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.


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.

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.

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November 11, 20140 found this helpful

I loved your good ideas and I have one for you. If you have some room in your yard start some sweet potatoes next summer and have plenty for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. They will grow in just about anything. Their vines are beautiful and the leaves are also edible. Save some of the smaller ones to start next year and the cost will be next to nothing. You can't beat the taste of a sweet potato grown in your own backyard.

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September 21, 2016 Flag
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I need a recipe for a crock pot or baked dish for breakfast. It needs to be not too hard and enough for 40 people. Thank you.

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October 10, 20160 found this helpful

Pulled pork. Large joint of pork shoulder, slow cooked in a marinade of your choice (plenty of ideas around) pull the meat and return it to the crock pot a few hours before you are ready to serve and let everyone help themselves, serve with bread rolls, pitta breads or wraps with lots of salad. Cheap and it's a crowd pleaser.

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September 1, 2016 Flag
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How many loaves of French bread do I need to feed 150 people?

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September 2, 20160 found this helpful

An average sized loaf of French bread has about 10 servings or slices. You can decide how many slices you would serve per person, such as 2, calculate the total loaves needed for 150 servings: 2 slices per person = 5 servings per loaf, 150 divided by 5 = 30 loaves.

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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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April 30, 20160 found this helpful

Take your husband out for a surprise birthday dinner, forego all the work and expense, and have a wonderful time!!! When the helpful non-volunteers complain they wanted a party, tell them to make their own party!!!

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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

August 30, 2004 Flag
0 found this helpful

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 17, 20100 found this helpful

My mom has a recipe called beef curry that I always loved, it is used for a sauce over rice or noodles. If you don't have those, it can be thickened enough for a soup. These are the ingredients for a potful:


<li>1-2 lbs. lean beef, cook first

<li>1 onion

<li>garlic powder or garlic

<li> 2 teaspoons curry

<li>4-5 teaspoons of beef bouillon (you may not have)

<li> 5 cups or more of water


Simmer 2-3 hours (I've done it in less time). Thicken with flour or cornstarch, 1 1/2 tablespoons per cup of sauce. It calls for tomato sauce, you can use tomatoes, maybe mashed up a little bit. I'm sure there is some salt in there somewhere, I don't have it listed, but it can't hurt. I'm not sure how to convert to the metric system. Google "metric system".

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Anonymous Flag
January 30, 20160 found this helpful

Here are some ideas that immediately come to mind, hope this helps...

Curry over biscuits with cucumber and tomato salad (hoping you can find some sugar and vinegar for salad dressing). Curry would probably be a la king style using chicken or beef, onions, and tomatoes.

Egg, tomato and onion quiche with flour based pie crust.

Brown up onions and make up a gravy using flour to pour over roasted beef and tomatoes.

Make a curry flavored stuffing with onions and bread made using flour. serve with roasted chicken.

Scrambled eggs with sliced tomatoes and bread made using flour and water.

Bread pudding with raisins (if you can find them) is tasty for b'fast.

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Anonymous Flag
April 13, 20160 found this helpful

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!

June 27, 20150 found this helpful

For party decoration ideas-try dollar stores, Walmart type stores, thrift stores (often have large amounts of party stuff!), etc.

You can also try a great online store that has TONS of party and decor stuff. This site also supplies elementary teachers with projects, youth groups, etc. Prices are very cheap and no hassle to drive around and try various stores. Right now the site has free shipping for orders over $59.00:


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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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September 1, 2013 Flag
1 found this helpful

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.

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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Anonymous Flag
August 26, 20160 found this helpful

March 3, 2014 Flag
0 found this helpful

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.

March 4, 20140 found this helpful

Potluck is what we're planning for my daughter's wedding. We asked a close friend to be in charge of the details so that's one less worry for us.

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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

May 16, 2013 Flag
0 found this helpful

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

May 16, 20130 found this helpful

Google for the information that you need.

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