Low budget dinner for 20
I am asked to prepare dinner for a group of 20 people, age between mid-30s to late 70s, for $100. At $5 per person, I thought maybe some salad, minestrone, and dinner rolls, but thought I'd ask here first and hopefully there may be some imaginative options.
They are not expecting anything spectacular or any miracle, they know you can only do so much with $5pp. Also, because of their age I am suspecting no greasy meal.
I've made lasagne for 20 people that can fall within that budget. I've served it with salad, garlic bread, and a sheet cake for dessert.
I've made a really inexpensive dinner for 12 of salmon and crab cakes- making salmon only would be fairly simple for 20, and would enable you to stick to your budget. I made the cakes with part fresh salmon and then canned salmon (boneless/skinless)- I used the fresh so there'd be some good looking chunks (but it didn't increase the budget too much b/c I didn't need much). I use red onion, capers, egg and a small amount of bread crumbs which means that I can get 2-3 medium cakes per can- but I make mine on the big side. If you mix in 1.5-2 lbs fresh salmon you would need between 5-7 can (not the tuna size- the soup-like size).
You could put one larger cake on top of a salad and that's a great and healthy meal. Plus, you'll like have $ for dessert. I like cupcakes with pretty icing, personally.
From personal experience, when I need to keep the budget down, I go ethnic. Usually Mexican or Asian. For about $100, I was able to feed around 25 people a menu of veggie spring rolls, and pork potstickers, char siu pork tenderloin, beef and broccoli, fried and steamed rice and egg drop soup. Granted, it was a lot of work, but the cost was low.
Mexican would be easy to do as well. A large pot of frijoles charros and mexican rice would be very inexpensive. Allowing you to afford nice cuts of meat, and veggies for great salsas.
Do you want to spend a lot of time prepping, or something you can do quickly? With a little time, you can make chicken pot pie w/ a corn bread topping. If you have a Costco, you can buy inexpensive chicken thighs. Season and bake, then remove the meat. Make a stock of the bones and skin. Make a gravy with the stock, add chicken and peas, corn, carrots (frozen is pretty inexpensive). Put in large pans, top w/ corn bread batter and bake. You can do a side salad, too.