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Need to feed 50 people on the cheap but good - ideas?

I am having a bbq/backyard party that has turned into quite a large one at this point . People are bringing items to share but I will provide a good portion. Any suggestions for something that people would enjoyy but wouldn't break my back or my bank>

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  1. I'm not sure if you're looking for prepared food or something to cook. I used to have to feed about 70 folks at a time on a limited budget, and I would often get food catered from El Pollo Loco. Good chicken, some good sides, and lots of tortillas. Pretty cheap, too.

    1. prepare a big veggie couscous and have BBQ on the side with some merguez.

      1. Make a few big pots of chili. Maybe a veggie or turkey one and then a traditional meat based chili. You could then supplement with grilled corn, some nice big bowls of green salad, tortilla chips or flour tortillas. Put out some fixin's and peeps can make their own burritos. Grab a party bucket fill with beer and you are good to go!
        Have fun.

        1. Mediterranean cooking lends itself to plentiful but cheap options. You could make lots of hummous, tabbouli, baba ganoug, toasted pita, olives, stuffed grape leaves, and a greek salad. All can be made ahead except for mixing the herbs and veggies into the tabbouli. Marinate and grill chicken legs and wings in a garlic, lemon and olive oil marinade and serve hot or cold.

          1. How about pulled pork? Pork shoulder slow cooked in the oven the day before - feeds a crowd and the cooking is done (just reheat.)

            3 Replies
            1. re: flourgirl

              Pork shoulder is pretty cheap and will feed a crowd. If you go with chicken for the grill, leg quarters are usually the cheapest @ around $0.39-0.79/lb.

              1. re: scubadoo97

                Pork shoulder for pulled pork is a very good idea, at about $1.20 - 1.40 per pound, you can get a whole shoulder or two butts on a weber kettle, or put one into your oven... it will take a good 8 or 10 hours (or more), depending on the cut, but the results will be awesome, pulled and piled on hamburger buns, with some cole slaw on top. Need further info on cooking shoulders?

              2. re: flourgirl

                Yup, pork shoulder is the way to go. Serve it with warm tortillas and lots of toppings.

              3. Go to your local warehouse - buy ground chuck & a tub of gorgonzola...make gorgonzola stuffed burgers.
                I like the pork idea too - make your own tacos with a nice taco bar

                1. With that many people, play it safe and serve chicken. Lots of people don't eat pork. Dietary, religious reasons. Not ours to second guess. Thighs are the least expensive and also don't dry out when you have to hold them after they're cooked. You might try buying them from a wholesale outlet in case quantity.or one of your local supermarkets might have them on special. Supermarket specials are often cheaper than warehouse stores like Costco. In case of rain (horrors) you can even cook them in the oven. Always have a Plan B. Plans C through Q never hurt.
                  Although an ethnic menu sounds appealing and inexpensive, it might well clash with traditional side dishes that your guests will bring if they are expecting a plain old backyard BBQ. Stick with safe.

                  1. Frying chickens are pretty cheap. Beercan them the day before (they take an hour or so to cook and you could probably do 3 at a time depending on the sixe of your grill). Then cut into quarters and reheat on the grill at the bbq. You can add sauce then if anyone wants.

                    1. I'm also having a big BBQ next weekend, and I'd already planned on doing a lot of the ideas mentioned above. I'm having pulled pork, BBQ chicken - I'm trying out the beercan thing tomorrow to test it out, potato salad and baked beans, and some hummous and white bean spread, green salad options for the not-so-meaty folks.
                      It's going to be a pretty casual affair, and I'm not sure how many people will drop in - it may be 20 or 40 - so I thought these options would be the easiest to work with.

                      I'm going to smoke some pork shoulder tomorrow and finish it up in the oven so I don't have to worry about it next weekend. What's the best way to freeze pulled pork? Do you pull it before freezing or after?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: froddard

                        Definitely pull it first, then freeze. I do this a lot. Do you have a vac sealer? That's best, but even just in a plastic container or bag with as little air as possible. How do you plan to finish it? I do a N. Carolina-style sauce (western NC, for those who care), and I add the vinegar-based sauced when it's pulled, then freeze (don't drown it, just moisten). When you thaw and heat, be prepared to add possibly some moisture, and definitely some of your original rub (you used a rub when you smoked it, right?)

                        1. re: woodburner

                          Thanks for the tips. I did my first test with this last weekend, and this is pretty much how I froze it. Although I did drown it with the sauce last time...

