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frugal or just plain clueless?

Hi folks,

This is my first time posting, but I have been an occasional lurker in this forum. Last week, my friend suggested a bbq at his place. Our group consisted only four of us (including his female friend and my bf). I offered to bring some food since he was known for his frugality. He is someone who rather eats frozen/canned food for convenience's sake and prefers to spend his money on restoring his classical cars or flying (has a pilot license).

I bought chicken thighs, sausages, veggies, and strawberries. On the way to his place, I asked him if he wanted me to bring anything else? His reply was, "Don't worry, I have plenty of food at my place too." When we arrived at his place, we barbequed only with the food that I brought over. The only thing he offered was rice. Bf and I are non drinkers and thus we drank water at his place. Luckily, the food I brought was more than enough for 4 of us, otherwise I would be mortified.

Right after we got home, I received a text from him thanking me for the food and suggesting that we should do bbq often. My bf and I were quite perplexed. Was this a normal etiquette of hosting a BBQ?

Now every time I ask my bf if he wants me to bring food over his house, he reply would be, "Don't worry, I have plenty of food at my place too." lol


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  1. It's not an either/or thing. Yes, he's frugal and yes, he's clearly also pretty clueless. But you knew he was a cheapskate so you generously provided the entire meal and he had no problem with that. He did send the modern equivalent of a thank-you note, and by suggesting you do it again, says he's pretty happy with the way it worked out. No, it's not normal "hosting"; it's more like just providing the venue, but hey, no one complained.

    So next time, if there is a next time, you just clearly communicate. You offer to bring some stuff and you clearly spell out what he will provide. "I can take care of the protein; can you handle the salads and dessert? Great. What dessert will it be?" Be specific and don't take no for an answer. Remember, it's a collaboration; you are not a caterer.

    There is no problem here that a little clear communication can't clear up.

    1 Reply
    1. Yes, communicate. You enabled the behavior by providing the food. Next time, say that you can bring dessert.
      and no, not normal at all. Not frugal, just plain weird. But so was bringing food to a dinner to which you were invited without being asked, specifically. You shouldn't have offered. Maybe he was offended that you thought he couldn't provide a meal and "showed you."

      1 Reply
      1. re: wyogal

        I am curious to know if he knew in advance of the bbq that you were bringing so much food. I kind of think it was odd on both ends, you for providing such a variety of food to a bbq you were invited to and him for practically providing nothing. I see a precedent being set here and it must be nipped in the bud. Next bbq he will expect the same and I agree with the previous posters, you need to spell it out for him. I will bring x - can you handle the dessert, etc? It shouldn't be up to the guest to provide the dinner. I had a friend who used to charge our friends to attend her bbqs and then would buy the cheapest food you can imagine.

      2. No, definitely not normal etiquette when hosting a BBQ. On the other hand, I don't think it's normal to offer to bring the entire meal when someone invites you over for a meal either. I realize you were just being thoughtful, but maybe your friend had plans to provide everything and just decided it wasn't necessary since you were bringing the whole meal? He even might have had enough food on his own, but thought it'd be rude to use it, since you were bringing so much.

        Next time, just ask him what you can bring. If he asks you to bring a whole bunch of stuff or, if he says he's fine and you get there and he only has rice, then you might need to have a talk about why he is inviting you over without providing any food (maybe he thinks providing his grill is enough). Or maybe just decide not to take him up on his BBQ invitations unless you're ok with providing the entire meal.

        1. I agree with the other posters who see this as poor communications/expectations. But I'm most baffled by you writing "Luckily, the food I brought was more than enough for 4 of us, otherwise I would be mortified." Why would you have been mortified if your share of the food for the BBQ was not enough to serve everybody? You might want to reconsider what you view as your responsibility when you're a guest for dinner at someone's house.

          1. Cheap ass is better than frugal to describe this guy. I got suckered once by someone like that. I was invited to a BBQ and asked what I could bring- 6 NY steaks, for the 6 guests and was so young at the time (and shocked) that I brought them. He also used to charge for meals when he had guests over. No longer friends, life is too short. It's amazing what people will put up with.

            1 Reply
            1. re: BubblyOne

              we have a friend who used to do that - would call everybody up and invite them over, then ask for a donation -- and THEN he would go shopping.

