Party Foods for 100 People. Cheap, but Good

Updated on June 28, 2010
K.C. asks from Evansville, IN
24 answers

I am having a 40th bday party for my husband in a few weeks. 118 people (all adults) are invited. I am not requesting RSVPs, so don't know how many will show. It is a busy summer, so maybe like 60%. I need some good appetizer foods (party starts at 7pm, so not having a dinner) to serve that are good, filling, easy to make, and won't cost a fortune. Doesn't need to be fancy... party is at our house and majority of people will most likely spend most of the time in our garage/outside around the pool and deck or basement. Alot of people to be in the house at one time!!
It is a Friday night as well and I have to work until 4pm that day. so won't have all day to cook either!! Things to prepare in advance or easy to throw together or take out of a package/etc. are preferred!! but doesn't look or taste like it. :-)
Thanks for your ideas.

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So What Happened?

Thanks all for your suggestions! Here is what I am doing...
20lb of pulled pork (from Sam's Club) with mini rolls and pickles and onions. Double recipe of the velveeta/sausage/rotel dip and chips. Double recipe buffalo chicken dip with chips. Meatballs and BBQ sauce. Large Veggie tray. 7 Layer Taco Dip with chips. Big assortment of chips/nuts/pub mix. Cupcakes and cookies (from Sam's Club) for dessert!


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answers from Seattle on

Trying not to repeat:

- You can get giant bags of chicken drummets/wings. Probably 1-200 for around $25. A couple days ahead of time defrost, soak 1/2 in teriyaki, and cook all of them in the oven on cookie sheets. The 2nd 1/2 toss with Franks Buffalo sauce. Put in big ziplocks and toss back into the freezer. Defrost day of... and put in the over for a few minutes to warm them back up. Finis.

- Big pasta salad : I like shells or orochete, some alfredo, some spinach or basil if you've got it, and some cherry tomatoes. It's something you can throw together the night before and let sit in the fridge. cost about $10-$15

- Big spinach or Caesar Salad... vegetarian... cost about $10 if you already have dressing. $15 if you don't.

- Mexican party tray. The azteca near us has a GIANT party tray for $40.

- Ditto Sushi. I can get 100-125 pieces (depending on which tray I order) for $60

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

A rye or pumpernickel bread bowl - tear out the inside, save the torn pieces to put around the bread bowl. In the bread bowl, put some spinach or other kind of her dip. You can also serve this with cucumbers and carrots along with the bread.



answers from Cincinnati on

Well there is always Costco - frozen apps which are good or through the Montgomery Inn pulled pork in a crock pot with mini buns. I had Chipolte cater my husbands 40th and it was very reasonable.

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answers from Dallas on

I love to prepare foods and appetizers for my parties but in your situation of your hours and limited prep time....

COSTCO is great. Nice trays, etc with sandwiches, fruits, cheeses
Bring in some catered food if possible Pei Wei is good, BBQ,

I would not have a large assortment of dips. People tend to use dip too much. I personally do not serve any chips/dip combos.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

I'd agree that you can get a lot of mileage out of costco/sams club.
People do love hummus, chips/salsa, fresh veggies/fruit (I'm skeptical of the pre-prepared trays personally).

A friend threw a 40th birthday party for her husband recently and went to Gordon Food Services, got great pulled pork. We did the same for our son's birthday party last saturday. We got 7 lbs of pulled pork from the farmer's market (we're still eating it) for ~40 people....we served it for an impromptu block party that night, and we still have at least 2 lbs left.

Costco has small dinner rolls you can cut and serve for people to make sandwiches.

Chips, frank's red hot chicken dip (can be made the day or two before and reheated when you get home).


I think you'll be fine!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

*Adding this:
Chinese Restaurant: some "Crispy Gau Gee" or Crispy Won Tons... real good finger food and with the hot mustard sauce too.

Go to Costco, and pick up any kind of food/appetizer trays.
Then that way you don't have to cook everything. And Costco has bulk
amounts and pre-made foods that you just heat up.

Subway, also has party trays....

7-11 also has party trays.

Sushi shops/restaurants also has take out sushi platters.

