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$100 limit. Nine people. Help.

So, my boyfriend has asked me to help cater a little dinner shindig for a group of actors, and future movie makers for his next film project. For two days. For 100 dollars. Personally, I believe $100 is quite an impossible amount of money to spend. Unfortunately, he's on a severely tight budget and can't afford much more than that. That's $50 a day to spend on ingredients. I'm trying not to let my pessimism get to me.

My question to you all: Is it possible? And if it miraculously is, are there any recipes you may recommend that are simple and cheap enough to make, all while satisfying the taste buds of a few Americans and foreigners? Since pasta is rather affordable, I was considering something with that. Along with perhaps a salad and some sort of meat dish. Maybe meatballs, chicken something?

Any help you may offer will be greatly appreciated.

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  1. is it two dinners? or breakfast, lunch and dinner per day????

    if it is two dinners for 9 people i think you could do it — the first night make a huge pot of beef stew or chili and serving it with some crusty bread. The second night make pasta aglio e olio — doesn't get more cheap and simple than oil and garlic. Get the cheap Kraft parmesan and use plenty of salt. Maybe add some caramelized onions to make it pretty and less .... cheapey.

    if it is breakfast lunch and dinner per day i think you may be SOL, but it will still be a fun challenge.

    5 Replies
    1. re: littlew1ng

      For breakfast, he's going to be purchasing some bagels and cream cheese for his crew.

      It's just two dinners. Beef stew, ay? Great suggestion- perhaps I might consider that. However, I would have liked to serve something else besides a "main" dish, because there's a vegetarian in his crew.

      Making the end result pretty is definitely a priority. Caramelized, or even fried, onions sound awesome.

      Fun challenge? Only if I end up surviving and not poisoning any innocents exposed to my cooking.

      1. re: annapathy

        Go with chili - very easily you can make a meat chili and a no meat chili - and beans (red, pinto, black etc..) are dirt chieap and incredibly healthy to boot. You can also whip up a corn bread (might as well impress to boot), which is also easy to do and cheap.

        1. re: maisonbistro

          do the chili. also, a pasta or rice side dish --- simply boiled and dressed with olive oil/butter/whatever. simple lettuce salad with an olive oil vinaigrette you make. easy.

          1. re: alkapal

            plus, this easy menu leaves you money for some cold beer! ;-).

            also, if taken from a hot stove and wrapped for transport, the chili and pasta (esp. the chili) will stay warm -- if not hot. and chili is best, imo, if not super hot, anyway (i think you can taste it better.) plus, chili is even better if made ahead.

            any decisions yet on what you'll do? ( i may've missed your update....)

      2. re: littlew1ng

        Are you suggesting the Kraft Parm in the green can? That is horrid, vile and about 4.50. You can get a small wedge of grana padano or a domestic parm for the same price.

      3. I think it is possible. Difficult, but possible.

        If you are doing all three meals for three days:
        Breakfast: Oatmeal or generic cold cereal.
        Lunch: Split pea soup on first day and leftovers on second day.
        Dinner: I'll second chili or pasta. Also cheap would be a beef stew, a goulash, things that are hearty and use cheap cuts of meat. Turkeys are cheap and can feed a lot, and potatoes make a great side. Add greens as another side to balance.

        Have snacks of popcorn. Make your own bread. Get boxed wine and cheap beer.

        1. Can you do breakfast for dinner? Is the catering off-site or are you having the people at home. Do a huge scrambled eggs, or omelets. What about some quiche. Make the dough from scratch. Flour, butter, or shortening--ice water. Get some fresh spinach, mushrooms, cheese. You can do a risotto. You can do a huge scampi--I've seen shrimp on sale for pretty decent pricing lately. I think it can be done but it depends on the cost of the ingredients. I definitely would not go with anything processed. You can get good deals on fresh stuff.

          4 Replies
          1. re: jarona

            Exactly. Fresh food is mostly inexpensive.

            The catering is definitely off-site. Which also poses a tiny concern for transport, and re-heating.

            1. re: annapathy

              If off-site, will there be an oven? I would guess eggs or omelets are out. However, the quiche is a good because you can bake it at home and transport it, and at room temp, it is fine. You have lots of great suggestions. I really think the meatless suggestions are the best--and good luck to you!