                      2. Traditional: a big batch of baked beans, coleslaw (vinegar-based), and baked/grilled potatoes.
                        Unusual: hummus, gaspacho, couscous (as a pilaf or a salad), quesadillas (on the grill), frittata, stromboli, Moroccan carrot salad, omusubi

                        1. Thank you so much for these ideas! I'm having a BBQ party (suprise for a 50th birthday) and went from 12 to 50 guests! I couldn't say no, and I have an extremely TIGHT budget, even at 12 guests. I've changed from tri-tip to now pulled pork but want to know If my baked potato bar would be too much with pork sands now? What other options and to drink! I can't afford wine for 50. Ideas would be appreciated.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: RingoSunshine

                            Baked potato bar plus sandwiches is an odd pairing..... Maybe do slaw style salads (cabbage is cheap!) and have a few potatoes for if there are gluten free guests. Keep baked beans sides.
                            For drinks is there a way to have others contribute? Skip wine and mix up a "signature cocktail" in pitchers, like a spiked lemonade. Another idea would be to serve lemon shandys as well as flavored sparkling water and sodas.

                            1. re: Ttrockwood

                              Definitely agree with slaws and baked beans. Both are super cheap, as is cornbread. 50 is a lot of people. You'll need a fair amount of pork.

                              Provide lemonade and make it byob? Or wine in a box sangria?

                              1. re: Ttrockwood

                                Thank you -I've just decided to do a nice lemonade cocktail, along with sangria (I'll make one batch and when gone, it's gone) then do more non-alcohol options than I normally would. I have a small farm, so rustic and simple I'm now convinced of. I will look up 'lemon shandy' sounds interesting!

                                1. re: RingoSunshine

                                  Lemon shandy is just a fancy way of saying "i mixed lemonade with beer cuz its cheap and yummy and sounds fancy"

                            2. not being much of a wine drinker,that would not be a problem for me, but i do like my liquids. how about loads of seltzer and ice and some syrups to make flavored drinks-lemonade,lime-aid ,even orange etc. or maybe syrups like soda-stream uses.even fresh fruits pureed

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: 51rich

                                Well, I'm not much of a sweet beverage drinker. If not wine, it would be bubbly mineral water for me. I hate sugary drinks.

                              2. NOTE--The original post in this thread was over 7 years ago, so presumably baconspit the OP has had his/her backyard party by now. That said, some new persons with the same need appear to have materialized. I used to do a large annual party and fed everybody (up to 150). My suggestion would be to do a jambalaya or paella-type dish. It's very free-form and you can use whatever is on sale at the local market and feed a lot of folks with something they'll enjoy. Follow up with a bread pudding for desert.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: johnb

                                  I noticed the date too, because the prices were so out of whack! Pork shoulder rarely gores below $2 a pound in these parts.

                                  1. re: charlesbois

                                    *L* i thought those prices seemed awfully low. well hope they had a good party

                                  2. re: johnb

                                    I make a mean paella. Never even thought to do it for that many. Could be my best bet for the non-pork eaters. I have to price the pork to see if it will work for me. Thank you!

                                  3. Thank you all for your suggestions. I realized I posted on a very old event; I just found this site while I was up panicking about a menu! I love the seltzer water idea, and I am leaning towards serving lemonade, sun tea, and sangria. I have 5 gallon glass containers that look beautiful with sangria and mason jars for the non-alcohol.

                                    I have a small farm, so instead of renting tables and chairs I've thought to bring up hay bails for seats and set up pallets as tables? Sheesh, this got complicated very fast :)

                                    I agree about the baked potatoes - thanks for the confirmation on that. I'm stuck on the pulled pork as 50 is a lot of pork and I have some guests that won't eat pork. So I'm feeling the lean towards pulled pork & pulled _____ (what else works?)

                                    Cabbage salads, great idea...Beans and a big garden salad from my garden should do it I think? Any other ideas and this website is awesome.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: RingoSunshine

                                      You can do pulled chicken and it is best made from thighs so they can usually be found pretty cheap - I think Bon Appetit had a recipe a few years back

                                      1. re: RingoSunshine

                                        How about boiling a lot of corn on the cob? It's pretty cheap this time of year. You can even serve with with different toppings - mayo/ with crumbled feta or cotija and chopped cilantro, or blue cheese butter, or miso butter and toasted panko, or lime paprika butter.

                                        Beans are the best ingredient for cheap meals - chickpea salad, white bean (canellini) salad with tuna and red onion...

                                        Couscous is also cheap and easy to make in bulk, you could do a cold couscous salad with tomato, mozzarella and basil.

                                        1. re: RingoSunshine

                                          Welcome! Your party sounds fun! Encourage people to bring blankets to put down on the hay bales or to just sit on in the grass. Let us know how it goes!

                                          1. re: RingoSunshine

                                            Definitely use any/all free produce that you grow!
                                            It may not be traditional but adding in sauteed onions and bell peppers to the pulled pork will help it go further, and i agree with the chicken suggestion as another option.

                                            This sounds like an amazing place to have a party! **please** enlist help from friends and family as well as asking for specific contributions ("hey sister, can you please pick up some beer and arrive early to help with set up?" Or whatever.)