And then you can always transfer the foods to your own serving plates/bowls to make it look more home-made.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

I would make a trip to your nearest Costco/Sam's Club. We recently had a combo bday party for my hubby's 40th and baby's 1st. We didn't have that many, but I got several bags of chips and some Wholly Guacamole and a big tub of Sabra hummus. Those went over very well(especially the hummus). Cut up a couple watermelons/cantelope along with other fruits for a fruit bowl/tray. Other than that, I'd say whatever you could find at the warehouse-type store that will be in bulk. Also, anything you could put in a crockpot, or two crockpots. Nacho cheese for nachos or chicken wings after you've baked them (also something you can find in the freezer section of Costco/Sam's).
Have fun!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

I am telling you this is the best recipe, cheap easy and GOOD. you may have to triple or 4 x the recipe for that many people.
brown 1 tube of sausage (I use Sage flavor from Bob evans but any one will work)
After browning put in a crock pot, add 2 packages of cream cheese and 1 can of Rotel.
Serve with Scoops.
Since its in the Crockpot it will stay hot for as long as you want. Good news is you can make this DAYS before your party and just keep the food in a bowl or ziplock bag. It will take about 3 hours before the cream cheese is melted and ready to be served.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

-meatballs in a crock-pot with toothpicks on the side (buy frozen meatballs. They'll stay hot all night yet you won't have to tend to them).
- queso & chips and salsa and bean dip(easy). Put queso in another crock pot (borrow your neighbors). It'll just need stirring througout the evening).
- pasta or potato salad
- deviled eggs (boil the eggs the night before to save time).
- tortilla wraps (many recipes online. Make the night before, slice & serve when you get off of work)
- buy a ham already sliced. Have mustards and fresh rolls.
- fruit salad/fruit tray
- crackers and dips (hummus, spinach dip, artichoke dip)

have fun! You could also do fruit with dipping chocolate in a miniature crock pot or electric warmer. Yumm.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

Giant sushi platter, cheap and yummy. I second the costco idea, the poppers are fun and when I was in college I worked for a very high end caterer that used the little frozen quiches at her events, people thought she made them herself. I like to put bowls of roasted almonds and cashews around during a party for people to munch. We had some people over on New Year's and my chocolate fondue was a hit. Pound cake, strawberries, bananas to dip, tasty and fun and not somethng peopel see all the time. Happy B-day to your husband, have fun!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

my aunt always made a 7 layer dip which was
cream cheese soft and mixed in an envelope of taco bell season
spread out on a pie plate
on top add your favs
she did lettuce,tomatoe,cheese,salsa,refried beans,sour cream.
make it your own but its easy and can be made ahead of time and serve with tortilla chips.
have fun!!!



answers from Cleveland on

It's been popular, especially in summer, to put out some brie with sliced red grapes, slivered almonds, dried cranberries, raspberries, and some cranberry or raspberry jam on top! I warm the brie for about 20 seconds in microwave then add everything to the platter with crackers. Ritz or wheat thins are yummy.


This is yum too!

White Chili

2 lbs. Ground Turkey
2 Med. White Onions
2 Tbsp. Minced Garlic
2 tsp. Oregano
4 Tbsp. Cumin
2 Jars Green Chopped Chilies, Diced
3 Jars Green Tomotilla Salsa
3 Cans White Beans, Drained and Rinsed
2 Cans Chicken Broth

Saute Ground Turkey with onions, garlic, oregano, cumin and chilies until browned, drain fat. Add to large pot. Add salsa, beans and chicken broth. Cook 45 minutes to 1 hour to blend flavors. *Serve with nacho chips, shredded cheddar cheese and chopped green onions!



answers from Toledo on

I just had a party for 100 people and I bought four 5# bags from GFS (Gordon's if you have them where you are at) and they were a huge success. It was the perfect amount and didn't have a ton left over. I bought the GFS brand of Swedish meatball sauce and also did the GFS brand marinara so guests would have a variety. I made up 10 batches of cheesy potatoes a week before, froze them, and pulled them out of the freezer the night before and cooked them in a roaster the day of the party as I did with the meatballs. I made pasta salad up two nights before and put the noodles in gallon ziploc bags and then cut up the veggies, cheese, and pepperoni, along with salad supreme seasoning and put everything on top of the noodles. I then added the dressing the day of the party. I would dump the pasta salad in a bowl and mix it up and replenish as needed. I made six batches. Chicken salad sandwiches went over really well (you can find it premade at GFS or Costco. Hope this helps!



answers from Huntsville on

Hope I'm not repeating...maybe lil smokies in a crock-pot. 2 packages of all beef smokies with 1 jar grape jelly, 1 jar original bbq sauce and cook in the crock pot for a few hours.

