Simple Entertaining: A Grocery Store Tablescape

by Julie on September 19, 2012 · 2Leave a comment

Dinner Club Table

We’re in a dinner club with four other couples, who happen to be some of our best friends. Every other month we get together at someone’s house and the host couple provides the main dish and drinks. Everyone else brings an appetizer, side dish, or dessert.

Dinner club is always a blast and it’s wonderful to have time with friends built into the calendar every couple of months. If you’ve ever thought of doing something similar, I highly recommend it.

Last weekend was our turn to host, so while it’s fresh in my mind I wanted to share with you a few things that work for me when entertaining.

Shopping the House and the Grocery Store

When you’re getting ready for a dinner party, the last thing you want to do is add errands to your list, right? You usually have enough going on getting your house company ready and getting the food bought and prepared.

This dinner club fell a few days after I got back from the Financial Blogger Conference, during a very busy week. So to keep it super simple, most of what I set the table with were things I already had on hand or could pick up during my already-planned trip to the grocery store.

It’s been established that I have a bit of a problem when it comes to dishes. I love them. And speaking from experience, if you’re only going to have one set of dishes (and my hat’s off to you if you do) then white is the color to have.

White dishes are a classic and make the food look it’s best. That’s why restaurants use them.

And here’s a tip I saw on Pinterest: use Bar Keeper’s Friend to remove marks from your white dishes. I used the powdered kind, but it also comes in a liquid version.

Here’s one of my plates before:

and after using Bar Keepers Friend:

Cool, huh?

Speaking of white, the one extra errand I had to run before dinner was to pick up an unscented, white pillar candle.

I like using unscented candles on dinner tables so the smell doesn’t mix with the food. Usually I try to keep a bunch on hand, but this time I was one short. They’re easy to pick up at Michael’s when you see them on sale or when you have the 40% off coupon.

I put the white candles in clear hurricanes that I already had. I put coffee beans from the grocery store in the bottom of the hurricanes.

I love the coffee bean trick, but here’s a word of caution: I once put the candles directly into the coffee beans and as the night wore on, and the candles burnt down, the coffee beans  ignited. Yikes! So now I always put the candle in a votive first.

I used these clear vases — the ones I used in the twig/floating candle centerpiece — as candle votives inside the hurricanes. They worked great, and no fire. It’s always nice to keep from setting your house on fire when you have guests. (Hey, you’ll only find these fire prevention hostess tips here, so make sure you keep coming back.)

The rest of the table decoration consisted of two small pepper plants, also from the grocery store. I meant to cover their “straight from the grocery store” pots in some way but never got around to it. Good friends don’t mind, or if they do they keep it to themselves. :)

And finally, while searching for a quote to put on the chalkboard in the dining room, I came across this toast. I had never thought of using toasts on the chalkboard and I fell in love with this one.

On Friday I’ll be back with a super quick step-by-step on napkin folding.

In the meantime, please weigh in: are you dish-obsessed, a dish minimalist, or somewhere in between? What’s your best simple entertaining tip?

This post is part of Frugal FridayFall Table Decorating Ideas Link Party and Tutorials, Tips & Tidbits.

Note: This post contains referral links to Amazon. Please see my disclosure policy for more info.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebekah September 19, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Such a pretty table! Thanks for the Bar Keeper’s Friend tip. My white dishes are looking pretty marred. I’ll look for it next time I go shopping. Really like the small salt & pepper sets at each place setting – so cute:). I need to learn how to do fancy napkin folding. Oh, I love the framed chalkboard too. I could go on and on….. you are so creative!!!


Julie September 19, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Rebekah, let me know how the Bar Keepers Friend works on your plates. The sets of salt and pepper shakers are really inexpensive and since s&p keeps forever, I just pull them out whenever I’m having a big dinner. The napkin folding steps will be up on Friday. Thanks for your nice words!


Elaine September 19, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Great tip on cleaning the dishes. i just bought some white ones recently and yes it is my only set. I gave my other ones away.

The dinner club sounds like fun. I may have to steal this idea.


