BIG List of Creative Ways to Feed a Crowd!

BIG List of Creative Ways to Feed a Crowd on a Budget - from

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Need some easy recipes and cheap family meals for those out of town guests??

Or are you looking for more ideas and ways to feed a BIG crowd on a budget?

I received the following question from frugal friend Brandy…

“For Thanksgiving, my husband’s family of 5 are visiting for a week. We have 3 in our family already, so that makes 8 of us at the house for a week. Since we are on a budget, I was wondering if anyone had any thrifty meals that would feed a lot of people for those days before and after Thanksgiving. Thanks!”

Check out this BIG List of Creative Ways to Feed a Crowd compiled in this post and in the comments below

Jenny said: Crockpot meals are yummy and typically last my family of four for about 2-3 dinners, so that would feed at least eight people for 1-dinner.”

Deanne said: “Potluck it! Have everyone bring their favorite dish or dessert, and then share with everyone!  Wasn’t that what happened in the very first Thanksgiving?? :o   Also, crockpot meals are great!  Shop the ads for local grocery store deals – one store around me has family turkeys on sale for $0.69 per pound.  Clip coupons and buy things in bulk.  Good luck!!”

Kathy said: “I come from a family of nine.  Trust me when I say all of our meals where cost effective.  Mac & Cheese – the homemade kind – is one of our whole huge family’s favorites.
Directions: take 2 boxes of elbow mac and cook according to directions, then drain and put back in the pot (DO NOT RINSE).
While mac is cooking you will shred 3 large blocks of cheese – our favs are sharp cheddar and Colby Jack.  Put shredded cheese over the cooked and drained mac, stir quickly and cover the pot.  Let sit for about 3-4 min. and stir again.  Cover one more time and wait another few minutes.  Stir and serve with a salad.  This mac & cheese is stringy and filling and amazing!  Inexpensive and delish!”

Kelly said: “It’s not very traditional, but works great for us… we do tacos!  Refried beans on the side, or add it to a crockpot of taco seasoned hamburger to really make it stretch. Bowls of lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, black olives, onions, a bottle of Tabasco sauce, sour cream and salsa set out with a choice of hard or soft shells.  Everyone makes their own and that way even picky eaters are satisfied.  Plus it will work fine on durable paper plates for easy cleanup.  If there is any leftover, it makes for nice taco salads a day or two later.”

Crockpot - Browning Meat Tip

Angela said: Enchiladas… cheese or meat and Spanish rice and beans for the side dishes. You can individually roll the enchiladas, or you can lay the tortillas flat and layer them; making a casserole of it. :) HTH”

Easy Chicken Enchiladas Recipe

Easy Chicken Enchiladas Recipe at

Jodi said: “I make Chicken and Dumplings often, but I use tortilla’s instead of dumplings… they are not as thick and gooey and they cost less!  Just cut them in to strips or squares! The crockpot is your friend when it comes to a crowd!!”

Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings Recipe

Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings Recipe

Grace said: “I would suggest making dishes that use inexpensive meats (or none at all) that can be used again as left overs. Big pans of homemade soups and/or stews, for example, are hearty meals. Add some bread and a salad! Same thing for Spaghetti and meat sauce or marinara. Casseroles with noodles…use left over turkey! :)
And honestly, in this economy, I would suggest shopping with some of the other family members. Let everyone contribute!”

Kelly said: “Chili is always a favorite this time of year.  Beef stew, chicken and dumplings (I use Bisquick), baked spaghetti, baked mac ‘n cheese, and meatloaf.  Salad and bread always help people to fill up so they don’t eat too much of the main course.  Also a big pot of homemade soup or shepherds pie.”

Easy Crockpot Taco Soup Recipe

Easy Crockpot Taco Soup Recipe

Lori said: “There are ten in my home when we have family over, so we do chili and bean soup A LOT!  Spaghetti or some type of pasta is always cheap and easy.  I also ask the adults to come up with a meal idea that they would like to purchase and prepare.”

Easy Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

Easy Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

Kymberly said: “Honestly, more turkey! This time of year turkey is among the most affordable meats around.
I would roast a second turkey on Friday, if necessary, and make Turkey Pot Pies with it – homemade crust and leftover or inexpensive vegetables make this a fairly affordable dish.
The next day might be turkey soup (crock-pot or simmer) and hot sandwiches?
Breakfast casseroles are great and anything with bread and eggs as the main ingredient is pretty affordable, whether you make eggs and toast, french toast, etc.
I also save by not having more beverages than coffee, tea, milk, water and some breakfast juice for the kids.”

