub with hot soapy water and everyone scraps off their plate and rests it in the tub.

I love to clean up with my family in the kitchen. It is a great way to bond with my family more and is sometimes one of my favorite parts of the evening.

jtcosby said...

Sadly enough, I admit the reason I started using my regular plates again was financial instead of earth friendly...however, it works to the benefit of both! I also realized I had asked/begged/pleaded MERCILOUSLY (is that a word) to get my plates...I couldn't very well keep them for decoration and not use them. So that is what I do. I use them. I also have a STRICT rule, I do NOT NOT NOT clean up the mess while my guests are here. Not only do I want to enjoy them, I don't want them to come to my house to clean. It REALLY isnt' that big of a deal to clean later...so that is what I do. :) ILOVE YOUR BLOG!

Anonymous said...

I use 'real', I don't have any clean up tips and I don't have a dish washer. It is not so much that I am green....although I try to be, it is more because I hate eating off of paper or worse styrofoam plates, so for me the extra work is just a neccesity.

Shari

Gena said...

That cleanup system was a great idea.

We never use paper plates here, other than for giving baked goodies to the neighbors. We bake weekly and always have some to share.

When I have parties, unless they are the 50+ family gatherings, I just use my collection of plates and load the dishwasher periodically. I will certainly use your dishpan idea next time.

Anonymous said...

I think even the plainest dishes (mismatched is fine) look and feel better than paper plates - the fork luncheon is a good idea. Dishes dont look good in the sink but is anything more depressing than a garbage can full of used paper plates ?

Lynn Marie said...

We use real dishes too. I'm not the type that likes to eat out of paper or plastic so I don't make others do it. I love the idea of an all fork menu. Would you share what you ate please? The cake looks and sounds wonderful - I will have to try that one.

Ewokgirl said...

I usually just use my regular dishes. It's really not any extra bother to pop them in the dishwasher.

One fun thing I did last year was I used my fine china, crystal, and linens to serve the middle school girls from our youth group when they came over for dinner and bible study. They enjoyed being treated like grownups and special guests. And it really wasn't any extra work. :-)

Jennifer said...

One tip to help w/cleanup: Make sure the dishwasher is empty before the party starts. Then, if you get the chance to pop a few things in, you can.

Additionally, it can be quite deflating to finally start clean-up and notice the dishwasher is almost full already.

Great post!

mama k said...

This year I invested in a couple sets of clear glass dessert sized plates. They are neutral so they go with any theme and are perfect for small showers or bday parties. My DH is a holdout for the paper plates for BBQs and larger gatherings. I'd love to eventually work up to no disposables at all though.

Birdie said...

I don't use disposable either. I'm too cheap to keep buying them! ;)

Anonymous said...

This is one of those things where I pretty much stand alone as far as my extended family goes. I LOVE to dress the table with dishes and linens that are appropriate to the occasion. What is the point of having pretty things if no occasion is ever worth the "trouble" it takes to actually USE them?! My mom will always say that she only wants to use paper plates at her house, but then buys these plastic SOLO brand plates that she insists on washing! I find them ugly and depressing. Yuck!! I would much rather take a little bitty bit more time and use something that's actually festive and beautiful. And like one of the other posters above, I actually love the camraderie and time spent together talking when we do a clean-up job together. Maybe I am old fashioned at age 43, but I think that real plates are the way to go most of the time!
Susan

Jenny said...

My sister in law does all the family entertaining. So we end up at her house for family things. She likes to keep clean up quick. So every one eats off paper and drinks out of plastic cups which we writer our name on with a black marker. Which makes it easy to know who's cup is who's when there are 25 or more people around. Every thing is served in or on nice dish ware. And we eat with silver ware not the plastic stuff.

Anonymous said...

For me it is not an either/or question. With eleven immediate family members and (at the moment) fifteen full sized plates, I use regular dishes and flatware when I can. But if we host more than four people, we need to use something different. Another factor is the current budget. When we had fewer children and a tighter budget, I never bought paper plates and just "made do" with what we had. Now, I live close enough to a thrift store where I can regularly add mismatched dishes as they break--too often in my clumsy hands. One last consideration is the family situation. During my days when I never purchased paper plates, my mother in law was healthy, helpful and loved to mingle at parties. She now suffers from advanced Alzheimers. Our family celebrated a first communion, a confirmation and a high school graduation this spring and I found that her behavior at parties needed to be overseen. There were many family members to help with her, but it was nice to have one less worry (the dishes) during/after the party. With a large number of people, it also gives me a chance to give my guests the attention of Mary by giving up some of the worries of Martha.

Annie