125 answers

Fast, Economical Lunch for 40

I know this question has been asked about a million times, but I need it answered again! Please bear with me! Anyway, my daughter's 2nd birthday is in a couple weeks and we have a large family. Just the immediate family is invited to the party, and that ends up being about 40 people. I need ideas for a simple lunch that won't break the bank. We did sandwiches last year so I don't want to go that route. Any ideas for a meal that won't take forever and a day to prepare and is somewhat budget-friendly?
Thanks for your help!

9 moms found this helpful

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WOW! I am pleasantly surprised at all your awesome responses. It is great to know that I have a great group of moms to turn to with all my questions.
We have decided to go with a hot dog lunch. We found 30 packs of hot dogs at Sams's for $4 so we really can't go wrong! Thanks so much for all of your help, I am sure my daughter's party will be wonderful.

Featured Answers

I just had my daughters 3rd B-day at the end of January and was looking for something just like you, fast and affordable. I made 3 9x13 pans of mostacholi casserole two weeks before, put them in the freezer and then two days before put them in the frig to thaw. If you want the recipe that I made just let me know. Then I had family make a few salads and I made garlic bread. I also had them bring some appetizers since everyone came over early. I come from an all italian family so pasta is always a hit!

5 moms found this helpful

Roaster ideas
How about a indoor hot dog roast...
Ask certain families to bring the condiments,buns,side salads,cheese-celery sticks-carrot sticks etc pickles, vegetable cold or and hot, plates chips,dips, plates,cups, napkins and drinks.

Loose meat called maid rites with/wo cheese on bun.
Ask certain families to bring the condiments,buns,side salads,cheese-celery sticks-carrot sticks etc pickles, vegetable cold or and hot, plates chips,dips, plates,cups, napkins and drinks.

Roasted meat/s, chicken,etc.
Ask certain families to bring the condiments,buns,side salads,cheese-celery sticks-carrot sticks etc pickles, vegetable cold or and hot, plates chips,dips, plates,cups, napkins and drinks.

Spaghetti
Ask certain families to bring the condiments,buns,side salads,cheese-celery sticks-carrot sticks etc pickles, vegetable cold or and hot, plates chips,dips, plates,cups, napkins and drinks.

How about chicken wraps, Tex Mex, chicken strips,chicken ,tacos,pop corn chicken, children love chicken animals shape
peices and children and animal frozen fries,fries,broasted chicken and or fries.
Ask certain families to bring the condiments,buns,side salads,cheese-celery sticks-carrot sticks etc pickles, vegetable cold or and hot, plates chips,dips, plates,cups, napkins and drinks.
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Or cold cuts
Or Chicken salad in taco shells ,or in pita sleeves
Ask certain families to bring the condiments,buns,side salads,cheese-celery sticks-carrot sticks etc pickles, vegetable cold or and hot, plates chips,dips, plates,cups, napkins and drinks.
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Desert ideas
How about a cake and also jello jigglers or and cup cakes or cake baked in a cone the kids can decorate with cake spinkle toppings- cool whip etc.
A good desert idea the other children can do and bring as part of their shareing and helping.
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D. let me know how it goes please. Hope these ideas help

4 moms found this helpful

I did a baked potato bar for my son's baptism and it worked out great. You can bake the potatoes ahead of time, and then put them in an empty cooler to keep them hot. Then you just have the fixin's and a salad. I also had tortilla chips because with cheese and chili for the potatoes you can also make nachos. Hope this helps, it was super easy, and it went over really well for us.

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers

L.,

TACOS! We have done this lots of times, for everywhere from 40-200! Everyone seems to like the things (except me and my mother, who is 84...)so we are really popular when we serve them. It is a "build your own" taco bar - a LOT less work for you and run about $1.25 per serving and that's buying everything at the local supermarket, not a membership club. All you have to do is cook up the hamburger w/taco seasoning, cut up the tomatoes, and maybe the lettuce if you can't find it already shredded. You just set everything out and your guests make it their own way - remember to have both soft flour and hard corn shells. They can also crunch up the hard shells for a taco salad if that is their bag.

Sorry I'm so late getting to you on this, but we have had some health issues this past week with my hubby (the cook)in the hospital. Between work and hospital visits, I have not had time to get on the computer. If you already have something else planned, keep this in mind for another time. It seems to be enjoyed by all age groups. Add a bit of fruit and bars for dessert and you have it all. Need qty of stuff to fix, send email to ____@____.com

8 moms found this helpful

Three of my best cost-effective party menus also serve as part of the entertainment since folks seem to love "Do It Yourself" menus. These can all be made to look like very expensive meals - presentation is everything.