              1. re: jarona

                but frittatas are not out. (gosh, sk-- shut up about the dang frittatas) nor is quiche, as you say. serve slices on lightly dressed greens, with rustic bread. for dessert a simple cake or sorbet with an elegant warm fruit compote-- and you'll have enough money left over for candles, & some cheap white wine punch or spritzers or something.

                1. re: soupkitten

                  Ohhh sk. I like your suggestion of the presentation for the quiche slices. Rustic bread. Now I'm thinking dinner for tomorrow night!

          2. I'd do lasagna (I'd make 2 pans - one a meat version and the other a vegetarian version, such as spinach), salad, bread, butter, simple dessert, wine for one meal - you should be able to do this for less than $50.

            5 Replies
            1. re: SFry

              That's a great idea! A meat version and a vegetarian version. Both the carnivores and herbivores leave happy.

              I'm ashamed to say I have never ventured to do a vegetarian lasagna, or ANY lasagna period. I don't even know where to start as far as what greens I may use for the veggie version.

              1. re: annapathy

                Sauted mushrooms and steamed (and dried) spinach are my favorite. Also, why not serve this to all the people rather than having segregated meals? The lasagna is great and can be served with a salad and garlic/plain bread. Leftover bread can be used for a strata the next morning. A little bacon will go along way when blended into the dish. A separate strata for the vegetarian would be necessary here. Serve it with fruit juices. Another suggestion for breakfast is homemade granola served with milk and a fruit salad - it would be cheaper and more filling than picking up bagels and cream cheese each morning.

                As for the other dinner, I agree with those that suggest chili. Again, I would only offer bean chili (In my house the only differences between the two chili pots is hot and really hot). I add TVP for additional protein and texture. Serve with cornbread. Leftovers can be used for burritos if you need to provide lunch the next day (reduce the liquid in the chili, chop slightly with a immersion blender). The rest of the ingrediants (cheese, salsa, tortillas, avacado, sour cream or non-fat greek yogurt) can be laid out so your guests can make their own. This is good at room temperature but even better when warmed.

                People can live without meat for a couple of meals. Your carnavoires can sneak out for a tartare if the are really suffering.

                1. re: annapathy

                  Make your vegetarian lasagna with a white sauce instead of tomato - then it's not so obvious that there is a meat and vegetarian lasagna and instead looks like 2 yummy variations and one just happens to be vegetarian!
                  Fill it up with lots of greens (spinich, peas) and include mushrooms and other goodies!

                  1. re: bacchus_is_watching

                    Then you get people who want to try both yummy lasagne variations and end up eating more.

                  2. re: annapathy

                    Frozen chopped spinach is cheaper and easier. Just squeeze out the water really well and mix the spinach in with the ricotta.

                2. hey, if i was you i'd do the whole thing vegetarian. that will be cheaper, plus you can offer more variety. think lentil stews, veggie paella, veggie lasagna, gorgeous vegetable curries padded with lots of potatoes and rice. . .

                  "and foreigners": what does that mean? greenlanders? italians? hmong? from whence come these "foreigners?"

                  and most importantly what is the BF gonna do for you when his movie wins sundance?!? i mean you're doing him one hell of a favor--twice!! are you making a long list of restaurants all over the world he's gonna take you to?!? ;-)

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: soupkitten

                    By foreigners, I mean a Scandinavian vegetarian, and a very omnivorous man from Japan. Vegetarian dishes do sound budget friendly, but the other people there love their meat, too. It'd be unfair. This is going to be rather difficult.

                    And, ahaha. I certainly hope he succeeds with his life goals, but don't wish for much in return except for his amazing massages and cuddles. I turn into curry goo when he gives them to me. XD

                    1. re: annapathy

                      This may be too late, but I'm as carnivorous as they come, but I have a suggestion for how to deal with your concern about not omitting all meat due to small number of vegetarians: let the meat be the side dish instead of the entree. For example, i actually prefer cheese lasagna with tomato sauce over one made with meat, but then I serve it with a side of meatballs or sausage. The vegetarian skipping a side dish doesn't feel excluded, and the people who want meat get it, and your budget saves because the meat isn't the main dish.

