My baby's birthday is coming up next week and we're having his favorite party again this year - a bonfire in the backyard.
It's just as much fun for us as it is for the kids.
We usually have around thirty to forty people over, including both our large families and friends.
It's a blast!
It also has the potential to get expensive quickly.
I thought I'd share my top three meals for entertaining large crowds on the cheap.
First, my absolute favorite: Baked potato bar.
Always a great choice. I fill my roaster full of scrubbed potatoes, rub a little oil over them and wrap them in foil. Then I let them bake in the roaster for 4-5 hours while I get ready for the party. Serve them with all the fixin's (sour cream, bacon, cheese, green onions), add a veggie tray and a homemade cake. I serve coffee, lemonade and tea - all cheap options. This is what I'm planning to serve next Saturday - with the addition of smores over the fire and maybe crockpot hot chocolate if it's cold enough. This meal is always a favorite. I'll head to Sam's to pick up most of the ingredients, using the bacon, cake mix and ranch dressing mix I've already picked up on sale. For under $40, I'll feed close to forty people.
My second favorite: Sloppy joes
This one has the added cost of using ground beef, but it's still a filling and easy meal. This is another easy meal that comes together in the roaster. Just brown your meat then add it and your sloppy joe sauce (homemade is cheaper) and let it simmer all day. Once again, I head to Sam's club for buns - they have the best prices. I add a potato salad or mac & cheese and green beans from the garden. Add a homemade dessert and always the same drinks - coffee, tea and lemonade. This meal works out to around $60 for a group of forty. If you want to save a few bucks, you can skip the buns and make cornbread (homemade, not packages) and serve it over cornbread.
Finally, the standby: Hot Dogs
This is an easy one as well. Once again, I pull out my trusty roaster or large crock pot and line up the wieners to cook. If it's a bonfire, we roast them over the fire instead. Then another crock pot cooks the sauce. Add ketchup, mustard, onions and a little coleslaw for the hot dogs (Is a slaw dog just a WV thing? It's so good.) Depending on what time of the year it is depends on my sides. If it's hot out, I pair it with potato salad and a veggie tray. If it's cool, it's two hashbrown casseroles and a veggie tray. This meal works out to around $50 for forty people, including dessert and drinks.
You'll notice that I rarely do chips, juice boxes or pop. They are huge budget busters. It's cheaper to make a big side dish using potatoes, which are cheap, and throw together a quick veggie tray with cut up carrots (not package baby carrots), celery, pepper strips and cherry tomatoes.
Just goes to show that you don't have to bust your budget to feed your family and friends.
What's your favorite meal for a crowd?