( Don’t forget that there are only two days left of the early bird special for A Peasant’s Feast: Nourishing Food on a budget!. The early bird coupon to get twenty dollars off is “ngcoupon”)
Ever felt a little tight-fisted with your expensive, organic food? I know I have. When I have struggled to keep my food budget where it should be and everything is just barely fitting in, hospitality can seem like a drain instead of a pleasant experience. Yet food should be all about sharing. That’s what makes the dining experience so meaningful. Yes, food should nourish the body. But meal times should also nourish our relationships with family and friends. There’s nothing quite like gathering around a table of delicious food with those you love.
That’s one big reason I have tried to develop ways to save money on meals, meals that are still nourishing and made with good ingredients while being frugal. I want to be able to have the flexibility to feed others around me that I love without feeling like it was breaking my budget. I have been helping out here and there with bringing meals to “the gang” over at my mother-in-laws right now. In total, we generally have 15 people at dinner every night. For those mothers out there with large families, this is not huge, but cooking for 15 is just a little different than cooking for 4.
Yet, it’s also remarkably the same. The same technique for buying food and cooking and the recipes I use to stretch out meat, chicken, and seafood work just as well for a crowd. In some ways even better! One of our favorite meals is chicken curry using a recipe that I have developed over time. (It’s one of the many recipes in my course, A Peasant’s Feast: Nourishing Food on a Budget! ). I made this for everyone last night and it was a simple, delicious and frugal meal and it worked just as well to make for a crowd as for our little family. Instead of stretching out a chicken to feed us for several meals, I made a small chicken stretch out to feed a crowd (with plenty of leftovers!). I am so thankful that I have been able to develop recipes appropriate for hospitality that are frugal too because it was a real struggle for our budget earlier in my nourishing career.
Here are a few thoughts and tips for feeding a crowd nourishing food for less
*Giant pots of soup or stew with bread and salad makes a great comfort meal that is also very frugal.
* I love to serve pasta, bread sticks and salad to a crowd as it’s always a crowd pleaser. That’s what I served at my husbands last’s birthday celebration and it was a success. Read about it here with a great recipe for crockpot spaghetti sauce.
* For a light summer meal, serve a giant main dish salad. It’s surprisingly frugal.
* In high school a friend and I did a birthday bash for my husband, and we served Mexican Salad. All of the guests brought a small addition to the party (a tub of sour cream, some cheese, a jar of salsa, an avocado or two) and we had the main ingredients ready. It was a fun and very frugal way to feed a large crowd.
* We love to have barbecues during the summer, but keep in mind that buying that much quality meat per person for a crowd will add up quickly. One local store in my area will sometimes have great sales on pastured ground beef, so I watch for it to freeze for when we want it for a barbecue. Otherwise, why not think outside the box and use your grill not only for meat, but also for more frugal options, like grilled pizza (101 cookbooks has a fun recipe here), or skewers that spread that expensive meat out a little more. We also love this grilled vegetable salad. Yum!
*Budget for hospitality, if you really want to make it happen without going over your budget. No matter how you cut it, it’s going to be more expensive to feed more people. So plan for it! Put a little money aside every month for hospitality and you will have a bit extra to spend on others.
*We generally serve simple meals to guests as that’s how we eat and that’s what we can afford. Hospitality shouldn’t be about wowing the guests, but rather about sharing the best of what you have. (Of course, simple homemade food made with good ingredients is kind of rare in many circles, so sometimes you end up wowing others without even meaning too! That’s always fun).
* In the end, remember it’s all about the people. Being who I am, I love serving healthy and delicious food to guests, but I also keep in mind that the reason I enjoy that is because I care about the people. Just do your best and serve what you can afford and enjoy the relationships.
What meals do you like to serve to a crowd? I think that the crowd over at my mother-in-law’s would love to hear some of your simple, but healthy ideas of how to feed a small crowd (with many hungry males).