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Feeding a Large Crowd Cheaply

Planning an inexpensive meal for a crowd can seem daunting, but it is doable. This is a guide about feeding a large crowd cheaply.

Feeding a Large Crowd Cheaply
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November 20, 2013 Flag

A friend of mine had heard we are having our family dinner for Thanksgiving at my house. She made the comment that she could never afford to feed so many people, although she has the space. I told her it was easy on the budget, if you plan ahead. Budgeting to Feed a Crowd

As soon as you decide to host an event, start putting your plan into action. If money is a real big issue, then instead of volunteering for a holiday where you are to provide a turkey or ham, (such as Thanksgiving or Christmas), pick something else, such as July 4 (hotdogs).

Buy a little each week. Pay attention to your store sales and coupons and work it to your advantage. For example, a month ago, our local grocery store had green beans on sale for 19 cents a can. I had some coupons and got a few for free. The limit was 6 cans per purchase. I usually make a green bean casserole, so I bought 6 cans, husband got 6, and each of the kids got 6. Total, 36 cans; more than enough for green bean casserole. I did the same thing a week later when they had frozen rolls on sale. I got 6 packages for the freezer. I bake our bread from scratch each week, so the week of the dinner, I will also make a few extra loaves.

My husband gets a free ham each year from work, and I have been saving up my reward points from the grocery store to purchase a turkey. Tea is inexpensive, so I also got a new box of tea, knowing I would probably be out by Thanksgiving. So, I already have the meat, drink, bread and two side dishes covered.

I am also providing the potatoes, so this week I picked up 2 large cans of yams (the huge gallon cans) that were on sale for $3.99 a can and a bag of marshmallows for the candied topping. The week of Thanksgiving I will pick up a bag of potatoes for mashed potatoes. I still had pie filling on hand in the pantry, so my pies are already made and in the freezer.

I asked each family attending to bring a covered side dish or a desert. Most of the women in our family have one dish they are "famous" for making, and they love to share. The day before, I will make up some tea and freeze it. That will be used in my drink cooler instead of ice cubes, so as it melts it won't water down everyones drink. I only offer tea and water, so that will cut down on expense.

I also stocked up, with coupons and sales, on TP and Kleenex. Always want to have plenty on hand when you have a crowd. After adding it up, my total will come out to under $75, to feed around 60 people. Not bad at all.


April 30, 2016 Flag
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We have a special occasion, my husband is turning 65. Since I am now disabled and no one in the family has volunteered to help (but are coming) and everyone wants it to be a surprise, of course, what do I feed these family members and still make the birthday special on a low-cost budget? My husband does not eat beans!

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May 2, 20161 found this helpful

Tell guests it's a potluck as that is the only way you can really surprise him. If they really care that shouldn't be a problem.

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May 2, 20160 found this helpful

Let the extended family know you will be taking your h/h out to *** restaurant and advise them if they would like to join in that it is up to them to make their own reservations and pay their share of the bill. On a side note, if everyone would pitch in an extra dollar or two then his birthday dinner would be taken care of. Everyone can always meet at home for coffee and dessert afterwards.

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June 26, 2015 Flag
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I am having a surprise birthday party for my dad at 2-4 in the afternoon about 2 hours from my home. So I need food that is cheap, easy to transport, and won't spoil in the summer. I also don't have a great deal of time to prepare. I know, that's a lot of caveats!


I will get a cake from Costco, nuts, and mints.

What are the easiest ideas for punch, other snack foods? I am thinking I'll use balloons to decorate, but they are hard to transport. Does anyone have other ideas for decorations in a church basement?

Dress is casual.

Thanks so much!

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July 24, 20150 found this helpful

Blow up balloons with just plain air, not helium. Tie with a curly ribbon like you would get if you bought helium balloons. Make a loop of tape or use 2-sided tape and tape these balloons onto the ceiling with ribbons hanging down.. Can do ahead and looks as if you had bought helium balloons!

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June 6, 20160 found this helpful

Hot dogs. Buns typically go on sale for $1.00. Get the hot dogs on sale too, by scanning store ads. Cheap, easy, fun and good.

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September 1, 2013 Flag
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Tables set up for a group meal.Every week we host about 20 people for a meal. I'm running out of wheat-free ideas. We have done baked potatoes, salad, beans, hot dogs, and burgers. I prepare the main dish and assign others to bring side dishes. Any really cheap ideas on what else to do? I'd like to not use the oven because it heats up the house and we are in the Houston area so it's still around 100 degrees pretty regularly here.