              We quit going to his "parties" until he grew up and got married -- his wife wouldn't let him pull crap like that.

            2. My guess is that he had more food but when he saw how much you brought, he figured he could save what he had for later and just eat yours. So to answer the question: cheap.

              As for not having anything to do drink besides water and what sounds like beer or wine, that could just be cluelessness.. I don't drink soda or juice and can easily see myself making sure I had enough beer/wine on hand but not thinking to buy soft drinks. I drink my coffee black and always forget to have milk or cream to serve with coffee.

              2 Replies
              1. re: barryg

                I agree. Did he not have food already, or did he just cook the OP's because s/he brought so much?

                1. re: barryg

                  We do not keep a plethora of soft drinks at our house. For a little impromptu BBQ we would probably have wine, beer, water, milk and possibly Gatorade or one juice or seltzer available plus hard alcohol an tonic. We try to avoid juice and soda and only buy when we are having a large party. Even then I usually only buy a few two liter bottles.

                  We always have diet ginger ale to drink for illness as well.

                2. I think both of you were a little clueless. Admittedly, I'm not known for being cheap, but if a friend called me on the way to my house for a dinner, and said they were bringing basically the whole meal, I would be pretty offended. My guess is that he took the easy way out and only brought out what he needed to complete your meal.

                  Communication is key, to ape everyone else. When I get invited for dinner, sometimes I'll simply say "How about if I bring something to drink?" if I don't feel like contributing any time - you could do the same and be a great guest.

                  1. Cheapskate. I wouldn't do any more grilled dinners with him unless I knew he was significantly contributing with the main course and at least 1 side...plus some drink options.

                    1. Miss Manners would say that you need to return the favor, so invite him over for a bbq and have plenty of water available for all to drink. Then see what he brings!

                      1. If that happened to me, I would never speak to that guy every again.

                        1. Instead of frugal, the words that come to mind is "cheap b.stard".

                          Did you see anything in his fridge for the grill?
                          You, surprisingly, brought over quite a bit of food for a party of 4. He probably rationalized that he didn't need to break out his food since there was plenty from your contribution.

                          1. Why did you bring so much food? Did he ask you to bring tht much or have prior knowledge that you planned to bring that much? Did the other guests bring food?

                            I can easily see a post from his perspective. "I invited some friends over for a bbq. One asked if they could bring something and I said sure. She showed up with enough food for the whole meal. I was mortified that she thought that I couldn't host. Was that rude or am Iovereacting? I did send her a thank you, but I do hope next time she lets me cook!". See threads of guests bringing/not bringing food, hosts not serving enough food, friends not reciprocating, etc.

                            From the little that you have told us it just seems like poor communication. At least he invited you over and sent a thank you.

                            3 Replies
                            1. If you are actually friends then I would just shrug it off. If he is known as the cheapskate in the group then I'm sure all parties involved were relieved that you stepped in and covered the food. For next time, just clearly communicate who is handling what so there won't be any surprises. Perhaps your group of friends should conspire to prevent the cheapskate from hosting or making any offers that he can't uphold.

                              For me, I'm known as the avid cook in my circle. I'm always happy to take over cooking or food prep at a gathering, it gives me something to do rather than force small talk with strangers. Plus my apartment is tiny, totally NOT conducive to host any sort of gatherings whatsoever. Since I never provide the venue I am always ready to pitch in or take over any food related duties so the host can be free to enjoy him/herself. This is especially helpful if the person hosting isn't so skilled in the kitchen, as I can help them avoid a food disaster. Everyone gets what they want and it all works out in the end.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: d8200

                                +1 I've done that and never had anyone complain. Then again it was always well planned out before I showed up with food. To the point that we would chat on a mutual menu before I started prep.

                              2. Hi guys,

                                I honestly don't mind bringing the food. I told him prior to the bbq that I would bring over some food since my bf was coming along as well.

                                The reason that I brought that much food because he is known for being frugal. Last time lunch at his place was a grilled cheese/egg sandwich. Also, I am usually the one picks the tabs when we go out. His fridge had plenty of food, but nothing that was remotely for bbq related. This was my first time invited to a bbq at his place. When I am invited to someone's else place, I often bring a small gift for the hostess, but never food.