Cinnamon Roll-French-Toast10

Dana said: “We like to make pizza for family parties.  It’s super cheap and easy to make your own pizza crust; just flour, yeast, water, and a little oil and salt.  Add in some sauce and toppings, and you have a great meal.  Plus let the kids help by topping the pizzas. They’ll love being part of the action.
You can always make French toast for breakfast with a loaf of French bread, a few eggs and some milk.  This will feed a crowd.  Another cheap breakfast is pancakes… add in some of  your own maple syrup, and you’ll feeding the family on a budget.”

Homemade Maple Syrup

Drea said: “Make turkey broth from the bones, strain, and make turkey barley vegetable soup.  Very healthy, homey, and cheap!”

Lynn said: Oatmeal is cheap for breakfasts, and some recipes can be quite special.  Try making it in the crock pot to have ready when you get up.  Also check out the clearance sections of the grocery for bakery items; make overnight French toast or breakfast bread pudding from a loaf of French bread, bought for under $1.  This will also make great stuffing.  Go vegetarian… with beans and rice, a pasta bake with no meat, etc.”

Crockpot Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Crockpot Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Sheri said: “This is my favorite cheap breakfast for a crowd – Egg Casserole:
1/2 large loaf of white bread
9 eggs
3 cups of milk(you can use canned milk in this)
1/2 lb. of sharp grated cheese
1 stick butter or margarine
salt and pepper to taste
Cooked bacon crumbled (optional – this was not in the original recipe )
Directions: Spray coat a 13 x 9 casserole pan. Cut the crusts off of the bread and cut the bread into strips or cubes.  Melt the butter and pour into the pan.  Cover the bottom of the pan with the bread.  Mix together eggs, milk, salt, and pepper.  Sprinkle 1/2 of the cheese over the bread, then pour on the egg mixture.  If you are using bacon or crumbled sausage (maybe Jimmy Dean’s crumbles?), sprinkle it on now.  Cover with the rest of the cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for about an hour, until set.  Remove the cover and let the cheese brown for a few minutes more.  This can be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen raw, and then baked ( allow extra time for baking frozen).  You can add what ever you like to this – salsa, onions, garlic, etc.  It feeds quite a few people for not a lot of money.  Most of the time, no one knows there is bread in it.”

Lizzy said: “Depending on your budget, I’d only do one meal with meat a day.  Don’t be afraid to use rice.  Some cheap (and easy) meals I’ve done, or will be doing are:
Taco Soup or Gumbo (eat it for 2 days); Ingredients are sausage (a pack a Hillshire), onion, red bell pepper, & a can of crushed pineapple over rice.
Curry Chicken; buy the yellow bottle curry at Trader Joe’s and cook with chicken in the freezer that I got for $1.99lb over rice
Tamales: From Costco, just steam them.
If you double the recipes, there’s always some leftover for lunch.  I don’t do a big “sit down” lunch each day.  It’s leftovers or sandwiches.  Also, I do a soup and salad, which can include pasta salad or grilled cheese.”

Overnight Breakfast Sausage and Egg Casserole Recipe

Overnight Breakfast Sausage and Egg Casserole Recipe

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So… what works for you??

Do you have any tried & true thrifty meals to fill up a crowd?

Leave a comment and share!



  1. shelly says

    fried rice is great. cook up a batch of your favorite rice. then for protein add eggs, and canned, fresh or frozen peas, carrots, celery, or whatever suits you. fills you up n super cheapo.

    • Susan says

      And don’t forget Spanish rice. I use 1 to 2 lbs hamburger, an onion, a couple cans of chopped tomatoes, a small bag of frozen corn, and a can of olives. Works well for our large family ! Add a green salad if you want.
      We also make beefy mac or chili mac, depending on what is on hand. I fry the hamburger and an onion, then drain, add cooked and drained macaroni, two or three cans of tomato soup and a little water to keep it moist. I add chili powder last, if desired.

  2. shelly says

    also, on the above fried rice you can add a cabbage salad with a head or maybe two ofgreen cabbage, and some other things like celery, cucumbers, bell peppers, or whatever sounds awesome, and use ramen noodles crunched up and use the season packet with some vinegar, soy sauce, and oil and water to make a dressing makes a big fluffy salad!

