My church feeds families every Tuesday evening. This is a charity event for low income families in the community. It is for those in need of food, clothing, and a free dinner. I am wanting food recipes, and ideas for low cost foods to buy.
Pasta-based meals are often thrifty. You can look beyond spaghetti and meatballs to white-sauce based meals, lasagne, baked macaroni and cheese, baked ziti, pasta primavera, tetrazinis. Rice is another food that can be used to stretch meats. Fried rice can be made with very little soy sauce, then have soy sauce on the tables to allow people who want more to add more. Dirty rice, spanish rice, hamburger gravy over rice, creamed chicken or ham; porcupine balls (meat and rice cooked in a tomato soup based sauce).
Sloppy Joes, beef or chicken barbeque, tacos.
Soups are always a good way to feed a crowd. Chili can be stretched with beans and served over rice ro pasta; "loaded" potato soup starts with simple potato soup, then adds garnish of crumbled bacon, grated cheese, sour cream, chives to make it special. If you have some bakers in your congregation, homemade bread or rolls can make a soup dinner special.
"Breakfast for Dinner" is ever popular; and pancakes are inexpensive to make. Add some pre-browned link sausage (from a restaurant supplier) and scrambled eggs, and it is a hearty meal. Depending on the size of your church and number of volunteers vs. the amount of people you expect, you could also do an omelet night, offering ham/cheese, veggie/cheese, or plain cheese omelets with toast.
If you have some in your congregation with "telephone talent", you might ask for recipes, suggestions, help, or supplies. You could ask restaurants, restaurant suppliers, hospitals, college cafeterias. They might also be able to help you purchase supplies in bulk.
God bless you all for ministering to your community this way.
Check and see if your church is eligible for getting food from the food pantry. Where I work (Albany, NY) there are many items available for .16 lb.
Keep up the good work!
There is very little that I can add to Jilson's great suggestions. I would urge you to take advantage of every holiday sale for big items like turkeys, and truck sales of hams, ground beef and chicken. Our Winn Dixie stores frequently have truck sales on meats and if you're prepared to buy in larger amounts, you can make out very well.
I would consider adding simple jello and plain yellow and/or chocolate cakes baked in 13"x9" pans. The most simple frosting can be made using 10x powdered sugar, a little milk and a couple tsp of butter. Desserts are not really necessary, but they are so appreciated.
Small personal hygiene items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs and hair brushes, soap and washcloths can be made available to those who need them. If your church is large enough to support a group of ladies who are willing to sew-up small ditty bags to hold those items, ask them to, and maybe it can be posted in your church bulletin.
Helping those less fortunate than we are has to be the most gratifying experience you can have, and if you're participating in a group that is doing this, you are already blessed. I wish you all the best, and thank you for being there for these people. There but for the grace of God goes me or someone I love.
One dish that I frequently take to potlucks and large gatherings is macaroni and cheese with hot dogs.
Just make the mac n cheese according to the directions on the box. Use as many boxes as you need. While it is cooking, slice hot dogs into a lot of small slices. Add the slices to the mac n cheese and cook for just a minute or two longer.
This is very inexpensive and filling and it combines two foods children (and many adults) love to eat. It stretches the hot dogs so they feed more people and adds necessary protein to the pasta making it a main dish instead of a side..
If you get a good sale on ground beef you can use that instead of hot dogs; but, I have found that most people prefer the hot dog version.
If you have an electric roaster put in 2 bags of rice and cook it. In a separate pan cook up 1 bag of boneless skinless chicken breast cut in small pieces. add to roaster when rice is done. add cream of mushroom soup to consistency. My family loves this. Dessert instant pudding and cool whip combine and chill it's a cheap mousse.
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