                  2. Anna - I would consider white bean and kale soup with parm cheese, a caesar salad and homemade crunchy garlic bread. No meat!

                    The next night you could make a giant stirfry of veggies and tofu served over rice or thick soba noodles. Stir fry some meat separately. Top with some nuts or fried onions so there is some crunch! Both dinners could be prepared well under 100 bucks and can be easily prepared with minimal fuss. Spend leftover cash on some special appetizers and/or a fresh dessert.

                    1 Reply
                    1. Do a middle-eastern style lentil stew one night with pitas and have some minted yogurt to top it with, a tossed green salad with a lemon juice/olive oil dressing. The other night, a big vegetarian baked ziti and replace 1/2 or 2/3 of the ricotta with cottage cheese to reduce costs. Serve this with zucchini sauteed in olive oil & onions with basil and oregano, and crusty italian bread.

                      1. Dinner suggestions (pick two, for each $50 is plenty):

                        1. Lasgana (two, one vegetarian), green salad, bread
                        2. Tacos - ground meat cooked w/ cumin & onion, canned refried beans (w/o lard or meat), heated corn tortillas, diced tomato, chopped iceburg, minced red onion, grated cheese, hot sauce, (vegetarian leaves out the ground meat)
                        3. Laab, lots of fresh greens & blanched green beans, rice; for the vegetarian make a tofu laab that is spicy and fish sauced but has less lime juice than the meat laab
                        4. Shabu shabu cooked at the table with chicken & lots of veggies (extra pan for the vegetarian), served with rice.
                        5. Cioppino or chowder made just with cubed frozen white fish fillets in place of pricey seafood: the fish go in right at the end in one big pot, but not in the other for the vegetarian
                        6. Two large curries - one chicken, one vegetarian

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          This is a very helpful post. There's definitely a lot for me to think about. Just when I thought all hope was lost. Thank you.

                        2. You could do a chili one day, with a lot of beans; cornbread (lots of cornbread). Either make it all vegetarian or two pots, one w/ a little meat, one w/out. The next day, use the leftover chili and mix with pasta for a big pot of chili mac; andd add canned tomatoes; with a side salad.

                          Or, roast chicken thighs one day, debone and make a rice chicken casserole w/ veggies. Or, instead of roasting, do a chicken paprika and debone the thighs after it's cooked, keeping the bones. Serve over rice. Use the bones to make a stock for the next day, add beans, small pasta, veggies for soup; bread.

                          1. AH, what about a beef stragonoff for one of the days? With pasta? Or, would that shrivel his wallet and be completely uncompromising for the vegetarians? I really enjoy beef stragonoff, but can't think of any vegetarian versions that might taste just as yummy. Sigh.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: annapathy

                              a wild mushroom stroganoff is really good though-- but getting expensive, and some people don't love huge helpings of fungi, for some reason. how about a chicken cacciatore-type thing (made with thighs=cheaper), with pasta & a big green salad, and marinated white beans on toasted rustic bread for an app, and the veg person can have more white beans, plus salad, plain pasta, sauce & cheese? dessert= strong coffee & biscotti

                            2. You can put on quite an Indian banquet for $50. Find a deal on chuck roast or lamb shoulder and make rogan josh, but add bulk with one or two legume dishes and a rice dish. For veggies, maybe a grated carrot salad and green beans quick-fried with plenty of black mustard seeds. A variety of chutneys, relishes, and quick pickles and plenty of raita (making your own yogurt will save a few bucks), and it won't occur to anybody that you were working on a budget.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                Indian would be my thought as well. Some ideas:

                                Dal (virtually free--make two different kinds if you wish!)
                                Aloo gobi with frozen cauliflower (frozen vegetables work great in Indian food because of the spcies and prolonged cooking time)
                                Keema with hamburger would be cheaper than lamb or beef stewing meat (though I can get a kilo of frozen lamb cubes for about 10 bucks Canadian here...)
                                A green bean dish
                                Maybe a chicken curry with some frozen vegetables in it.
                                Oh, and kheer for dessert

                                Definitely consider shopping at an Indian or ethnic grocer--usually a lot cheaper.