  3. NaDell says

    So many great ideas.
    I’ve found it’s easy to make leftovers stretch into another meal as well (assuming the flavors work).
    I kind of laugh at 8 people being a large group, but I guess it’s all what you are used to. A crowd to me is 15-30, probably because I grew up in a family with six kids and many aunts, uncles, and cousins…
    Try to have themed nights. One for Italian, Mexican, Asian, American, etc when you are together. That makes things more fun.

    I don’t think that macaroni and cheese is particularly frugal with THREE blocks of cheese. That’s $15 or more.

  4. says

    our staple dish for a crow (15-20) is moksi alesi- a mixed rice dish from african origin with tropical roots.
    You will need: for the basic rice:
    parboiled rice or regular long grain if not available (1 kg),2 tbsp oil, 2 large chopped up onions, chopped garlic (1 tbsp), bouillon cubes or salt to taste, pepper, tomato paste or sauce.
    optional: 2 pckgs of sazon goya/ with or without annato foodcoloring, (black eye) peas or (lima) beans, fresh, frozen or from a tin, just be sure that they are precooked.
    to cook the rice: water or a combination of 1 tin cocomut milk and water.
    additional: chopped up bacon, kielbasa, cooked meat (leftover turkey, chicken or beef) or even desalted cod (fish)
    preparation: rinse the rice with water until clear,
    in a dutch oven or a caldero pot fry onions and garlic in oil for about 5 minutes, add tomato paste (1 -2 tbsp) and if using, meat, bacon or fish. let it stew for approx 15 minutes, while adding salt and pepper to taste.
    now add the rinsed rice and cover with liquid up to the first joint of your middle finger. cover the pot and let the rice absorb the water (approx 15-20 minutes). you may add some quartered cabbage (to steam) and fresh hot (whole) peppers on top (for that special aroma), lower the heat and stir the rice carefully. you may add some water if the rice is not quite done and cover with a piece of foil to let it steam until it is done. then add some knobs of butter, garnish with green onions and serve with a fresh greens and tomato salad and some hotsauce. you may also fry up some ripe plantains to accompany the meal.

  5. Martha says

    I feed 5 men every day and I go to a few nearby grocery stores to find their meats marked down. I can always find either chicken, turkey or italian sausage for 99 cents/lb. I’ve found chicken thighs & drumsticks for 88 cents/lb. I also checkout the vegetable area for reduced items. I can get broccoli for 50 cents/head, peppers and onions are pretty inexpensive. I stock up on the pasta when it’s 50 to 75 cents/ box. Francesco Rinaldi or Ragu is usually on sale. As you can tell, we cook alot of Italian.
    Final word of advice.. use there’s an advanced search key where you put in the ingreadients and it gives you ideas for meals! My regular cookbooks are gathering dust..

  6. Melissa Belle says

    We doubled this recipe to feed company about 9 people, and everyone really loved it. It’s a keeper in our house, great cold winter comfort food!

    6 (3 oz.) Italian sausages (Johnson’s brand is best)
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 large onion, sliced
    1 clove garlic, chopped
    2 (15 oz.) cans white beans (Great Northern or navy), rinsed and drained
    1 (28 oz.) can chopped tomatoes, drained
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 tsp. dried thyme
    Salt and pepper
    Poke holes in sausages and put in a large nonstick skillet. Add 1/4 cup water; bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook sausages, turning, until lightly browned and water has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes and thyme.

    Put half of bean mixture into a slow cooker. Arrange sausages on top, followed by remaining beans. Cook on high for 4 hours. Check after 2 hours and add water if mixture looks dry.

    Remove sausages; slice thickly. Season beans with salt and pepper. Return sausage to stew. (Stew can be kept, frozen and tightly sealed, for up to 1 month.)

  7. says

    My favorite crowd pleaser is Sausage & Peppers. Italian sausage, chopped green and red bell peppers (or whatever color you can get cheapest), chopped onion, cans of diced tomatoes, and Italian dressing. Serve it up on rolls or even hot dog buns! You could also add rice to make it stretch even further. Delicious!

  8. Michele ºÜº says

    I’d recommend getting a LARGE turkey for Thanksgiving so that you have leftovers for the day after. You can have turkey sandwiches for lunch or make paninis with turkey. For dinner, use turkey in any recipe that calls for cooked chicken. There are tons of recipes online that use precooked chicken.