Another idea is use little smokies or something similar and make pigs in a blanket. I use Pillsbury crescent rolls and just tear in strips to cover the weenie. Bake according to directs on crescent roll package.

Another idea is cold veggie pizza. Very easy to make. Get already prepared pizza crusts, bake for about 5 minutes, just have to heat it up. Mix cream cheese and dry ranch dressing packet together, spread on pizza crust. Top with diced tomato, cucumber, shredded carrots, shredded cheese, diced olives, just about any veggie will work. Once topped press down on it with wax paper to set everything down in the cream cheese mixture. Cut and serve! Everyone I have made this for loved it.

You could also do a taco/burrito bar. Buy a lot of ground beef at Costco or Sams and lots of shells and burrito wraps, they are pretty inexpensive. Have cheese, sour cream and tomatoes on the side and let people scoop and top their own as they please. Serve with chips and salsa. The Mexican restaurants around here sell their chips in a huge bag and salsa by the quart for like $5. About the same price as store bought but much yummier!



answers from Dayton on

Meijer or kroger have lots of party platters you can order. We did a big party like this last year and on the invite I asked people....instead of bringing a gift for my husband, please bring a dish to share. We bought a few sandwich platters and and has a crockpot of meatballs, and everyone else filled in the rest of 2 long table of food! It was a great success and huge burden off me to plan all the food!



answers from Colorado Springs on

How fun, K.! My first recommendation is to reconsider the RSVP thing. It REALLY will help you in planning. Remember that you will have food, drinks, cups, plates, napkins, etc. to consider. You don't want way too many, but you also don't want to run short. It gets expensive. I would suggest cheese and crackers, saucy meatballs, chips with salsa, fruit and vegies cut up with dips, cheese balls (I have some good recipes to share if you are interested, including a chocolate chip cheeseball, which is always a huge hit, and so easy to make ahead), of course, a cake (or whatever your husband likes for his birthday treat (mine likes brownies, and a couple of our children like trifles), nuts, easy things like m&ms, etc. What will you be doing for drinks? You can use 5 gal water coolers filled with various drinks that you refill as needed, or if you have a larger budget, canned drinks in coolers. Artichoke dip served in a bread bown is good. Cut up the bread you take out of the big loaf into squares, and use that for dipping (hawaiian bread is yummy for this). I also like to serve cream cheese covered with a hot sauce of some sort (raspberry chipotle from Costco or a hot salsa type sauce) that they can eat with crackers. Pretty and yummy (and so simple!).
Have fun!



answers from Toledo on

I feel the best foods are dips! Borrow some crock pots and put out those. Put out bowls and chips and they can carry them around. All of these can basically be prepared the day before and/or thrown into a crockpot when you get home. And left overs taste great reheated.
Chili Conqueso Dip
Spicy Buffulo Chicken Dip
Spinach and Artichoke Dip

On a platter:
A variety of taco dips (there are so many of them)
veggie tray and dip
fruit tray and dip
cheese and crackers

Finger sandwiches on the smaller squares of bread (prepare mixture day before and put between sandwiches right before)
-tuna salad
-chicken salad
-egg salad

Also, you could go to your local library and check out an appetizer cookbook for other ideas. I love Taste of Home cookbooks.
Have Fun!