                                I have known him for over a year and I think he is a genuine a nice guy, but just too frugal sometimes (thus, still single in his 40's). Next time, I will just invite him over my place.


                                6 Replies
                                1. re: Clueless123

                                  Frugal means buying an inexpensive cut of meat, marinating it, and grilling it for your guests. Expecting guests to bring food, is cheap. There is a big difference.
                                  You enabled this behavior, IMO, and therefore share the "blame."

                                  1. re: Clueless123

                                    You and your friend have an interesting dependency dynamic going on between you two.

                                    He's perceived as a tightwad, but has the money to be a private pilot and work on his car. You bring a lot of food to his bbq and pick up the tabs when you go out.

                                    I would think the better way to do things is you both split tabs and allow him to host his own parties. This will allow him to grow and learn some social graces.

                                    1. re: Clueless123

                                      Wow, you are so generous...can you be my friend?

                                      1. re: Clueless123

                                        WHY do you pick up the tab when you go out to eat with him? Does he just not make a motion to pick up the bill? Does he not offer any money to you to split the bill? Or do you just assume he's not going to pay and you pay the entire thing? it's time to ask him to pay up his half of the cost of the meal. If he can afford to restore classic cars and fly a private plane, he can afford to pay for his part of the meal.

                                        Based on your original post and this response, I'm thinking he's just cheap. He invited you because he knew you'd bring the food, enabling him to eat what you brought. Did he offer to pay for some of what you had brought? Probably not.

                                        You're enabling him to continue mooching off of others. Perhaps you should read about Mooch and Hooch from 2009 - this is probably hands down the classic case of mooching by friends here on Chowhound. Although your friend seems to be right up there in the running.


                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                          I just finished reading the link, what an astounding story!!! Hope the OP here takes the time to read and learn from it.....

                                        2. re: Clueless123

                                          The 'friend' you've known for a year is a pro.

                                        3. I would say that both of you were pretty far off usual hosting/guest etiquette.

                                          If someone invites you over for dinner, it's not normal to spontaneously offer to bring nearly the entire meal with you. You brought two types of meat, veggies, and fruit, so all that was needed was the starch, which he provided. If he then brought out meat, veggies and dessert of his own, you would then have more than twice as much food as the four of you could eat, so only offering rice may have made a lot of sense.

                                          Give him a chance to actually host a dinner the next time he invites you. Don't offer to bring food with you, and if he asks, you can say that you're too busy to be able to. That will give you an honest test of his hosting style. If there's not enough food, he's either clueless or cheap (or both). If there is adequate food for the number of people, but you think the food itself is cheap (premade burgers, a bag of buns and some chips, say), then he's simply frugal.

                                          1. I have a friend like this. I know what to expect. Meat is roast chicken from Wally World, quart of potato salad, or a 6 pack of the pale stale ale with the foam on the bottom. He is also extremely generous with his time, helps on any projects you may be working on. It is simply a part of his culture and upbringing. His wife has been trying to upgrade him for the last 25 years.

                                            I value his friendship over keeping a ledger sheet of quid pro quos.

                                            3 Replies
                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                Olde Frothingslosh. Got to love that bathing beauty. She looks great after the second six pack. Just a memory now.

                                              2. when i was younger it was common for my friends and i to contribute various dishes, especially at a bbq - back then if someone was willing to provide a venue, the grill, and the charcoal (perhaps some libation) that was his/her contribution. but unless this is understood, and assuming the guy is out of college, it seems pretty stingy. On the other hand, it seems to be what you expected - despite protestations to the contrary. if you all know the ground rules, then no harm no foul. Providing clues to the clueless usually isn't productive.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                  "clues to the clueless"--PRICELESS!!!

                                                2. I was invited to a pool party / BBQ for a house warming. I got a gift (picture frame) and asked if I could bring any food. I was told to bring only the booze that I wanted to drink. I brought a bucket of chicken, coleslaw, and some potato salad and a bag of chips because I wasn't sure when the BBQ meal would be served. As it turned out, it was a huge beer bash and no one had any intention of lighting the grill. My food was demolished in minutes.

                                                  Point being - I would not / did not go back for yet another BBQ. I don't know if they are frugal or clueless, but save yourself!

