Whether you have several kids to feed or are planning a party for a group of 10 or more, plan a menu that is healthy, tasty and that won't break the bank. If you choose the right ingredients, you can plan a menu for a large group without spending too much money. Think of simple ingredients you can get on sale or that usually don't cost much money, such as pasta, inexpensive cuts of meat and canned goods.
Main Dishes: Pasta
Plan properly to get the ingredients you need for a main dish inexpensively. In many cases, you can buy several pounds of dried pasta for less than a few dollars. A pound of pasta can feed between four and 10 people, depending on whether it is acting as the main dish or a side. Make a cheap pasta dish by mixing together 4 cups of cubed cheddar cheese and a pound or two of pasta. Add some vegetables to the dish without adding much to the cost by mixing in a can or two of diced tomatoes. Other cheap pasta options include making a large lasagna, serving spaghetti with jarred tomato sauce or baking stuffed shells.
Main Dishes: Meat
Buy inexpensive cuts of meat such as pork shoulder or chuck roast and prepare the meat by braising. Another option is to cook the meat in a slow cooker. Since it's an inexpensive cut, you want to cook it in a manner that will make it tender. Add a bit of salt, pepper, ranch seasoning mix and other spices to the meat as it cooks to boost the flavor without raising the price. To make a beef stew, add liquid such as chicken stock or water to the pot along with cheap vegetables such as carrots and potatoes.
Soups and Salads
Prepare a large salad cheaply by using a mix of iceberg lettuce and romaine topped with a creamy dressing. Use store-bought croutons or prepare your own by toasting stale bread with a bit of butter or oil. The other vegetables on the salad should be in season to keep costs down. Preparing a large pot of soup is another inexpensive way to feed a group of people. Vegetables such as onions, carrots and celery, which don't cost much, can form the base of the soup, then you can add whatever other vegetables, beans or grains you like to it. Keep the cost of the soup down by not adding milk, cream or cheese.
Serve a crowd in the morning or serve breakfast as dinner to keep costs low. Buy a few dozen eggs and whip up a large batch of scrambled eggs. Mix the eggs with inexpensive cheddar or mozzarella cheese and vegetables to make an egg casserole or frittata. Buy a loaf of day-old bread, which should be marked down, and prepare French toast for a group. Use in-season fruit to make a cheap fruit salad and make a large batch of pancakes. Use pancake syrup, not pure maple syrup, to save money.