My 6 Best Hacks for Entertaining When You Have Kids, a Job, & a Life

Diana Davis

Diana Davis

As a working mom with two young daughters, I love to entertain (in fact, I’m known for it!) but I’m not exactly what you would call a cook. Far from it. Feeding dinner to my foursome on a nightly basis is hard enough -- 6 p.m. often sneaks up on me when I’m cranking on a project. But I love to see my friends, and I really love watching my kids hang out and have good times with their friends. So I’ve never let my lack of chef skills get in the way of regularly gathering all the people we love most, particularly during the summer, when I can just fling open the door to our patio for a carefree cookout. We take advantage of these three months to entertain friends and family outside with the help of good weather, laid-back vibes, and some time-saving tricks. Here’s how my gang and I do it.

  • #1 Stock up at the start of the season.

    Chinet plates on counter
    Diana Davis

    To avoid last-minute runs to the store, just before Memorial Day, I buy what we need in bulk to host cookouts through Labor Day. I like to make sure we’re well-supplied with wine, beer, condiments, and tableware, too. So my husband and I can take entertaining days off of dish duty, I buy a big haul of Chinet Classic White plates and platters, and Chinet Cut Crystal cups and cutlery. They’re sturdy enough to handle a heaping helping, and the white plates and clear cups and utensils work with whatever other colors I introduce. I’ll usually pull out a couple different shapes or sizes to mix and match throughout the meal.

  • Advertisement
  • #2 Save on juice boxes.

    Diana Davis

    Running around like wild animals in the yard can build up a thirst. I used to go through at least a couple juice boxes a kid whenever we hosted. Now I add frozen pineapple or strawberries to water pitchers. Kids love it, and their grown-ups aren’t continually interrupted mid-sentence to poke straws into boxes. I fill carafes of still and sparkling water with basil and water for the grown-ups, too.

  • #3 Ensure against double-dippers.

    Little girl with snacks
    Diana Davis

    Setting out a few pre-dinner bites is key but ever noticed when little kids are around that the chips you put out with the dip either disappear, or get double dipped? Not exactly appetizing. Now I make individual veggie and dip cups for each kid to grab. I just add kid-friendly dip and a few veggies to Chinet Cut Crystal. No more skeeving double dippers!

  • #4 Make supper serve-yourself.

    food outside for cookout
    Diana Davis

    I have a DIY rule for cookouts, so everyone feels free to pile their plate with as much as they want, and unabashed about getting seconds and thirds. For that reason, fajitas have become our go-to. My husband will marinate chicken and steak the night before, and grill them in batches with veggies like squash and peppers. I usually make two trays of garnishes -- one for the buffet and a second for the table, in case you forget salsa or need to add more sour cream!

  • #5 Grill dessert too!

    little girls eating sundaes
    Diana Davis

    Because everything -- fruit included -- tastes better on the grill, we usually keep it going through dessert. We’ll throw on some peach slices and set up a sundae buffet. We say it’s for the kids, but honestly, the grown-ups like it even more than they do!

  • #6 Send your friends home with a standing invite.

    moms and kids playing outside
    Diana Davis

    One of our favorite things about living on our friendly, kid-filled street is that our neighbors know when the grill’s on, our patio is open. And every Friday throughout summer, that’s pretty much the case! So there’s no need to fling 25 texts with my equally busy friends to schedule our next get-together. We just stay, “See you at the next Fajita Friday!”