Meal Planning for a Crowd on a Budget

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We have had a week of crowds at our house and eating out is just too expensive. In one week we have hosted two large (25+ people) gatherings at our house as well as hosted out of town guests staying over two nights.

We love hosting in our home and I genuinely enjoy serving people, so it’s been an amazing week but it has been busy and fast moving for sure!

Large family meal planning is something that saves us money and keeps us on budget even when the week has multiple celebrations and a houseful of kids and adults.

We are so grateful to be able to use our home to love on others and enjoy time together with friends and family. Meal planning for a crowd does not have to be overwhelming nor does it have to break the bank!




A Meal Plan That Will Feed a Large Crowd

Easter Dinner– we had 28 people in our home for Easter.  I knew I would need a large amount of food prepared in advance. Here is how I did it.

I cooked a ham in one slow cooker, green bean casserole in another slow cooker. I started them early in the morning on low before we left for church. I also prepared two desserts in the morning and popped them in the fridge; banana pudding and mandarin orange cake.

When we got home from church my husband did some burgers and hot dogs on the grill and I made mashed potatoes on the stove and broccoli cheese rice casserole in the oven.

Others brought pasta casserole, corn, a large cooked turkey, rolls, chips, etc. We had enough food for a feast. It was delicious and everything came together perfectly.

Chili Stuffed Baked Potato Bar– one of my childhood friends (we’ve known each other since we were  both 11 years old) came to San Antonio to visit my family. She has six children and a few years ago her and her husband moved their family to Waco. This means she is only about three hours from San Antonio. (If you love baked potatoes, check out these 20+ Stuffed Baked Potato Recipes.)

Only three of her children were able  to travel with her as her older kids have jobs outside of the home (as well as her husband) or are on mission trips. My friend and one of her sons are gluten free. I have never had to cook GF before so I had to read up as much as possible to ensure I was on point. I knew there had to be options that would feed a large group yet not use overly unique ingredients.

I decided on a baked potato bar and chili for the first night. I used two slow cookers to prepare 9 pounds of organic russet potatoes. I washed each potato and then rubbed them down with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. I cooked them on high for 6 hours. I used one 7 quart Crock Pot and one 6 quart slow cooker.

I used a third slow cooker (yes, I have six or seven slow cookers in my house, plus a large roaster and an Instant Pot) to put on a pot of dry pinto beans. I let them soak in the fridge the night before, ensured they were clean and removed any bad beans and rocks. I put them in the crock, covered in water and added some sea salt. You want to ensure you do not fill the slow cooker more than two thirds of the way full or it will take double the amount of time to cook. Here are my top ten slow cooker tips.

About 30 minutes before we were ready to eat I prepared other toppings like onions, shredded cheese, sour cream and butter. I also made a pot of chili on the stove using the pinto beans and about two pounds of ground beef I had in the freezer. I like more beans in my chili, what about you?

The chili came together in thirty minutes. If you want to see the FB Live of us cooking this, you can join our Get Dinner on the Table Group and then watch the video once I approve you for the group. Once you’re in the group, our cooking video is here.

If you prefer to read the recipe, here is my 30 Minute Meat and Bean Chili recipe. It’s super good and reliable!

Slow Cooker Street Tacos– this is a great recipe that can be done in the slow cooker or in the Instant Pot. I’ve done both and made them more than once for a crowd. This week I used them as our second dinner for our sleep over guests. The corn tortillas were perfect for the gluten free needs. I love these tacos, they use beef stew meat and you cook them in a salsa base as well as some fresh veggies, herbs and seasonings. It tenderizes the meat so well.

This recipe can also be prepped ahead of time and made into a freezer meal. Then all you have to do is defrost and toss in the slow cooker or pressure cooker.

Nacho Bar– this week we also celebrated three birthdays in our home on one night! Nachos are another great idea when you cook for a crowd!

My mother-in-law’s brother turned 78 years old. Our grandson Christian (he calls me G Lo) celebrated his 8th birthday. And David, Christian’s Dad, celebrated his 39th birthday. Not sure if you remember our story and how our family changed a year ago when my husband learned he has a grown daughter. We learned about her in February 2018. We moved to be near her and my in laws (San Antonio) in September 2018. It’s been amazing being close enough to them and celebrating birthdays and holidays with them that we’ve missed out on over the years not knowing she existed. So, in turn, I have a son-in-law who is just three years younger than me. A step-daughter who is nine years younger than me. And two grand children who are the ages of some of my youngest kiddos. Isn’t it amazing how God’s plan for your life just unfolds? No matter the plans you have for yourself…. His plans are greater! So needless to say we hosted about 22 people in our home to celebrate these three birthdays and it was an amazing blessing.

I had a 6 qt slow cooker going with nacho cheese. I used my 16×12 electric skillet to cook five pounds of ground taco beef and keep it warm. Chips and  toppings were bought in mass quantity at Sam’s. We also had strawberries and watermelon and three delicious cakes for celebrating. It was a beautiful evening.

Leftover Spaghetti– I had about 4 different frozen containers of leftover spaghetti sauce in the freezer. I defrosted them all and mixed them together to make a big batch of sauce and then boiled some noodles. It was easy peasy! I consider this a free dinner and it was perfect for our family on a night when we had no guests.

Glorified Bean Burritos– this is an easy go to dinner that is meatless and very filling. I’ve made it many times as a freezer meal as well and is great for those busy night you just want to pull things from the freezer and heat them up. Or, make it the night of. Again, I use my large electric skillet for mixing all the beans and filling together. Heat the tortillas up on a flat electric griddle.

Leftovers– there was so much food leftover that we were able to have a night of cleaning out the fridge and eating up as many of the leftovers so they did not go to waste! That is a win, win!

How Online Grocery Shopping Keeps me on Budget

One way that I stay on budget with my grocery bill is to do as much grocery shopping online as I can.

As you add things to your cart there is no need to carry a calculator around the store, it tracks your spending as you go.

I love that there is not getting in the way of other people as I try to determine which item is the best fit for my budget- just search for it on the store websites.

I love that online grocery shopping allows me to streamline my meal planning. I do not have to spend an hour in the store running around gathering up the things I need to feed my family. The way I see it, someone else gets to have a job so that this area of my responsibilities can be outsourced.

As a busy mom with six kids at home, I place my order, pull up at my designated time and they load it up in my car. No need to get all of my children out of the car at all. For a busy mama that is golden!!

If you’ve never tried Walmart’s online grocery shopping, give it a try the next time you meal plan. You can get $10 off your first order if you use my link (aff).

Learn How to Meal Plan

Do you struggle with getting dinner on the table? I get it. Years ago when I only had four kids at home and my twins were baby (13 years ago) I began the journey of understanding the importance of meal planning. If I do not plan my dinners out, we are left eating out, over spending or being very ill prepared.

If you want to learn how to meal plan in five easy steps, I teach moms how to do that in my meal planning guide!


More Meal Ideas and Side Dishes When Your Feeding a Crowd

  • Black Beans– instead of pinto. Same concept, make them in your slow cooker or Instant Pot.
  • Potato Salad– this always feeds a crowd and you can get potatoes for cheap.
  • Green Salad– I mean you just can’t go wrong with this! Add as many fresh vegetables as you want or keep it as simple as you want. I always recommend using up what you have in the fridge!
  • Pulled Pork– buy a pork roast and toss it in the slow cooker. Cook it slow and low. Add BBQ sauce if you want. Pull the pork and serve it in tortillas. Crowd pleaser!

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