Cheap Food for Large Groups – 10 Affordable Dinner Ideas for Guests

One of the things I often let get away from me is inviting people over for a meal.  I don’t do it nearly as much as I want to.   I sometimes struggle with coming up with inexpensive meals for large groups.

I often let busyness get in the way, or I worry that the house isn’t in perfect condition. At times I’ve also let expense get in the way. 

Anyone with kids especially knows how quickly your grocery bill can add up so sometimes the budget can feel too tight to be hosting guests.

cheap food for groups

But, it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are affordable ways you can feed your company so you don’t miss out on the blessings that come with connecting with others in your home. 

There are many ideas when it comes to cheap food for large groups.

I am always struggling to come up with inexpensive dinner ideas for Guests.  But a year or so ago I read an article on “Scruffy Hospitality.” 

It basically talks about the importance of not waiting till we have it all together – waiting until we have perfect homes or expensive and impressive looking meals.

It talks about the quality of conversation being more important than the look of the house or the food we serve.

That means we don’t have to wait until our pockets are full of cash before we invite guests over. 

There are many great budget-friendly meals that you can serve to guests.  

Yes, you may have had a chance to be blessed by eating steak when you were invited over to your friend’s house last time, but it doesn’t mean you have to serve steak as well!

There are so many yummy options that can fit your budget.  Here are 10 frugal dinner ideas for guests.




Loaded Potato Soup, homemade bread, and a side salad.  If you can’t impress your guests with steak, pull out the homemade bread. Few people can resist a slice of freshly made homemade bread slathered with butter. 

Provide toppings for the potato soup such as shredded cheese, bacon bits, green onions, and sour cream.  In my opinion, potato soup is pretty much the cheapest meal for a large group that you can make.

Spaghetti, homemade bread, and a side salad.  Spaghetti might seem too casual to serve to guests, but when you add some hamburger to the sauce and pair it with some bread and salad, it is anything but boring. 

Turn that bread into some garlic toast for extra deliciousness.

Chili, homemade bread, and a side salad.  I know I sound like a broken record with the bread and side salad, but it really completes many meals.  

Chili is also a crowd pleaser, easily made in the crockpot, and so delicious.  Check out THIS easy recipe for Chili.

Homemade pizza, and a side salad or cut veggies and dip.  I love making this meal when we have families with a lot of kids over.  I usually make some cheese pizza for the many kids who don’t want any other toppings, and then I will make a pizza with a lot more toppings for the adults. 

Check out THIS pizza dough I make that only requires 10-20 minutes of rising time!

Hot dogs/hamburgers and a side or potato salad.  Fire up the BBQ and enjoy the outdoors next time you invite guests over.  When we invite families over kids often prefer hot dogs over hamburgers which are cheaper anyways.  

We will cook both hot dogs and hamburgers and everyone can have their pick. If the budget is really tight, skip the hamburgers and make hot dogs for everyone. Enjoy a homemade potato salad, or garden salad on the side. 

If you have a garden, the salad is an even cheaper option!

Loaded Taco Salad.  Guests make their own taco salad by loading tortilla chips with hamburger meat, lettuce, cheese, salsa, tomatoes, sour cream, and whatever else you can think of. 

It may be salad, but it will leave you full and completely satisfied.  Try out this recipe that uses Doritos!

Quiche with a side garden salad.  I know, I know, I am constantly throwing in egg recipes in my blog posts, but with 11 chickens laying eggs for me every day, it’s a cheap food ingredient.  Even if you don’t have chickens, eggs are very inexpensive.

Ham and Cheese Sliders.  Check out THIS recipe over at Thriving Home that looks absolutely delicious and is easy on the budget.  It would be a great meal to make when you are hosting a family for dinner that has children!

Sloppy Joes with a side salad.  Sloppy Joes are a meal I don’t make enough but is always a crowd pleaser.  As a toddler, one of my children used to call them “Floppy Joes.”  I refused to correct him for so long because it was just so darn cute!

BLTs with potato salad.  Your biggest expense with a BLT meal is the bacon.  Be sure to grab it while it is on sale. 

But the rest of the meal will surely make up for the expense of the bacon because lettuce, tomatoes, bread, and mayo are fairly cheap.  Make a homemade potato salad for a perfect warm weather meal to serve friends.

A few other ways to cut costs when it comes to having guests over

When someone asks what they can bring, always respond with a yes.  We will often suggest someone bring a salad or dessert if they offer.  Most people don’t mind bringing something and many people who are frugally minded get it.

Have guests over just for dessert and coffee instead of a meal.  There is something so special about enjoying an afternoon or evening dessert together.

If you want to host a party with a lot of people, have a BYOM event, which stands for Bring Your Own Meat.  You provide the buns, condiments, beverages, and maybe a cheap pasta or potato salad, and everyone brings their own meat which is always the most expensive part of the meal. 

You BBQ it for them, and you all get to enjoy the meat you like best.

These 10 dinner ideas for guests will help you keep within your budget while still being able to entertain!  Don’t let cost discourage you from practicing hospitality and inviting friends over. 

Life is so much sweeter when we can share it with the ones we love and those who really are our friends care way more about the company than what you are serving.


Related:  10 Convenience Foods to Make Yourself (and Save Money!)


6 thoughts on “Cheap Food for Large Groups – 10 Affordable Dinner Ideas for Guests”

  1. I add refried beans I make myself to taco meat to make it go farther. Usually I make 4 lbs of burger mix in 2 to 3 cups of refried beans and it will feed the 9 people who live here plus guests. I make my own tortillas, seasoning and chips. Cheap easy and we usually have leftovers so those get rolled into burritos. It costs less than 20$ for up to 15-16 people if I need to serve more I just add a little extra meat and a few more beans.

  2. Having friends over for meals is also a very frugal way to be social when you are on a tight budget. I realized when we have friends over we often feel similar to “having gone out” and it resets our contentment to be home and hosting friends for dinner at your own home is so much more affordable than going out and meeting people for dinner somewhere and usually ends up feeling more meaningful and intimate and bonding.

    1. This is SO true! Going out to eat is expensive and I find having friends over to eat is just as fun or even more fun than going out to eat with friends.

  3. We often have friends over for breakfast on Saturday mornings. A breakfast casserole and fruit along with some muffins or biscuits and jam or cinnamon rolls with good coffee is always popular.

    For suppers I often fall back on chicken with real mashed potatoes and homemade gravy, homemade biscuits, a vegetable and a salad of some kind. Most everyone is crazy about this home style meal and it is so inexpensive.

    1. Having friends over for breakfast sounds so wonderful! I may have to try this at some point. Or at least brunch. I feel like I couldn’t pull myself together for company too early in the morning. 🙂

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