Cooking for a Large Group on a Tight Budget

Cooking for a Crowd on a Tight Budget in 2024

Cooking for a crowd on a tight budget can sometimes seem a bit much – but we show you how you can do it with some shopping tips for budget meals and some actual meal ideas.

Making cheap meals does not mean you should cook buttered pasta and fried rice.
You can be a little more creative and with a little planning added you can achieve a really tasty result that has your guests going WOW.

Also, remember people look first at the food before they eat – so presenting it well will make a big difference to the event’s success.

Meals prepared for family reunions, weekend getaways, and school functions are important celebrations that need good menu preparation and ingredient planning and well-budgeted shopping where you can get many of the ingredients in bulk. It is very tempting to be thrown off track if you just go to the supermarket without a proper plan or list.

On that list also write down exactly what quantities to buy – so you do not over-cater, or worse under-cater and end up having to go back to the market again – this costs time and money.

What you should also do plan some meals that can be made in large amounts and can even be prepared in advance.
See What Are The Top Meals That Can Be Prepared In Advance For A Big Group

So do not worry read on add use our ideas to help you execute these useful tips on how to successfully cook for a large group on a tight budget.

With these amazing tips and recipes, you’ll be cooking a delicious feast for the whole family in no time at all!

How Do You Feed a Large Group of People Cheaply

Prepare Meals In Advance
Prepare Meals In Advance

1. Prepare the meals ahead

Meal Planning: Preparing the meals or main dish ahead of the big day will definitely save you more time, and therefore will stop you rushing at the last minute, or even the day before and this is when you waste money. Preparing the ingredients ahead of time before you start cooking is also a good idea.

Many ingredients can be measure and cut and stored ahead of time – letting you focus on cooking and seasoning the dish.

One of the first things to do in meal prep is organizing your freezer, pantry, and refrigerator. Doing this will allow you to quickly get the items for the recipe and then store them in a place where you know you can get them – say the chicken breast is cleaned and diced – just ready to be cooked. The potato is washed and peeled and stored in water so it will not go brown – and then you can get straight onto cooking.

If you are cooking for a really big group creating a calendar will help you. Make a calendar to plan when you are going to cook these meals, know how you are going to store them, and reheat them. Now – planning to buy your big list of recipe components.

Grocery List When Cooking For A Crowd Is Essential
Grocery List When Cooking For A Crowd Is Essential

Random grocery shopping means you will end up over budget and probably miss some things. By making a good list with the quantity written down means you will get the 2 lbs of green beans you need – not the 4 lbs because it was there and you could not remember the quantity needed.

Having a list will also mean you focus just on what you need so that money is not spent on things that are just not necessary – remember you are on a budget.

Having a list will prevent you from wandering around the store aisles because you do not have a plan and it will save you time. This is a good discipline to follow to eliminate the urge to buy useless items that are just not required in the recipes.

I Make A budget When I cook for A Large Group
I Make A budget When I cook for A Large Group

3. Prepare and stick to a budget

Preparing a budget is important and step one, however, sticking to the budget is another key thing. Both require willpower and some self-control to achieve them. When cooking for a large group on a tight budget, expensive foods might be considered, perhaps they look tempting – or are premade and you think it will be easier – but if it takes you over your budget that is not what you want.

Stick to your food budget for lots of people by having a specific amount already planned before you go shopping. And do not forget to perhaps go to the bulk stores.

Determining the costs of your grocery list in advance can also help.  You can log online to your local market most have the prices there from there you can have a pretty good idea of what you will spend in advance.

Planned Grocery Shopping For A Crowd
Planned Grocery Shopping For A Crowd

4. Grocery shopping

Shopping in bulk is the wisest way to save. When buying for a large group, shopping in one go for all the things you need will slash the prices if done correctly. To do this, remember the price per unit or ounce. Compare it with other grocery stores to see which one is cheaper – online.

Deciding on which grocery store to shop from is also an essential decision. Places such as Sam’s Club and Costco are usually cheaper than other stores. They offer discounted prices, especially in bulk items. But if you plan to buy in smaller quantities, go to Walmart since they offer competitive prices for basic ingredients that can help you save money. 

When buying in bulk, use your coupons if you can. Using your coupon may be time-consuming but it is definitely worth it. It will help you save a reasonable amount of money when buying in bulk. 

Also there are often some great specials for options for customers to shop and purchase groceries online that are free of charge for delivery and can have some pretty good prices. This will save you so much time and energy. Plus, it will keep you from impulse buying and stick to the planned grocery list. 

Lastly, buy the generic brands rather than purchasing from name-brand food. Generic brands are usually cheaper and have the same quality and taste.

instant pot saute setting
Instant Pot or Slow Cookers Are Great When Cooking For Big Groups

5. Use Kitchen Appliances where possible to make your job easier.

Using a slow cooker, crock pot or instant pot (electric pressure cooker) are great ways to make party food. Use them in your meal planning to make a healthy dinner to serve. 

They are also very useful in keeping food warm. Remember the whole goal here is to satisfy your guests with a great tasting but easy meal, and do not forget about the finger food because it will take pressure off your main delicious recipe that you may have as your feature or signature dish.

Pot Luck Dinners Will Make Cooking for A Crowd Easier
Pot Luck Dinners Will Make Cooking for A Crowd Easier

6. Make the gathering potluck

If you do not have sufficient funds to host a dinner or gathering, make it a potluck event. In that way, it will save you from preparing too many recipes; hence you can focus on producing one main dish and something like a pasta salad which is a good side serving with your signature main dish while keeping it budget friendly.

What is the cheapest Easy Meal to Feed a Crowd

In addition to the tips to the tips listed above, here are some cheap yet mouthwatering recipes that you can serve for a crowd without spending too much.

The other thing to consider is how many side dishes you will have – a nicely cooked veggie dish seasoned and drizzled with a butter garlic sauce is a great side.

Green Beans And Butter Garlic - A Great Side dish For A Crowd
Green Beans And Butter Garlic – A Great Side dish For A Crowd

Here are some other veggie sides

  • broccoli – cooked or raw with a dip (low carb choice)
  • green bean
  • canned beans (heated and seasoned)
  • baked potato
  • sweet potato
  • mashed potato

these are great vegetable sides.

To learn more about feeding a large crowd – go here