Taco Bar
Taco Shells, Flour Tortillas, Taco Seasoned Hamburger, Bean Dip (layer 2 cans refried beans + about 3 cups salsa and top with shredded cheddar, heat for about 30 minutes at 350), Shredded Cheese, Shredded Lettuce, Chunky Salsa (more cost-effective than chopped tomatoes), Sour Cream, Taco Sauce and French Dressing for those who like theirs "Minnesota Mild". Add other favorite toppings as your budget will allow. Have lots of salsa, chips and extra fix'ns for the bean dip, as some will use it to make bean burritos and the rest will love it with tortilla chips.

Baked Potato Bar
Serve various sizes of Baked Potatoes in a big basket with a handle. Put out a crockpot of thick Chili, one of Hamburger Stroganoff and one Cheese Soup. (Ask if you want the recipes.) Again put out, Sour Cream, Shredded Cheese, Chopped Onions, Crumbled Bacon, Chopped Ham, get creative. Serve with a big lettuce salad and/or garlic toast. You may want to have a stack of foam, throw away bowls next to the Chili and the Cheese Soup. Some will prefer just a bowl of soup and Garlic Toast.

Sundae Bar
Self-explanatory? Bananas, Chocolate, Butterscotch, Caramel, frozen Strawberries, Pineapple (?), Chopped Peanuts, Sunny Meats, Mini Chocolate Chips, M & M's, Confetti Sprinkles, even Colored Miniature Marshmallows (your 2 year old will love them :-). Make your own Hot Fudge and Caramel to save money. Then splurge on canned "squirty cream" (Reddi-Whip)in a can. Have an afternoon party and serve just this with Birthday Cake. Buying banana split boats from a food service or even a local DQ type place will make it even more fun.

These are just three out of LOTS of our regularly used menus that economically stretch to fit the size crowd. Ask if you want more.

7 moms found this helpful

My daughter just turned 5. There were 38 people there and we made large meatballs and a huge pan of cheesy potato (hashbrown) casserole. It was a HIT! I had to e-mail the meatball recipe to my entire family after the party! I also had some baby carrots and grapes on the side. I was able to make everything the night before and put it in 2 large aluminum casserole dishes (the size you would bake a turkey in) and throw them in the oven 2 hours before we ate...so I enjoyed the party too! Here's the meatball recipe. I doubled it.

Meatballs & Sauce

2 # ground beef
1 # ground pork
2 cups soda cracker crumbs
1 cup finely diced onion
1 tsp. pepper
2 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
1 tsp. chili powder

Sauce:
2 cups ketchup
2 T. liquid smoke
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Mix all ingredients together and shape into large
balls.  (usually you can make 40 meatballs per recipe)
Put all meatballs into two cake pans and bake in a
single layer for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Then drain off any grease and combine all the meatballs into one pan and pour on the sauce. Bake for 1 hour longer at same
temperature.

7 moms found this helpful

http://homecooking.about.com/library/weekly/aa022299.htm

http://www.razzledazzlerecipes.com/quantity/

here are a couple of sites for you to check out. I just googled "cooking for a crowd" there are dozens of sites.

doubling or tripling recipes can be tricky. it's best to find a recipe that's designed for the quantity you need.

to keep costs down, i'd be tempted to look for something like a casserole or egg brunch dish, but that's not too appealing to a 2 yr old.....

6 moms found this helpful

Tacos-in-a-Bag are fun and you don't need extra plates as they are made in and eaten directly from the Fritos chip bag.

Fritos corn chips mini-bags. Chili. Cheese. Sour cream. Guacamole. Chopped, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, green onions. Or anything else you put on taco salad (a.k.a. "haystacks").

Serve a drink and a self-contained dessert (popscicles, go-gurt or grapes on the stem) and you've got a low hassle, low clean-up meal.

6 moms found this helpful

we do "walking taco's"... make taco meat and all the fixin's, intead of shells, go to costco or sams and get individual bags of nacho chips, before opening crush the chips, then with scissors cut the top across (about 1/4)so you have a pouch, add a spponful of meat and whatever else (we do buffet style), we also use plastic tableware no mess, takes about half hour to prepare, and even better..... NO CLEAAAN UP.... just throw your "bag away. it also takes less of everything cuz you can only get about a spoonful of everything in you chip pouch. My family love them.

6 moms found this helpful

How about Barbeque muffins?
Make up barbecue (browned hamburger and either your own bbq recipe or mix). I use Grands bicuits and quarter them, and then flatten them (stretch out a little). Then you put the biscuit in the bottom of muffin tin, try to get it to cover the bottom and go up the sides a little as well. But the bbq in the muffin tin, and then top with cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 º til cheese is melted and muffins are light brown. Easy to serve cuz they come out ina nice little muffin!

6 moms found this helpful

I just had my daughters 3rd B-day at the end of January and was looking for something just like you, fast and affordable. I made 3 9x13 pans of mostacholi casserole two weeks before, put them in the freezer and then two days before put them in the frig to thaw. If you want the recipe that I made just let me know. Then I had family make a few salads and I made garlic bread. I also had them bring some appetizers since everyone came over early. I come from an all italian family so pasta is always a hit!

5 moms found this helpful

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