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Miss Manners: My in-laws always want to host but make us do all the grocery shopping

Dear Miss Manners: For years, my sister-in-law has asked us to bring something when she is hosting. It’s often on short notice, so they’ll ask us to swing by the store. She will then send us a list, and we end up getting virtually everything for the gathering.

For example, we might be asked to grab burgers, buns, chips, condiments, a bag of salad and some pasta salad. We are also required to bring our own drinks, because they don’t offer us any, and we’ve learned from experience that it’s better to have something in the car. We end up spending much more than we budgeted and leave feeling a bit used.

We have tried inviting their family to our home, but they prefer to host because they have children. When we do have them here, we are happy to provide all the food.

Is there any polite way to refuse this, or even to ask for money? They will sometimes halfheartedly offer or mention that they will “get us back next time,” but this never comes to fruition. We try to be generous, and although we are weary of this situation, we don’t want to stop seeing them completely.

Their assertion that they prefer to host rings hollow when they do not act like hosts. What they really prefer is to make you do everything, including the driving.

Miss Manners can say that to you, but this requires a less frank conversation with your sister-in-law. Next time an invitation is issued, insist, in a friendly but inflexible way, that they come to you. You can say it is fair, given how many times you have gone to them. If they cite the children, remind them that coming to you means they will not have to pick up their own house.

When you do eventually agree to visit them, answer any shopping requests with a change of venue: You are happy to provide the meal, but it will be much easier for you to do so at home, where you already have everything at the ready. Sharing the cost will take longer, as it is impolite (as you have noticed) to dun guests, either for food or money. But as you remove the excuse that they are always hosting, the inequality should become apparent, even to them.

Dear Miss Manners: My mother and mother-in-law passed away about one month apart. Now, a year later, I am ashamed to share that I have not sent thank-you notes to those who sent food, flowers and gifts. It took this past year for me to gather the emotional energy to even open the bereavement cards.

I do not want to face people without first sending thank-yous. How do I handle this? Do I send a thank-you note and apologize for the delay in acknowledgment? I have spoken to a few of these folks over this past year, and I never acknowledged their generosity, because I had not opened the cards!

Like generals, bank robbers and givers of surprise parties, Miss Manners does not always believe that honesty is the best policy. But when the reason is as compelling and understandable as yours, there is no substitute.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin