Monday, September 11, 2017

Feeding a Party Crowd on a Budget

The other day, I shared how I created budget DIY decorations for our son's 1st birthday party.  We decided on a fishing theme, to reflect one of our family's passions.

A little fisherman first birthday party - what kind of food would be good with that theme? 

Our party was scheduled for 2pm, so I thought that after lunch snacks and appetizers would be the most fitting. 

Now, of course I could have served FISH, as it was a fishing party but wanted to keep it kid friendly but also with an adult undertone to it, since our guests would span all ages.  As much as we like it, not everyone loves to eat fish.

I thought long and hard, searched the internet for recipes that I could turn with my own little twist and make it into a "fishing" theme. 

Before I got started shopping, I had to figure out what I was going to need. 

Now, I am a bargain shopper when it comes to groceries! I like to either read the ads that come in your mail every week for the grocery stores or get on my phone and look up weekly ads for the stores that don't send out mailers. 

Doing this for the party gave me the chance to plan a little better, as I knew ahead of time what was on sale and I could plan accordingly.

I made my plans, created my list and figured out where the best prices were. I had four stores to hit and I was off!

I settled on several substantial appetizers, incuding Crock-pot BBQ Meatballs or better known for the party as "Buried Rocks" (a fisherman's worst nightmare). 

I was able to find at my local Stater Bros two big bags of frozen traditional style meatballs on sale for 2 for $5. These bags generally run for almost $8 a piece! This was either a sign that they were going to taste terrible (as they were store brand) or so good that they were just on sale to showcase one of their popular products. We would find out the day of the party. All I knew is that I scored a good deal. 

As for the sauce, once Fourth of July comes around BBQ sauce always seems to go on sale and I stock up, regardless of whether or not I have a party already planned.  It's perfect for last minute entertaining. So for me, I had this on hand already! 

This is too simple to be properly called a recipe, but this is what I did. (For our party purposes, I doubled this for a total cost of $5 not counting what I paid for the barbecue sauce back in July):

BBQ Crockpot Meatballs
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Temp: LOW in crock-pot

 1 bag Frozen Meatballs- traditional style
 1 full bottle of BBQ sauce (I use Honey Chipotle but you can use whatever flavor you prefer)

Empty the bag of meatballs in the crock-pot, cover with your bottle of BBQ sauce. Set it and forget it! OK, don't forget it, but let it do its thing for the next 6 hours while you set up the rest of the party! 

I put some plastic forks and plates next to it and let everyone enjoy!  

I also made a Crockpot Sausage Queso Dip to be served with Tortilla Chips or better known as "Chum and Chips" (for all the deep sea fisherman).

This recipe was geared more for the adults, but could easily be kid friendly just by switching your sausage flavors to something less spicy! 

As mentioned above, I have no shame with using store brands and usually will use them in my everyday cooking. This recipe was no different! 

  • Store brand Rotel-style tomatoes (WinCo brand) at $0.49 each. 
  • Cream Cheese (Stater Bro brand) $0.99. 
  • Cheddar Cheese block that I grated myself $1.49. 
  • Sausage is one thing I won't cheap out on, so I always get Farmer Johns which runs $2.99. 
  • And finally green onions were supplied fresh from my backyard garden! But I believe they run under $1 at the store. 
  • Last but not least, the tortilla chips I buy are always $0.99 on sale so I bought two just to be safe!

Total spent: $8.43!

Crockpot Sausage Queso Dip
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 3-5 hours
Temp: LOW in your crock pot

1 pound ground spicy sausage (can use any flavor)
2 - 10oz cans of Rotel tomatoes and green chiles
1 can Corn, drained
8oz cheddar cheese
8oz Cream Cheese
1 bunch Green Onions (for garnish)

First start by browning your sausage in a pan and draining. Add the cooked sausage into the crock-pot. Add the tomatoes (undrained), corn, cheddar cheese and cream cheese.

Cook on low for 3-5 hours. Keeping an eye on it and stirring it every so often. You are really just melting the cheeses, nothing needs to be cooked. It can come off earlier if you wanted but I again, set it and do whatever else you need to do.

So what else did we set out?