Julie September 20, 2012 at 8:37 am

One set of white dishes. You’re a smart woman, Elaine.


Teresa September 19, 2012 at 10:05 pm

I bet the cleaner that is recommended for my ceramic stove top would work on white dishes, too. I’ll have to try it out.
I like the toast on the chalkboard. Great conversation starter!


Julie September 20, 2012 at 8:38 am

Let me know if your stovetop cleaner works, Teresa.


Barbara Friedberg September 19, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Those plants from the grocery are really a clever idea. I’m going to try it next time!!!! So much better and easier than flowers in vases!!!


Julie September 20, 2012 at 8:38 am

So much easier, Barb. :)


Emily September 20, 2012 at 7:10 am

Love your table! :) It’s very pretty, and you’re right – a simple table is always best for entertaining.

I have three sets of dishes: my off-white plain ones from our wedding (set of 22, with the pieces my MIL gave me), the plastic/melanine summer plates we can take out to the picnic table, and the blue plates with white snowflakes I use after Christmas. :) Lots of fun! In fact, this week I’m switching the plastic for the white…gotta get on that.

Good tip about Bar Keeper’s Friend – where do you find that? My off-white dishes are Pfaltzgraff and very scratched up from the last 17 years of use… I’d like them to look better before Thanksgiving.

Thanks for the tips! :)


Julie September 20, 2012 at 8:41 am

Emily, you can find BKF in almost any grocery store. It’s with the cleaning supplies. I’ve never checked, but I’m sure Target and Walmart have it too. And I think I’ve even seen it at Bed Bath & Beyond.

I like your plate rotation plan. Very smart and fun!


Little House September 20, 2012 at 9:54 am

I love the dinner club idea and the quote on the chalkboard is so perfect. With the Bar Keeper’s Friend, the plates came out beautifully, but is it completely safe? What chemicals are in it?


Julie September 20, 2012 at 10:42 am

Good question, LH. I checked my can and couldn’t find a list of ingredients, but it is recommended for cleaning cookware. There is a caution about not ingesting it because it contains oxalic acid. I always wash my dishes thoroughly after using it and would definitely use as little as possible to get the job done. Here’s the website for more info: I think I’ll shoot them an email with your question, and see what they say.


Sara Tetreault September 20, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Hi Julie,
We’re in a dinner group, also, and I love it. It’s a great way to stay connected regularly to friends and it’s frugal entertaining/socializing. Your table is so pretty! I’m a big fan of BKF and use it along with my other favorite cleaners – baking soda and Borax.
Great pictures and the message on the chalk board is a nice touch.


Julie September 21, 2012 at 3:32 am

I love baking soda too, Sara. I use it for more and more things all the time.


Julie Blanner September 20, 2012 at 1:19 pm

One of my favorite grocery store items is a $3 cheesecloth. It makes a great disposable table cloth, table runner and is great for wrapping up potted plants. Nuts are also great for hurricane vases this time of year. Simple is simply the best!


Julie September 21, 2012 at 3:31 am

Julie, those are great ideas. Where do you find cheesecloth in the grocery store? I agree with you about simplicity!


Jean September 21, 2012 at 11:20 am

I love all your ideas and I had no idea that coffee beans would ignite! I suppose I’m a dish minimalist although I do love pretty serving dishes. I like to try to make the food part of the decor when I’m entertaining such as using strawberries or other fruit on skewers to look like a floral arrangement. We usually serve buffet style though.


Entertaining Women September 21, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Now I would have definitely ignited the coffee beans without your warning. Supper clubs are great fun. My tip: When a guests offers to bring something, I always say, “Great!”. Makes them feel like it their party, too. I have tons of dishes…inherited and purchased…it’s my main hobby. Thanks for inviting us for a peak. Cherry Kay


Christa September 26, 2012 at 9:33 am

I love Barkeeper’s Friend! We used to have a white ceramic farmhouse sink, and this super cleaner could always get the sink back to nearly new condition, ne matter what we threw at it.


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