If you’re reading this post, then chances are you have found yourself needing to make food for a big family, a bunch of friends, a church congregation, or another event with loads of people. No fear! Below you’ll find some tips for making food for the masses and doing it on a budget!
6 Tips for How to Feed a Large Group on a Budget
#1: Buy in Bulk & Compare Prices
Buying in bulk can really help cut down on costs. But don’t always assume bulk stores like Costco are going to be cheaper. (For example, at Costco frozen fruits and veggies are a great deal, but fresh meats are usually not. Click here for an insightful article on things you should and maybe shouldn’t be buying at Costco.) If you’re making a lot of some food items, then it’s worth it to do a little extra research and see where you can get the biggest bang for your buck.
When comparing prices, be sure to look at the unit price (the price per ounce or price per pound). The big sticker price you see on an item isn’t the most telling because a lot of products vary by size. Instead, look for the smaller unit price number and compare products using that number.
Tip: Store brand products are almost always cheaper than name brand products. Also, there are exceptions, but the quality of store brand items is pretty comparable to that of the name brand items. (Brand association is marketing at its finest!)
#2: Focus Your Menu
Don’t spread yourself too thin by trying to do too much. Focus your menu, efforts, and dollars on only a handful of food offerings. By having a focused menu, you will be able to avoid buying food for unnecessary sides, desserts, or drinks. You will also have more time to devote to each dish (for price comparing, etc.), making you more able to make wise spending decisions.
#3: Pick Budget-Friendly Foods
Kind of a no-brainer, but don’t go buying steak for a million people. Make your main dish a filling food that is cheap. Carbs (like potatoes, rice, pasta, etc.) are great for this! Save the meat, fruit, and other expensive items for a side dish. Better yet, mix them into a side! For example, if you’re making breakfast for a big group, you could make pancakes for your main dish and serve hash browns (another filling carb!) for side dish #1 and scrambled eggs with bacon bits for side dish #2 (instead of straight up bacon strips that will be devoured in four seconds).
Need some menu planning help? Click here for 11 ideas for Cheap Meals for Feeding Large Groups
Tip: If you’re tight on cash, for your drink, just serve water. Water is free! Unless this is for an event that obviously calls for another drink offering, the guests won’t complain if they don’t know what they’re missing out on. If you feel the need to make a fancy drink but don’t have the budget to do it, then add lemon or lime slices to water and it elevates the look without deflating your wallet too much.
#4: Know Your Budget and Stick to It
The whole point of the word “budget” is to have a financial plan or forecast of what you can spend. Figure out a total dollar amount that you can afford to spend on your event. Then, come up with an inexpensive menu idea (being conscious of how much things cost), and know an estimate of how many people you will be feeding. Using this information you can estimate how much of each ingredient or food item you will need and what it will cost you to buy for the group. (Don’t forget to factor in paper/plastic plates, cups, utensils, napkins, etc. if needed!) Are you coming close to the dollar amount you can afford? If you’re projecting to spend over your budget then look at your menu and see what you can cut out or change. Or, see tip #6.
#5: Use Smaller Plates & Serveware
If you’re going buffet style and worried about people taking too much food, preempt the issue by providing smaller plates. Obviously don’t go too small or it will be frustrating for your guests, but not providing the biggest dinner plate around is okay. By providing smaller plates, people who need to come back for seconds will, but you will avoid having a bunch of wasted food left on plates. This tip is especially useful when there are children in the group. (Double especially when the kids are serving themselves!)
Another way to help people take less is by using smaller serving utensils. People will naturally be more conscious of what they are loading onto their plates if they have to dig into the serving dish a couple of times.
This tip is not necessarily about feeding people less, but about helping people not waste food that they take. Wasted food is wasted money–no bueno if you’re on a tight budget.
#6: Ask for Help
Whether it’s asking for people to bring a side dish or dessert or asking for them to bring a small donation, this tip can be one of the easiest ways for you to ease your financial burden. Especially if you’re carrying the bulk of the meal preparation on your shoulders, chances are people will be more than willing to help you out.
Tip: When asking for monetary donations, provide a suggested amount. This will help your guests know how much you’re hoping for. You don’t want to leave them wondering if their donation is too little or too much.
Hopefully these 6 tips will be helpful as you plan your next event. Feeding a large group can be fun, as long as it doesn’t break the bank. By following these tips and being money-conscious, you can definitely feed a large group on a budget!
Don’t forget to check out our post on Cheap Meals for Feeding Large Groups by clicking here.