When it comes to hosting a party for a large group of people, one of the main challenges you’ll have is keeping things on budget. Let’s be honest, feeding over a dozen people can get incredibly expensive very quickly if you’re not careful.
I usually host several family gatherings a year which usually brings 20-30+ people to cater for. The way I keep the food costs within budget is to start planning well ahead of the big day.
When hosting for a large group of people you have to be really clever with your menu choices. I like to keep things simple and usually rotate through a few different menus each time which makes my planning really easy for each event.
For large gatherings, opt for meals that can be made en masse and ahead of time. This will then give you the most amount of time to spend with your guests on the day. Meals like casseroles, curries, lasagne, pizzas and even a roast will work. All reasonably inexpensive, and all stretch well.
A huge time-saver is to look at what part of the meal you can prepare ahead of time. If possible, start prepping a week, two or even a month before.
This year I plan on making pizzas for our Easter gathering. So, a couple of weeks before Easter I will be making all the pizza dough and freezing it. While I’m making the dough, I’ll also make a few extras as it’s great to keep in the freezer for a quick mid-week meal, or for when my partner gets nibbly.
A couple of days before the event I’ll prepare all the toppings and defrost the dough in the fridge.
The day before Easter, I’ll assemble the pizzas and keep them in the fridge so all I have to do on the day is cook them. Unfortunately, I don’t have a huge oven to cook them all at once, so I have to be smart about cooking what I can in my standard 60cm oven. I’m able to cook 3 family size pizzas at a time, so while everyone is eating the first batch of pizzas, the second lot is already cooking and will be ready when the first batch is gone.
I usually serve the pizzas with a simple garden salad and some garlic bread. It’s incredibly easy, simple, thrifty and delicious.
I make my own pizza dough as it’s incredibly easy and cheap to make and only requires a few staple ingredients.
3 cups self-raising flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup warm water
Mix together until it makes a smooth dough. Can be frozen for up to 3 months. Makes 2 large rectangle family size pizzas.
When it comes to the pizza sauce, a jar of passata will cover over a dozen pizzas as you only need a few tablespoons for each one. For the barbecue pizzas, I always use standard barbeque sauce.
Then it’s the toppings. It of course comes down to personal preference, but keep it simple. This is where you can blow out your budget so don’t opt for anything too expensive, and choose toppings that can spread a long way. A few classics are:
- Ham and pineapple
- Ham and cheese
- Meat lovers
- BBQ Chicken
- Three cheese
No matter what toppings you choose, look for those that you can buy in bulk as it will generally be cheaper. This goes for cheese too. You’ll get more value for money if you buy it in a block and grate it yourself. This can also be done ahead of time and frozen for up to 3 months.
So, when it comes to catering for large groups:
- set your budget
- plan your menu
- set out your shopping
- buy in bulk
- prepare as much as possible ahead of time; love your freezer
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