                                1. re: zamorski

                                  Example of cheapo ethnic supermarkets here in Canada:


                                  examples: Boneless pork shoulder: $1.68 a pound. Rib eye $2.98 a pound. Heck, the live lobsters are only 7 bucks a pound (make bisque!).

                                  Those prices are in Canadian dollars, too!

                              2. Pork Shoulder is super cheap and really good. A roasted or braised pork shoulder can go a long way. The leftovers can be made into Cuban sandwiches.

                                1. What about a tagine? That can be a lot of root veg (cheap), couscous (cheap), chickpeas (cheap), chicken thighs and seasonings. It can be made in a large quantity easily.

                                  Cabbage rolls - rice and ground meat, cabbage, canned tomatoes. Make or buy some frozen perogies and serve with sauteed onions & sour cream.

                                  Pissaladiere - if you can make your own puff pastry, it would be cheap. Just carmelized onions, anchovies and black olives. It's like a big pizza. Make it on large cookie sheets. Serve with a big salad.

                                  1. What about an orzo salad, cheap and so versatile? You can put lots of chopped roasted veggies in it, any number of cheeses, nuts, herba, and offer shrimp or chicken or other cooked meats on the side. Works great at room temp, too. Add some yummy bread, and maybe a few plates of brownies and you have an easy and inexpensive dinner.

                                    For the next night, what about a pita bar? Lots of options there for fillings and extras. Most of the work would be chopping veggies, making hummus or falafel balls or some appropriate meat (lamb, exotic sausages) and maybe tsatsiki. If you did this you could also have a side greek salad, which could double as a filling for the veghead. Good luck and I hope you seriously rake in the kharma points!

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: sbgirl

                                      Oh, splendid suggestion, sbgirl! The idea of an orzo salad never crossed my mind. Why stop there though? I could even make a simple and cheap tabbouleh.

                                      1. re: annapathy

                                        Glad you liked the idea, annapathy. I find you can never go wrong with orzo or a couscous salad. I have a recipe for couscous salad (heaven knows where it is) from Bon Appetit that has chicken, oranges, kalamata olives, pine nuts (?) and is wonderful. Probably could find it on Epicurious.com.

                                      2. Hey-oh. Works dogs. I'm in Australia and they are a family favourite. A good quality dog, BBQ, bacon pineapple, onions, cheese, mustard, tomato and onion sauce and whatever other topping you can think of. Here we use a continental frank(more meat than hoof!). We just have a hotdog bar

                                        1. I used to do a lot of catering with film students and other $$$ compromised creative types....these are some things I learned from shoots.....
                                          Film folks eat a ton! Since they are generally 'volunteers' ya gotta keep 'em happy....So be prepared.
                                          A coconut based curry - yams, onions, green beans over jasmine rice
                                          I loved the split pea soup idea from another poster
                                          Black Bean Chili, Brown Rice & Baked Potatoes w sour cream, scallions, a salsa etc
                                          Baked Penne Pasta w Ricotta, Marinara & Basil - this tastes like really good lasagne w/o the layering - cheaper to produce too, add a salad and garlic bread.
                                          Cookies, some grapes & cut up oranges. I used to buy a big bar of chocolate from Trader Joes & break it up into chunks....
                                          Borrow a slow cooker for transporting & serving
                                          If you put meat into the stews or curries - someone will fish them out before everyone else gets there - oh yes they will! So I wouldn't bother. Even your omnivore will appreciate a hearty hot meal.....
                                          Make sure the BF understands that the plates/bowls etc aren't part of the $50.00, who's supplying bevs?
                                          Make the first meal the best meal, finish with the hugest most comforting...by the end of a shoot most of the folks will be glad for hot, filling.
                                          Good Luck, it'll be fun!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: julibelle

                                            Oh my, someone that can relate! Awesome.

                                            So, question: Besides a slow cooker, what else would be ideal for keeping the food warm? The ole' candle underneath the pan? Does that even heat the food properly?

                                            I'm sure he knows the plates/forks/napkins, would be separate from the cost of ingredients. He'd be supplying beverages as well. Beverages aren't really a worry.

