How to Feed 25 People On Less Than $50

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Learn how to put together a winning dining event from A to Z and spend less than $50 in the process.
Throughout the year many of us entertain. We entertain family and friends during the summer. We entertain during holidays. We entertain colleagues to commemorate project milestones. The one constant at these events is food. Victuals become family and social staples. They help solidify traditions we cherish. Even with the rising costs of groceries, there is a way to feed as many as 25 people on as little as $50.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Coupons
  • Telephone
  • Create Your Invitations:
    Include options for three main dishes on the invitations. Ask those who respond that they'll be attending to check off one main dish they prefer and to note whether they would like to be a member of the event preparation team. Give yourself 3 to 4 weeks before the event to get a solid headcount. In addition, tally up the top two main dish selections. For online invitation sources, see:
    • Evite (www.evite.com)
    • Easy RSVP (www.easyrsvp.com)
    You can also set up your own email distribution list and send and collect RSVPs on your own.

  • Create Your Menu:
    Write down each food item, including spices and garnishments, you will need for the two main courses. This will be your grocery list (more about getting the most out of your trip to the grocery store appears later in this article). You can find free printable grocery lists at www.easyfreeprintables.com (see sample).

    Check with your local grocer for specials. You can search grocery stores in your area online to find deals. Most major grocers have an online presence. Just click on the link for your local grocer, type in your ZIP code and you're on your way. Grocers regularly display weekly ad details. Below are links to a few major grocers:
    • Acme -- www.acmemarkets.com
    • Kroger -- www.kroger.com
    • Safeway -- www.safeway.com
    • ShopRite -- www.shoprite.com
    • Super Fresh -- www.superfreshfood.com
    • Winn Dixie -- www.winn-dixie.com

  • Identify Your Event Preparation Team (include cooks, decorators and hosts):
    Get ready to have fun. If you ever thought about operating your own restaurant, here's your chance to step into that role. At least 2 weeks before the event, set up a day and time to meet with everyone who RSVP'd that they want to be a member of the event preparation team. This should be a simple get-together and should take no more than a half-hour to an hour.

  • Let each person pick one dish to prepare.
    As a tip, allow the "cook" to select the dish she'd like to bring. She's probably familiar with the dish and knows how to prepare it off the top of her head. Or she might have recently learned about the dish and wants to take a stab at cooking it for the first time. The more interested each cook is in the dish you assign him to, the greater the likelihood that the dish will be a mouth-watering treat. Make sure all menu items are covered.

    To ensure that you have enough cooks, assign each person to prepare a dish large enough to feed 10 people but no more. Keep it fun; prevent preparations from becoming burdensome. Before this first meeting ends, select two to three team members to accompany you to the warehouse grocery store when you make your bulk purchases. According to CBN.com, bulk food purchases at warehouse stores on average result in a 31 percent savings versus purchasing items in smaller quantities.

    For clear money savings, each team member collects a minimum of $20 of coupon and discount food store savings on the food items you will serve at the event. One to two Sunday newspaper coupon clippings should do it. Four team members equals a minimum of $80 in food savings. Five team members results in a minimum of $100 in food savings.

    Additionally, each team member is responsible for their own cooking pans, which they will bring with the dish they prepare. If you use six large aluminum foil baking pans, this is a savings of more than $30. Throughout the year cooks spend $8 to 10 per event for large aluminum foil baking pans. If you host five events a year and purchase four pans per event, this is easily a savings of well over $100. Sturdier aluminum foil pans can cost as much as $30 a piece, which would be a wider savings.

  • Create a Memorable Theme:
    During this first meeting with your team, brainstorm and create a theme for the event. For example, if you are cooking for a family reunion, for a theme consider "My Heart Belongs to My Family" or "Family Fun in the Sun."

  • Important Tips on Saving at the Grocery Store:
    Rather than focusing on the costs of food, focus on how much money can be found in a thick stack of coupons. As soon as you identify your team, start searching for coupon savings for the food items you will prepare. Browse your local Sunday newspaper. Daily community newspapers also carry valuable coupons. Newspapers are packed with loads of coupon savings. Brand-name food producers, such as Kellogg's, Nabisco and Kraft, provide coupons regularly at their websites. Keep in mind that each team member is to collect a minimum of $20 in savings from a combination of coupon and bulk food membership discounts. Don't think you can save hundreds of dollars at the grocery store? Check out the following sites:
    • Cool Savings: www.coolsavings.com
    • Free Coupons: www.freecoupons.com
    • My Savings: www.mysavings.com
    • Coupon Cabin: www.couponcabin.com

    Remember to buy in bulk. Are Sam's Club, Costco or another warehouse bulk food store running a special on the items you'll need for your menu? How about a discount grocer? Are any of the items on your menu being discontinued? Buying in bulk at warehouse stores may entitle you to receive a free gift card to use later. Check out www.bulkfoods.com for savings you can enjoy when buying in bulk.

    Stick to your menu items. It can be tempting to buy everything you see on sale or everything you see a great coupon for. An excellent way to avoid doing this is to shop separately for the event instead of shopping for the items at the same time you do your regular grocery shopping. Stay focused to realize greater savings.

  • Have Fun and Give Credit Where Credit Is Due:
    You and your team didn't do all that work for nothing. On the day of the event comes the real reward. Enjoy being with your guests. Share experiences you had building up to the event. Recognize and applaud each team member for what they did to make the event a success.

  • Do It Again:
    Build a team each time you host a large event. In time, you will become a pro at food costs savings, large event preparations and wrapping up a sizable get-togethers. You might learn more cost saving tips or become a much-requested event planner.

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