    Casseroles feed a crowd great and can be inexpensive if there is little or no cheese in it and they can be as easy as whatever you have on hand or find on sale. Here’s a link to a general casserole recipe:


  9. Lorraine says

    Crock Pot Pizza! Every Kids Favorite Dish!!! Original recipe from my friend Rickyann 1Lb ground beef
    1/2 cup chopped oinion (optional) cook together and drain add the following 1 26oz jar spagetti sauce 1 26 oz jar pizza sauce or 2 15 oz cans heat through cook 12oz Klusky noodels for 7 min in boiling water. Drain well Layer in crock pot in this order Put about 1 cup sauce in the bottom to keep noodles from sticking add all noodles meat with sauce 8oz shredded cheddar cheese 8oz shredded mozzerella cheese top with 1 package sliced pepperoni cook in crock pot on low 2-3 hours I have a big family who loves this so this is my version same as above but I have to make mine in a 18 qt roaster oven I use 2lbs ground beef and sometimes ground sausage I only use 3 big cans of my fav spagetti sauce kids didnt like it with the pizza sauce. Klusky noodles are expensive so i use a big bag of egg noodles I put 2 cans of the spagetti sauce in with the hamburger and mix it all together reserve the last can to layer the bottom of the roasting pan with I layer it like i would lasagna layer meat, noodles, pepperoni, and we like pizza cheese. put it on 350 for about an hour Dont have either neither does my daughter so i have her make it in a lasagna pan cook on 350 for an hour too!!! Enjoy I never have any left!!!

  10. Nicole says

    My version of a “crowd” is usually 20-30, and my two favorite dishes to make are either stuffed cabbage or scalloped potatoes. Both are cheap to make in large quantities, and they go a LONG way! Stuffed cabbage just takes cabbage, hamburger, a variety of canned tomatoes, onion, and rice. The rice added into the meatballs and sprinkled sparingly in the sauce really helps bulk up the dish without emptying out your pocket! For scalloped potatoes, it’s simply potatoes of the cheapest variety, butter, flour, onion, milk, and the meat. We like to make it with smoked sausage, which I usually get 2/$4, but I sometimes add a few pork chops If they’re in sale. I’d say stuffed cabbage for 20 costs me about $30, and scalloped potatoes for 20 costs about $25, and I’m being generous with the costs. Plus, both dishes will provide leftovers for the next day’s lunch and everyone lives these meals! Serve with cottage cheese and bread in our house. Sometimes we add a salad or corn in the cob when it’s in season.

  11. kim says

    My boyfriend’s parents introduced me to this dish and it is so cheap, delicious, and plentiful: fill a large stew pot half way with boiling water, add a cut-up head of cabbage (core removed), a stick of butter, let that cook about 30 minutes, then peel and add as many potatoes can (leaving about a thumbs length of broth for the final ingredient)– cook the potatoes for about 15 minutes(till almost quite done but still needing about 10 more minutes) — reduce heat & add final ingredient, 3-4 packages of Polish Kielbasa’s (cut into chunks)– stir them in (pot will be full). Let them cook about 10 more minutes — then turn heat off completely. Let the dish stand and soak in the juices @ least 15 minutes(not to mention it will be piping hot and needs time to get a temp for consumption)– serve with a salad, bread or alone. This dish can easily serve 10-12 people for tops $20 bucks & is super easy to make. I always let everyone salt and pepper there own to taste. The broth/dish is great — Enjoy!

    • kimf says

      I made this dinner tonight for my daughters youth group. It was great and easy. No complaints from the teenagers…

  12. MaryGay says

    I made a taco bar for over a hundred for my son’s high school graduation with Spanish rice and refried beans for “filler.” For dessert? A sundae bar with those big (cheap) gallons of ice cream. Corn tortillas are usually cheaper than flour but you could add flour ones and make it a burrito/taco bar. Big bonus! The taco meat, Spanish rice and refried beans can be made ahead of time. Spread it further by adding chips and a big jug of salsa.
    Also, for smaller venues egg foo young is a cheap way to go with any leftover meat.
    A couple big bags of frozen ravioli and a jar of pesto (both from Costco for about $27) feeds about 20 with a salad. Their tuxedo cake can be cut into almost that many slices. Even with the big salad you have a meal and dessert for under $3 a person even with the dessert and salad. If you have some really big eaters you could add a couple of grocery store french bread loaves (buttered and garlic-salted yourself to control the expense of the butter) for $3-4. The bread is a dollar a loaf.

  13. Lisa says

    Honestly, pasta is the way to go! It is filling, and cheap to make! Not to mention you can always use it as a side or fry it up for leftovers!

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