Tips for Feeding a Crowd

Do you resist having families over to your house because large scale cooking intimidates you?  This stressed me out until I had a big family and realized it wasn’t too hard to cook for a crowd! On a daily basis I cook for nine people, and my children love to host parties and gatherings for friends and family. The secret to feeding a crowd is to do as much as you can before the party. In the past few years we have hosted a few parties for over 70 people and it was actually quite fun!

With spring break and summer quickly approaching there will be many opportunities for parties and get togethers.

Plan Ahead

Every large task requires some degree of planning. Cooking for a crowd is no different. Prepare your menu at least two weeks ahead of time (more if you are able). One great benefit of having a planned menu is that if someone asks what they can bring, look down your list and pick something. Then cross it off your list!

Shop Ahead

Don’t wait until the last minute to shop for your gathering. Most items can be purchased weeks or sometimes months in advance. There may be a few things that need to be purchased the day before, but try to keep these items to a minimum. Shopping ahead also allows you to watch for sales. If you plan ahead you might be able to get most of the menu items on sale.

Prep Ahead

I try to do as much work as possible the week before. Look over your menu and decide which items can be prepared ahead of time. Work to prepare all these items before the big day arrives.

Keep it Simple

I realized a long time ago that getting together for a meal was less about the food and more about the fellowship. While you want your menu to be yummy, don’t kill yourself preparing 20 exotic dishes that no one is going to really like anyway.

Ask for Help

This is especially important during the holiday meals. Even your single 20 something cousin can pick up a few packs of rolls on his way over to your house for the big dinner. Most of the time people offer to bring a dish, but if they don’t ask them anyway. Once the guests arrive invite a few of the “cooks” into the kitchen to help you with the finishing touches.

Think Outside of the Box

The first several years of our marriage I had turkey trauma. I couldn’t cook one to save my life. I really wanted to have people over for Thanksgiving one year, but didn’t want to fail with another turkey. We changed things around a bit and had a make your own pizza Thanksgiving. This was one of our most memorable celebrations and we talked about it for years.

Love your Crock

The crock pot is your best friend when it comes to making big meals. For my husband’s 40th birthday bash I made a huge batch of sloppy joes in the crock pot. I browned the meat earlier in the week and the morning of the party threw everything in the crock to cook for a few hours before guests arrived. There are so many great crock pot dishes and most of them are perfect for a crowd.

Meal Suggestions for Large Groups

Spaghetti and meatballs, bread sticks, salad

meatballs, sauce, salad and bread can all be prepared in advance.

Sloppy joes, fruit and veggie tray, chips

the sloppy joe mixture can be made in advance, fruit and veggies can be cut the day before

Wet Burritos

this entire dish can be made in advance and be either frozen or refrigerated

Tacos

almost everything can be prepped in advance

Soup, salad and bread

Many soups can be made in a crock pot. I wouldn’t recommend this for a group of hungry football players, but perhaps a ladies luncheon?

Lasagna

this can be made ahead and put in the oven before your guests arrive

BBQ

the meat can be prepared in advance and warmed the day of the party

What is your favorite party meal?

Comments

  1. DgsandBjsMom says:

    My extended family for years has a couple of gatherings a year and the menu is always the same. Usually the host house grills or buys pulled pork and everyone sort of has their set things to bring or make. One aunt makes a good potatoe salad and awesome fruit salad with peaches that she froze fresh off the tree. Another aunt makes baked beans. Someone will bring slaw and then the rest of the family will bring desserts, chips, fruit/vegetable trays, drinks, etc. Usually we meet for lunch and then visit all afternoon and bring out the leftovers with some sliced cold cuts for supper!

  2. This Christmas we had about 30 people over. We made big bowls of rice (rice cookers) with creamed chicken in gravy(crock pot) and then had assorted toppings. The toppings were cheese, onions, pineapple, olives. bell peppers, tomatoes, french- fried onions, etc. It was easy, delicious, and very kid-friendly!

  3. Oh, I bet if you replaced the “soup” with “chili”, those hungry football players might be ok. Or at least frat boys.

  4. I love the recipe for Wet Burritos you posted. This was a favorite at the home of the first family I worked for, with all 11 kids! Making your own traditions and routine for gatherings in key. For my husbands poker nights or our couples game nights, we are ardent fans of the crock pot. For family gatherings, I am not afraid to speak up and assign everyone something to share 🙂 It really made it all perfect when my grandmother came to Christmas at my apartment 2 years ago. She said she actually had fun for the first time in many years at a holiday dinner, because we went with the laid back buffet, tv tray meal . (When you cram 30 relatives into a 2 bedroom apartment its the only way to eat, LOL) My big standby that is always a hit for kids and adults is Porcupines, which also can be made and frozen. 🙂 Love love love them, and I even can sneak veggies into the kids and picky husbands with them. (Pureed spinach and carrots) 🙂

  5. love cooking with the crock pot and now I buy the liners which makes clean up even easier!

  6. I love doing tacos! I do the meat in the crockpot, and then I serve black beans, peppers, lettuce, cheese, salsa, and Mexican rice on the side. With the rice & the beans the meat goes further, so it’s really inexpensive.

    I just wrote a blog post on Entertaining vs. Hospitality which talks about just this: how we need to stop thinking that we need to do everything fancy, and just invite people over and serve a whole pile of food!

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. GREAT post! GREAT menu ideas! THANKS!!

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