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: JerryMe

                                                    Wow. Did anyone eat anything else at all? Quick route to being drunk...

                                                  2. He's a moocher. Now that you know that, you can decide how to act in the future. Its your choice.

                                                    1. The BBQ protocol I am accustomed to for food is the host provides the proteins and a couple of basic sides and guests collaborate with the host on bringing other sides and desserts.

                                                      1. If you wish to continue accepting invitations from this person (who, albeit a mooch, might actually be a nice person), I'd offer to bring JUST ONE side dish or dessert......and go out to dinner before showing up.
                                                        If HE is throwing a BBQ and doesn't have any food, that's HIS responsibility and HIS gaffe, not yours. Not providing a meal for his own meal-based get-together is ridiculous, so don't you go feeling bad that you didn't bring food yourself.
                                                        Good luck!

                                                        1. Oh man, that's not fair. It does sound like you brought a lot of stuff - maybe more than a guest might usually bring - but then again, that's what you do for BBQs because you want it to be an opulent feast!! :P I agree with acgold7 in that it's always a good idea to ask 'What do you need most, sides? Salads? Desserts?' rather than bringing simply everything just because it's not your party and people will start taking advantage of you if they see they can get you to do that. And incidentally: don't let people do the reverse of this either if you're all chipping in with cash. Once a couple of friends and myself decided to host a vegetarian thanksgiving for a load of our American friends in our (UK) university, and we spent a lot of money on the food, roughly £70-80, on the agreement that we'd split it evenly between the four of us. Then the fourth person - whose friends made up the large majority of the party because she'd gone over our agreed numbers - said that she had decided to do her own thing for her own friends and that they wouldn't be eating the food we had prepared, so she didn't have to help with the costs. She brought a tub of plain rice mixed with peas. For all of them. Her many friends naturally devoured our delicious thanksgiving fare out of preference. We paid for it. Ow.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: Elster

                                                            I used to get invited to a fairly regular dinner party. It was never referred to as a Pot Luck. Everytime I asked the host "What can I bring?" He'd say "Oh just yourself, there will be plenty of food!", which I suppose was true because ALL the food and beverage was brought by other guests, who had figured out years ago that if you wanted to eat or drink at these "dinner parties", you had to bring your own provisions and enough to share with the group. I am pathologically unable to show up empty-handed, so I would always bring something, and because I am also pathologically prompt, I would often be among the first ones there and saw that the host never had anything prepared or available -- not even a bowl of chips and salsa -- so whatever I brought would be devoured instantly. I started feeling a bit put upon when I realized that he was never offering to send anyone home with leftovers -- anything uneaten went right into his fridge. After I became somewhat of a regular, he'd call to invite me, then would casually say "Oh and on your way, would you mind stopping by the store and picking up paper/towels/dishwashing liquid/sponges/napkins?" -- or any number of things that should be regular household supplies. He would never offer to reimburse, even when I'd purposely leave the receipts in the bags. That's when I realized that all of his "guests" were basically performing his weekly grocery and sundries shopping for him. So the last time I got an invite and he asked me to pick up dishwashing liquid on the way, I measured out enough dishwashing liquid from my own home supply -- enough for a party's worth of dishes, put it in a small jar and handed it to him as I walked in. I haven't been invited back!

                                                            If you're going to host a pot luck, call it a pot luck and give people specific instructions about what to bring. Or even some guidelines like "I'm happy to provide the use of my deck and grill and will be buying a case of beer, so if you wanted to bring whatever you wanted to grill and a side dish or dessert, that would be great"
                                                            It's not a dinner party if the guests are expected to feed themselves.

                                                            1. re: Fargo

                                                              Very clever about the dishwashing liquid, good for you!

                                                          2. ** Sigh **. Frugality works both ways.

                                                            Cheapo really needs to be put in his place. Dear Cheapo, due to the fact that I am restoring BOTH a Duesenberg AND a Packard Roadster, I will only be able to bring 6 ears of corn to the BBQ this Saturday. I hope this doesn't pose a problem. My local supermarket had them on sale this week, six for $1.99. Also, I've been looking to buy my own Cessna 172 Skyhawk. I thought that MAYBE you might know somebody who's selling one CHEAP. Thanks. TTYS. (Happy face emoticon ... Happy face emoticon).