What kind of party would it be without a veggie tray? Well, I served a tray of veggies in my multi section platter and in the middle where the dip went, I made a bell pepper octopus (I cut the bottom off and seeded one pepper and placed it right into the dip. 

I then cut another pepper and cut strips for tentacles and carefully put them around the body). 

I used the typical cherry tomatoes package (2 for $3), cucumbers (garden fresh), bell peppers ($0.99 each), broccoli ($0.99 a pound) and carrots (2.49 a bag) with a simple ranch dip. 

Ranch dip mix was $0.89 (WinCo brand) and a large sour cream (Daisy Brand) was $1.89. In total I spent: $10.94.

I also bought a rather large watermelon, which I found on sale at my local Stater Bros for $3! I had every intention to cut the watermelon into a fish and filling it with grapes as "fish eggs" but guests arrived way earlier than expected, and time got away from me unfortunately!! 

The grapes I got at Costco for $6.99 for a big container of them. So total spent there was $9.99

I had a big Costco box of Goldfish Crackers which I put out as well with some ruffled potato chips (Fish and Chips, get it?) that I found on sale at Walmart for $0.79 each (Great Value brand) So total spent there was $1.58!

Cupcakes and smash cake for the birthday boy were simple and easy! I got 2 boxes of Funfetti Cake Mix at Walmart for $0.89 each! 

Add the frosting, and that's another $3.00. The oil and eggs which are needed for the cakes/cupcakes were ingredients I already had in my fridge, so all I spent was $4.78 there!

All in all, I spent $40 on food for a party of almost 30 people! 

I think I did pretty dang good if you ask me! Parties can still be fun, have great food and still come with a small price if you shop around and take your time while planning! I hope some of these tips help you in planning your next event 

I'd love to be sharing a picture of the spread I put out - but by the time I had a few minutes to think about pictures, hungry guests had already dove in!  I don't mind.... food getting eaten and enjoyed is the best compliment, right?

Let me know if you have any other money saving tips that I didn't think of!! I have a 7 year old's party to plan for October!


  1. I am going to try this meatball recipe as it is slightly different to the way I usually make them #inspirememonday@_karendennis

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  3. I'm in awe! We just had a birthday party this weekend with maybe 20 people...and spent over 200 on food and drinks.. it's the part of hosting I never learned to do in moderation.

  4. I love how you did the cake! That is so cute.

  5. Such great tips! I would love you to share this on Smell Good Sunday

  6. Dips and spreads are a GREAT way to feed a large group on a budget. And I'm a huge advocate of scheduling parties at snack time if you're on a budget...there's not nearly the same expense. Thanks for sharing your ideas and thanks so much for sharing at the #happynowlinkup!

  7. Great tips.

  8. WOW.....yes, great ideas to keep the cost down. Thanks so much for the tips. Found your site through blogger's pit stop. I am pinning this for my next birthday party:)

  9. Your food looks awesome for the party. Thanks so much for sharing with us at Full Plate Thursday,we are so happy to have you join us. Have a wonderful week and come back to see us real soon!
    Miz Helen

  10. I love to bargain shop! Sounds like you got some great deals!

  11. Great ideas! Looks yummy! Thanks for sharing at the Friday Frenzy Link Party! PINNED!

  12. Remarkable that you gave that big party so inexpensively! I'm impressed! You are a smart shopper too. And that meatball recipe is one I will remember b/c when I cook, it's gotta be easy. Thanks for sharing at Sweet Inspiration!

  13. What great ideas! I love the BBQ meatball idea! Saving!

    More to Mrs. E

  14. So great that you were able to serve everyone on a budget, $40 for 30 people is almost impossible. Great great job especially since you fed them meat and desserts. Every one inhaled it before you could get pics so you know it was enjoyed. Very well done.

  15. Wow great food for a great price. Good job! It looks wonderful.

  16. Wow, now that's amazing. I've spent $40 on the cake alone. You did a great job entertaining 30 people. Thanks for sharing on my Sunday's Best Linkup.

  17. I love the meatball recipe idea - perfect for the holidays. Sounds like fun! :)

  18. Congratulations!
    Your post is featured on Full Plate Thursday this week.Thanks so much for sharing your post with us and it has been pinned to our Features Board. Have a good week and enjoy your new Red Plate!
    Miz Helen