answers from Denver on

tortilla chips and ruffled potato chips
3 types of dip- usually salsa, ranch, onion -you can get premade dip - I'd check sams or costco for larger size- onion dip goes fast around here
6-7 avocados and a matching quantity of Guacamole mix (or 7 layer dip from sams/costco - faster, easier and likely cheaper- hard to get into a pretty dish, tho)
2 large trays of assorted veggies (can get at sams/costco)
2 med. watermelon, skinned and diced into a bowl or two
tray of cubed varieties of cheese or slices
3 boxes mixed party crackers
Couple dishes of mixed nuts set around- possibly by the drink station

2 crock pots- one for salsa con queso (block of velveeta, can of rotel- set on low and leave it alone), and some of those little smokies with enough decent BBQ sauce to keep em' covered, set on low (on of my faves to find at a party)

If you are so-inclined you can do a large pasta salad the night before- boil tri-color rotini, drain & set aside, dice 1 each- cucumber, 2 colors bell pepper, shave 3 carrots into ribbons lightly chop to 1 inch pieces, 1 can sliced black olives. keep your vegg and pasta seperate till it's time to throw it together- when you're ready to throw it together mix and toss pasta and vegg, add 1 pack crumbled feta, and dress with Zesty Italian dressing- toss and serve - you can also chop and toss in 1 head of romaine if you want to stretch the pasta salad

don't know what your drink plans are- but fruit punch for an youngsters, and usually a couple bottles of vodka (and either some nice fruit juices or liters of various colas) and a pony keg of nice beer from your local liquor store will suffice.

Pick up some sturdy party ware- and maybe some festively seasonal serving ware (walmart or target usually has cute serving plates to display your snacks), and don't forget some lawn garbage bags. You'll want sturdy bags to haul all your trash away in!!! =D

Enjoy your shin-dig!


answers from Washington DC on

If you haven't sent the invites yet, you could ask everyone to bring an appetizer or a dessert... People certainly don't mind helping...
If anyone asks if they can bring something, say yes!
Ham biscuits - you can make a bunch, they are filling and they don't have to cost a lot.
Chili - easy - everyone likes it - can sit in the crock pot all day.
Pulled pork - put it in the crockpot the morning before. Pull it when you get home... put it back in the crockpot the next evening when you get home with the bbq sauce and you're good to go.
Good luck!



answers from Tulsa on

Taste of Home magazine used to have a section called food for a crowd. The online magazine doesn't have it. Go to your local library and see if they carry back issues and look for the recipes. Most were for over 50 servings and I have used many of them. The portions were right and the amount of food wasted was minimal.



answers from St. Cloud on

~buy some big cans of nacho cheese at Sams and have chips available with either salsa or cheese (put cheese in crock pot) choices (Sams probably carries those little plastic nacho trays too?)

~BBQ smokies or meatballs are always a good EASY appetizer for the crock pot!

~FRESH FRUIT BOWL (watermelon, grapes, strawberries, blueberries) can be cut up/mixed a day in advance so you just have to pull it out of the fridge! Mix on a fruit dip too if you have time.

~sub station (Sams Club has great croissants and packages of ham, turkey, cheese, etc.) Just have mayo and mustard!

~CHIPS (have a few different kinds- Doritos, Sunchips, regular kinds)

~Veggies and dip

~Meat, Cheese, and Cracker tray




answers from Minneapolis on




answers from Indianapolis on

For our wedding we had appetizer type foods- we did several crockpots of meatballs- you can buy big bags frozen at Sam's club. I bought Sweet baby ray's bbq sauce and also did some of them with grape jelly and chili sauce mixed (it is very good). We also bought little wrapped sandwich type things- i think they are called deli spirals- again we bought them frozen at Sam's. We put them straight from the freezer to the platter around 11? and they were ready at 1- the girl may have put them in the fridge the night before though- i can't remember- but everything was really good and we got lots of compliments. Oh- if you want a "fancy" dessert- they also sell cheesecake squares (about an inch) and they come in 3 varieties in one box- very yummy!!!


answers from Los Angeles on

Pre Cooked chicken wings! Oh man I love those things, pile them on a huge cookie sheet and throw them in the oven. I have found teh best deal on them at costco. Also when I go to parties I like it when they have a fruit tray, its nice and frefreshing (to keep it cool put it over ice) or you can also do a fruit dip. Taquitos are always good too. =) Have fun!

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