                                            I like your suggestions of fresh fruit. Hopefully we can try to fit that somewhere in the budget! Thank you so much, julibelle.

                                          2. One more inexpensive and easy to make dish. GNOOCHI! Potato pasta, cheap and very good!

                                            1. You could also make something using chicken thighs. They are cheap, flavorful and moist. Foxy Fairy mentioned in another thread that Mario Batali's chicken cacciatore recipe is delicious, and she used chicken thighs rather than a whole cut-up chicken. I haven't tried Mario's recipe, but usually use a combo of Bobby Flay's and Giada's from the Food Network. Sounds like Mario's is a winner, though.

                                              I've had good luck making a veggie version of the cacciatore sauce without the chicken for my veggie son. I just cut up all the veggies at once, and keep a separate pot for the chicken-free sauce. The chiles, mushrooms and peppers add lots of flavor, and he's happy.

                                              You could serve mashed potatoes (pre-made and reheated in a crock pot), rice or pasta along-side.

                                              Here's the recent thread from Foxy Fairy:


                                              Let us know what you end up making and how it goes over!

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: bear

                                                bear-- :) thanks for noticing my cacciatore! I was just going to suggest it because it was an AMAZING CROWD-PLEASER with sophisticated flavor. On Friday night, I fed a crowd dinner with this for about $25, annapathy. You could do it for less if you get a deal on the thighs somewhere and shop carefully for the produce. I can email you the recipe or paraphrase it if you like. A LOT of flavor -- in fact, one of the party guests was just raving about it again this morning. You can make it a day in advance too. Pancetta, mushrooms, celery, onion, chicken thighs rubbed with garlic and rosemary (I tore the meat off the bone), homemade tomato sauce and stock, wine. I like to serve it with simple buttered Israeli couscous (also called pearl couscous).

                                                Another Cookbook of the Month find, that would also be excellent, is chicken smothered in onions with feta (from The Glorious Foods of Greece -- August COTM). Similar one-pot meal, utterly different flavor from above, and can also be made in advance. The feta makes an amazing sauce and everyone raves. You can do it with chicken thighs also.

                                                Lunches -- I agree on the orzo salad. You could make your own tabouleh, like you said, and hummus too and/or baba ghanoush. You could make a turkey curry salad (so not everything is chicken!) too.

                                                For a vegetarian dinner option, you could do stuffed eggplants (since you'll know the # of veg ahead of time) or a snazzy spaghetti squash casserole. I have great recipes for both. Both are easy, yummy. Ratatouille is also divine -- eggplant, zucchini, mushroom, tomato. Similar to a veggie cacciatore, actually :) I have a great recipe for a bean pie too -- very cheap to make, pintos in a creamy-ish sauce, baked, topped with zucchini and tomato and some cornmeal even if you want.

                                                1. re: foxy fairy

                                                  I would actually love the recipe! It sounds delicious. Except, I'd have to omit any mushrooms due to my boyfriends dislike of them.


                                                  I like your suggestions and appreciate your help. Thank you!

                                                  1. re: foxy fairy

                                                    Can you post the bean pie recipe? I would love to make that for dinner one night next week.

                                                    1. re: cheesecake17

                                                      Just saw your request cheescake 17. email me at starrypoet@hotmail.com and I can email you the recipe. YUM. I'm making the cacciatore for my sister for Christmas, and the Greek chicken smothered in onions and feta for the rest of the family (my sister won't eat feta).

                                                    2. re: foxy fairy

                                                      Foxy Fairy, I searched for the Batali Chicken Cacciatore recipe you used, but alas couldn't find it... do you have a link to it?

                                                      1. re: ideabaker

                                                        Hi, ideabaker. I had trouble finding initially, too, but persevered because I want to make it right after the holidays. I'm pretty sure this is it, just in case foxy fairy doesn't see this post in time.


                                                        I'm pretty sure she used all chicken thighs with good results. Can't wait to make it myself.

                                                        1. re: bear

                                                          Thanks so much for the link, Bear... while labor intensive at the start, this sounds heavenly! I actually prefer thighs, more moisture and flavour... will absolutely try this one out in the new year. Again, thank you, I was wearing out my computer keys searching for the recipe!

