Looking for some easy, crowd-pleasing recipes? Read on for some tips, tricks and recipes to help you feed a large group on a budget.
Growing up the eldest of five children, I learned early on how to cook for a crowd. My parents were both from big families (6 and 8 kids there) so family get-togethers, were, well HUGE. Today I regularly cook for a small army.
But, I realize that not all families are as big as ours. Cooking for many can be a challenge when it’s not your norm. When we have company, I, too, am plagued by the question of “What if there’s not enough food?”
Don’t let this put a damper on your bigger gatherings. Here are my strategies for feeding a crowd:
1. Choose something economical.
If you decide to serve lobster or steak at your next big gathering, it may be hard to keep costs down. You might be tempted to cut corners and end up with too few steaks.
Instead choose a budget-friendly main dish that you can afford to “over buy” in order to accommodate your crowd.
This might focus on beans and legumes, rice dishes, pasta, sale cuts of meat (often chicken and pork) and even pizza.
It’s no secret that going meatless can dramatically cut the cost of your meal. And the dinner will still be fabulous.
Try these menus on for size:
- Poblano Enchiladas, Mexican Rice, Caesar Salad
- BBQ Pork Sandwiches with homemade sauce and homemade buns, Sunshine Cole Slaw, Easy Veggie Tray
2. Plan a meal that you can easily stretch.
If your meal entails an individual-sized main dish, like personal chicken pot pies or chicken in parchment, you may be in a quandary if your guest list expands at the last minute. Instead choose a recipe that you can easily stretch.
Add a can of beans to the chili. Throw extra vegetables into the soup. Supplement that lasagne with a bowl of easy Alfredo noodles or an extra large Italian salad.
Plan for an emergency even if you don’t need to carry out the plan.
Some meals that fit the bill include:
- Fresh Basil and Garlic Chive Lasagne, Chichi’s Italian Salad, Creamy Noodles (omit the meat in the recipe)
- Jalapeno Chili, Buttermilk Cornbread
- Tortellini Soup with Sausage and Vegetables
- Minestrone Soup with Sausage and Tortellini
3. Consider food allergies and special diets.
When you’re meal planning, allergens might not cross your mind and you end up selecting three dishes that all contain cheese or other dairy. But the guest with the food allergy will notice right away, especially when their dinner options are greatly reduced. Keep in mind how you can make your meal friendly to everyone, at least for a few courses.
Some things may surprise you! Nowadays when it seems that we’re much more aware of food allergies than we were twenty years ago, there are still some things that might throw you for a loop.
We once knew guys with very unique food preferences and allergies. Neither ate vegetables. One due to health issues, the other due to preferences. If I had served only a giant salad bar, they might have found themselves with slim pickings.
Try to vary what you serve and include some allergy-free items if you can. Consider these options that are both vegan and gluten- and soy-free:
- Rice Pasta Salad
- Bean and Rice Soup (without the cheese, if necessary)
- These festive Whole 30 recipes
4. Belly up to the bar.
Serving a DIY bar of some kind helps you take a load off and is an easy way to serve a lot of people. Diners can serve themselves in just the right amounts. Some of our favorite “dinner bars” include
Feasting with a crowd doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive, or boring. There are plenty of options when it comes to serving a large group of people, many of them tasty and easy to pull together.
What’s YOUR favorite crowd-pleasing recipe?