I've decided to once again put together a Hospitality Pantry. For years I had such a pantry but I got out of the habit when we were living in a town where we knew no one (and no one seemed to care about getting to know new people). I am putting together my grocery list for later this week so I am adding a few items just for last minute guests.
I think it was in a book by Emilie Barnes (one of her first) that I read about the concept of a Hospitality Pantry. Since then I've seen the idea in other books about hospitality. It differs from keeping items in our normal pantry. These items tend to be special and more perhaps on the gourmet side...not all but some of the items. It is set aside from our regular pantry so temptation does not overcome us.
For instance, something I always like to keep in a Hospitality Pantry are a couple boxes of Pepperidge Farm cookies. Because they can be pricey, even though I normally wait for a good sale, I will be less likely to open them up during a carb attack because they are more expensive. A box of Keebler Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies...watch out. Never get between a diabetic and a cookie during a severe carb attack (you should but if you value your life...). These items are kept in their own area, not in with the regular pantry items to make certain they are there when needed. If I could make myself forget where they are and remember only when I need them...that would be a good thing, indeed.
In my regular pantry, I have a few boxes of mixes (brownie mix, cake mix, etc.) that I use from time to time. I prefer making things from scratch but there are days if I don't use a mix...it will not happen. In my Hospitality Pantry, I make an assumption there will be no time to bake something.
Normally I will raid the Hospitality Pantry when someone I'm not expecting stops by for a chat. However, it is just as good to have on hand for last minute tea parties with the children (or grandchildren), hubby has a bad day at work, the family has received news that is difficult to handle, and generally...when comfort is needed. Having these items on hand make it possible to put together a special "party" for one special person or our own dear family members.
My list may be different than yours. I don't drink beer at all and I drink wine only on special occasions so I normally wouldn't keep any on hand. I don't have young children over very much so one box of animal crackers would suffice. [On the other hand, since I don't keep them in my regular pantry (animal crackers...not children) it is important to have them in this area for those rare times I do have small children arrive.]
I have kept my Hospitality Pantry in various areas over the years. As with any pantry, you only have to make certain it is not in an area that gets too hot or damp, and the items are protected from harm (ants, mice, etc.). A good place is in the cabinet over a refrigerator...hard to get to but not impossible. When I had a larger house, mine was in a large Rubbermaid container on a shelf in our basement pantry area. Also, as with any pantry, it can be as "deep" as you like. Here is my basic list and the "deep" list...only given as an example to spark your own creativity.
(the small packets sold at the grocery store and coffee shops are perfect for this. Be certain to have on hand at least one packet regular coffee, one decaf, and perhaps a flavored coffee). I keep these even though I normally have coffee on the shelf. Of course, you can store an unopened can of coffee or unopened bag of beans. If you only store one, make it decaf.
(I always have teas on the shelf but I like to keep one or two boxes of Bigelow teas in this pantry. One box of a black tea like Earl Grey and one box of an herbal tea. Bigelow is best because they are individually wrapped in foil and last for a very long time.)
Other beverages as desired: hot chocolate mix, lemonade mix for hot weather, etc. Remember, we are assuming "last minute" preparations.
Artificial sugar packets (I prefer Splenda) for those who cannot have regular sugar.
One or two cans of a good quality evaporated milk to use as cream for coffee. I like Milnot for this purpose. It tastes just as good as cream. This is where quality is important. I use store brands of evaporated milk for cooking but they don't make a good tasting "cream" for coffee.
Good quality cookies like Pepperidge Farm and/or shortbread cookies. Animal crackers or vanilla wafers for small children.
To "deepen" your Hospitality Pantry...here are a few extra ideas:
A jar of Devonshire cream (expensive so I don't keep this on hand)
Very good quality jam
Scone mix (usually very easy and quick but can be rather expensive)
Can of good quality canned chicken, small jar of Mayo, small jar of relish
--instant chicken salad for the crackers
Other convenience items you may find along the way.