                                                          1. re: ideabaker

                                                            Glad to help, ideabaker. Now, whoever makes it first has to report back. Happy New Year!

                                                  2. This is a great recipe from Rick Bayless that you can make for less than $25. Serve with salsa and chips and you'll have a good menu for a mexican dinner. It's wonderful, full of flavor, easy to make and very filling, and it can be made a day ahead.

                                                    BRAISED PORK AND POTATOES (GUAJILLO)

                                                    "Bayless calls this classic dish one of the reasons he's so in love with Mexican food. It's also from Mexican Everyday. He puts this mixture in a slow cooker and cooks it on high for six hours. You can buy Mexican oregano and guajillos (mild, sweet dried chilies with thick skins that are popular in stews, soups and salsas) at Latin supermarkets."

                                                    8 dried guajillo chilies, stemmed, seeded, torn into flat pieces
                                                    1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained (398 g)
                                                    4 large cloves garlic, minced
                                                    2 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
                                                    2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
                                                    1 1/2 tsp salt
                                                    1 1/2 cups or more water
                                                    2 lb (1 kg) boneless pork shoulder roast, cut in 1-inch cubes
                                                    6 Yukon gold potatoes, each cut in 6 wedges
                                                    1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
                                                    1/2 cup chopped white onion

                                                    Heat medium skillet over medium. Add chilies. Toast a few at a time, pressing them against hot surface with spatula, until they're aromatic and lightened in color underneath, about 10 seconds per side. Don't let burn.

                                                    Transfer to blender. Add tomatoes with juices, garlic, oregano, Worcestershire, salt and 1-1/2 cups water. Blend until as smooth as possible.

                                                    In large, ovenproof pot or Dutch oven, combine pork, potatoes and chili sauce. Cover; braise in preheated 300 degree F oven 3 hours, until pork is completely tender. Gently stir. (Sauce may look slightly broken, but will come together with gentle stirring.) If sauce seems thick, thin with a little water.

                                                    Serve in bowls, sprinkled with cilantro and onion and with tortillas on the side.

                                                    Makes 6 servings
                                                    From: Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: FoodChic

                                                      Wow, FoodChic. Your post smells of yummy. However, I think the braised pork and potatoes might be something to try at home. I'm not sure the vegetarians would very much appreciate this dish. But thank you!

                                                      1. re: annapathy

                                                        annapathy, do you have time to try out some recipes? The previously suggested lasagna or baked ziti in both meat and vege versions along with salad and maybe bread sounds like a great idea. Maybe you can find recipes online try them out for you two and then freeze the leftovers.

                                                        Also, I found a blog where the blogger made vegan empanadas along with cole slaw for a catering even. That sounds delicious but I personally would try the recipe out at home first. Here it is just in case your interested:

                                                        1. re: bessa

                                                          Unfortunately, I do not have much time to try out the recipes. But the lasagna or baked ziti dishes do sounds great. It's a great idea because it will please both the vegetarians and meat eaters. I'm actually considering that or perhaps a meatless chili. Thank you!

                                                        2. re: annapathy

                                                          Oops, sorry. Missed the vegetarian part.

                                                      2. Pupusas (bean and cheese, pork or chicken and cheese), curtido (slaw), and some good salsa. They can be a little time consuming, but it's really not bad - and they're really cheap. I use this recipe http://glutenfreebay.blogspot.com/200... but I mix about half of the cheese into the dough because it gives a product more like my local pupuseria.

                                                        If you can find some of reasonable quality, sliced avocado goes very well, and we serve them with lime agua fresca and a fruit-based dessert, although a rice pudding or flan would be reasonable as well.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: flourless

                                                          You can do a Middle Eastern spread on the cheap for one dinner. Vegetarian items are marked with a (v). Lentil soup (v), hummus (v), tabbouleh (v), babaganoush (v), fattoush salad (v), roast chicken (skinned, all meat shredded and added to Greek yogurt with a little garlic, lemon juice and olive oil -- will easily serve the 8 carnivores). Offer pita wedges. For dessert, make a rice pudding with nuts or raisins. The nice part is that all dishes can be made beforehand, except the fattoush salad, which you can prepare at the last minute. If you shop carefully, this can easily be done for under $50.

