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Cheap food for a party with kids

Need ideas for food to serve at a party for a non-profit I work with. There will be about 30 people at the party; about 15 kids ages 4-15 and roughly 15-20 staff members mostly college students. Basically, each staff member, about 10-12 of us, is expected to bring some food item for the party. We have roughly $50 to spend for the night. Have done pot lucks in the past with mixed results. Looking for an alternative to ordering pizza. Healthier option are encouraged as we are a health promotion organization. Also, limited resources are available at the party location; a sink, a microwave, a fridge, and a crockpot. I am looking for recipes/menu ideas that require various ingredients but little if any prep time to pull together to make a complete meal. I would like to have them all contribute to one main dish or a cohesive meal. Also, I am looking for ideas that are kid-friendly and allow kids some choices; i.e we did nachos once and let the kids choose their toppings. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. Baked ziti is an easy alternative to pizza and much less expensive. You can one vegetarian and one with turkey sausage and vegetables, with a salad on the side. It can all be prepped in advance.

      1. You could do mac & cheese with whole wheat pasta and you could do stir-ins/toppings ... I like it with browned/seasoned ground buffalo & chopped green onion, grape tomatoes on the side. Just had some very decent whole wheat penne that I don't think kids would have a problem with either.

        1. What about a baked potato bar? You can pre-bake the potatoes and wrap in foil to keep warm in the crock pot. Get a bunch of toppings, sour cream (you can also use plain yogurt), butter or margarine, salsa, shredded cheese, chili, steamed broccoli, roasted veggies, chopped tomato, jalapenos, grilled chicken, whatever. Potatoes are cheap and filling.

          1. American chop suey, mac & cheese (any baked mac version- baked ziti lazy lasagna), chilli, chowders (seafood is pricey but how about corn?), spaghetti & meatballs, mashed potato bar (like mentioned above only mashed), Dogs are always cheap, chicken broccoli & ziti, the list is endless

            1. How about something like a taco or tostada bar? You can prepare a couple of fillings-- choose from chicken, meat, refried beans, small diced and fried potatoes--and then have the kids and adults assemble their own tacos and/or tostadas. You can get the shells already pre-made or make your own. Each person contributing to the event can be responsible for one or two items: grated or crumbled cheese, shredded lettuce, salsa(s) --one mild and a hotter version, sour cream or mexican crema, etc. The fillings can be reheated in a microwave.

              Additionally you can make the components of a mexican style fruit salad: Jicama, oranges, cucumber, mangoes clean, peeled and sliced. Arrange lemons, salt and powdered chile on a table and allow kids to choose fruit and add condiments to taste. A plastiic cup will do as a serving vessel.

              I think both would meet your requirements for something interesting, inexepensive and fun. Both ideas work with your restrictions also.

              1. For 50.00 you could do a fun "breakfast for dinner" menu.

                Basic quiche, premade and quick heated to serve. Simple cheese should be nice for kids, lorraine for the adults. For groups we make quiche in a 13 x 9 pan.

                Homefries or roasted potatoes

                Milk or Chocolate milk

                Orange or apple slices

                  1. I'll post some ideas in a bit but I just wanted to mention that both Safeway and Subway offer free foods to many educational non-profits. Safeway offers $25 and Subway offers more (I'm not sure exactly how much). If you have them in your area, they could be helpful.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: scarmoza

                      Scarmoza, the only offers I'm aware of for both companies are:

                      Safeway offers an e-Scrip fund raising program for registered schools. Families who shop at Safeway turn in their receipts and earn "scrip" for free food. There does not appear to be restrictions on what type of school may register.

                      The Subway offer is on a franchise by franchise basis-inquire at your local Subway (if a location is nearby). The Subway organization supports national charities.

                      Did you receive free food for your school kids by working one on one with these businesses?

                      1. re: HillJ

                        I've received $25 gift cards from Safeway and enough sandwiches and drinks from Subway to feed 50 (teachers and students) - by simply writing a letter asking for donations and explaining the purpose as well as giving them the school or non-profit's tax ID number. Safeway is usually the easiest and quickest to respond.

                        Since I've worked with many (public) school based programs I ask for donations often. This morning I handed a few letters (to managers) requesting donations for one program and it looks like Safeway, Starbucks, Albertsons, and Subway (all in Daly City where the school is located) will be donating a little something for one of our events.

                    2. barbaqued hot dogs and macaroni salad and soda...