By Barbara L.

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January 8, 20150 found this helpful

Rice Rice Rice!

It's super cheap, and you don't need to worry about any specialty gluten-free items. It's been a staple of our diet ever since my husband had to go gluten free. Rice based meals we've served to company have included curry, stir fry, california roll style sushi, rice casserole, soups and any meat dish can be served with a side of rice.

If you get bored of plain rice, a wild rice blend adds nice variety, though it's a bit pricier, and we're also fond of quinoa cooked in chicken broth (Trader Joe's has the best price for it in our area).

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January 8, 20150 found this helpful

Just noticed the bit about it being hot in Houston. This is my favorite light summer meal. I usually just throw in whatever veggies are on sale instead of what the recipe calls for. They all taste good.

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March 3, 2014 Flag
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I am having a wedding in the south for 100 people. I am on a budget and have no caterer. How do I feed 100 people for my wedding?

By Jessica T.

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March 4, 20140 found this helpful

I agree, ask for help. Make it so that their offerings are their present to you. Plan the menu and have them delegate who is to bring what. Offer no sloppy dishes esp' with a red sauce but other than that, finger food is always welcome. I did the food (as well as everything else) at my sisters revow in 02' and brought the whole wedding in for 300.00. As for the cake and such, you might offer something for the diabetics in the guest list. A simple cheese and cracker platter, veggie or fruit tray. I wish you luck.

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March 29, 20140 found this helpful

We did this last fall for about 150 people. We served fried chicken, bought from a local grocery store deli (150 pieces of chicken was about $125). We also bought potato wedges from the same store for 25 cents each. We bought 2 per person ($75) and had LOTS left over. We also had ham slices - I don't remember what they are called but the are like small loaves about 6 inches long which gave us about 25 1/4 inch slices from each ham. They were on sale for $7.50 each and had the store slice them for us. We bought 6 hams for about $50, and warmed them in a large roaster with some brown sugar.

We also bought the large cans of green beans at Walmart and cooked them in a large roaster with a pound of bacon. We made up some large veggie trays with ranch dressing and some cheese and crackers. We also bought some loaves of French bread at a local bakery and had them sliced.

We spent a total of about $500. The best thing we did was have a co-worker who volunteered to watch the food during the wedding and had a couple of family members who stopped at the stores between the wedding and the reception to pick up the chicken and potatoes. It seems like a big job, but we found it was kind of fun and a lot cheaper than local caterers that wanted from $12 - $15 per person ($2,000 or so!)

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August 30, 2004 Flag
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I am on a mission here in Iraq. My job is to take care of service members in a very remote area. I can't give you my exact location, but what I am trying to do is bring this area into the 21st century and bring the Iraqi kitchen I deal with up to date on some basic American foods.

We don't have the modern convenience of a corner grocery store in this area and some ingredients are not available unless we travel to Baghdad, which is a very dangerous area right now.

I am trying to introduce a larger variety of American foods to the menu and find that if I can get scratch recipes to feed 150 people three times a day this would help boost the moral of my troops and add a touch of home.

I am looking for recipes that can be made fresh and in bulk. I have cooked for groups of about 20 for special family occasions, but used my recipes and just cooked all day. We use gas stoves here and also deal in the metric system for measuring, any help you can give in the measuring department would be appreciated.

What I am asking for is some simple breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with some simple cake and dessert recipes and different sauces (canned tomato sauces are not available). We only have the one cook and he does what he can with what he has, but we get the same menu everyday and I have to find more variety that would be usable in this environment.

Some of the basic things we can get and have on hand are, plain flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, eggs, curry, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, beef, lamb, and chicken. Anything your collective minds can come up with would be deeply appreciated. I guess I should also tell you that everything is served buffet style. I hope all this makes sense to you and look forward to your response.

Thank You,

Site Manager, Iraq

May 16, 2013 Flag
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I am planning a graduation party for approx. 100 guests. What is the easiest and most inexpensive way to prepare the pulled chicken?

By Mindi

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May 16, 20130 found this helpful

Google for the information that you need.

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April 26, 2004 Flag
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I am planning a wedding for my sister. I need to feed 100 people on a limited budget. I think we have at least 10 vegetarians. It doesn't need to be incredibly formal.

August 22, 2013 Flag
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I'm having a large get together in a few months (and by large I mean it could be up to 200 or so people) and I need some help. I'm trying to save money by making the food myself and not hiring a cater. Any ideas? or would it be best if I just found a good cater?

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