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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.