                                                          For dinner two, you could buy four frozen pizza dough balls, then roll out into ovals and spread thinly with different ingredients (two veg and two veg and meat), roll up into logs and bake. When they come out of the oven, let them sit 10 minutes, then slice about 1.5 inches thick. This way, the slices are manageable and everyone can sample the various types offered. Don't go crazy on the meat and cheese. A little in each bite is plenty. Make one veg pizza roll without sundried tomato or olive tapenade, but no cheese, just in case your vegetarian isn't a cheese eater. Serve with a green salad. For dessert, offer a Giada deLaurentiis specialty: grilled pineapple slices drizzled with Nutella and topped with toasted, crushed hazelnuts, sided with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. You only need one ripe pineapple and a small jar of Nutella, plus an ounce or two of hazelnuts.

                                                          1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                            To add to Sweetpea's idea of the mediterranean spread - Falafel (fried chick pea balls) are very cheap and easy to make and will stand in well as the "Main entree" part of the meal for vegetarians and can be served with tahini dip or tzaziki dip or even in a pita.

                                                            1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                              huge pot of potato soup...top with cheese and green onions...and bacon for the meat eaters...also make cornbread.... cheap

                                                          2. More than $5 per person per day for lunch and dinner ... I'm not sure where I see the drama. How much do you normally spend on home-cooked food?!? A simple vegetable entrée, a main dish from inexpensive meat or seafood, a starch, salad, fruit, cheap wine.

                                                            1. I'd second chili. But here's a pasta dish that I picked up at some chain Italian place in Edinburgh. It's yummy, simple, and maybe a bit more impressive looking than chili, soup or stew - it doesn't look like it's on a budget, though the bulk is just pasta. Also, the whole thing won't take more than 30 minutes.

                                                              plenty of penne - enough to fill up 9 people, so we're talking several bags, maybe not the best time to buy fancy brand-name pasta
                                                              at least one large log of plain goat's cheese - this will blow most of your budget, here it would be $6-10 but that's okay, because everything else should be affordable
                                                              baby spinach - enough for a generous handful per person
                                                              about 2 packages of cherry tomatoes, halved - if I were you, in this case, I'd substitute a cheaper tomato, chopped
                                                              the smallest package of pine nuts you can find - this is just a garnish, but I think, unfortunately, it's essential
                                                              a touch of nice olive oil - hopefully already in your kitchen

                                                              1. Toast pine nuts.

                                                              2. Cook the pasta. When it's cooked, drain and turn off the stove, but leave the pot on the element so that the rest of the ingredients will be just warmed through.

                                                              3. Add the goat's cheese first, then the tomatoes, and then the spinach. You want everything warm, and the tomatoes just a bit mushy, but you don't want the spinach to actually wilt.

                                                              4. Some of the goat's cheese will melt and coat the pasta, and some will stay in chunks, but this depends on the cheese. It comes out nicely either way. If the pasta seems dry at all, drizzle with olive oil.

                                                              5. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with pine nuts.

                                                              1. Do tell... what did you end up making? Or has the event happened yet???

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: LaLa

                                                                    no update.

                                                                    from what ii can tell, i think annapathy got otherwise involved in planning her boyfriend's birthday dinner.

                                                                1. Red Beans and Rice for nine hungry people might run $20, if you go heavy on the andouille sausage.
                                                                  It's a dish that belongs in everyone's go-to fall-back-on repertoire.

                                                                  1. I apologize to those that have been waiting for a reply! I believe I need to put in more effort in these things. There was a cluster of unfortunate events, and the film project he had hoped to film, miserably fell apart. As much as I would have liked to try out one of these recipes for a large group of people, I would have been the only one eating such quantity in an empty room. That alone, is a sad thought. Though, a yummy one.

                                                                    I truly appreciate all of your answers, and have bookmarked your ideas for definite use in the future. (Or tomorrow, for say, dinner.) Thank you. :)

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: annapathy

                                                                      annapathy, i have empathy for you! i hope his film project gets back together again (NOT like humpty dumpty) and that you get to fix many fun dinners -- and be a culinary "star."

                                                                      ps, did your boyfriend's birthday go well, at least? ;-).