Hello there, friends! This time of year I always receive a ton of emails with questions about feeding large groups. Must be the coming summer season and its grand number of Girls Camps, Youth Conferences and Family Reunions. I put a post together to share with you all today, with some tips, sample menus, recipes and information about planning and cooking food for large groups. I hope many of you find it useful! Feel free to pass this post along to anyone you know who has been entrusted with a project of this nature.
1. First and foremost, get enough help.
Make sure, if you’ve been asked to organize food for the masses that you have proper help! In my experience, for camps with only 20-30 youth and leaders, 2-3 people to oversee the food should be enough. However, if you are trying to feed hundreds of youth (or family members), for several days a food committee of 6-8 people is certainly needed. Just managing that quantity of food, and the set up and clean up alone requires more than one lonely gal.
2. Organize your menu.
First, take into account where you will be serving the food and what kind of accommodations you will have there. For instance, it might not be a good idea to plan on serving Baked Chicken Extraordinaire if there are no ovens at the site. However, if you know there are many electrical outlets Crock Pot Cooking is going to be your jam. 🙂 Get an idea of what you have to work with and build your menu from there.
Second, consider the dear souls who will be attending the event. 300 hungry teenage boys? Don’t serve salad as a main course meal. 150 teenage girls? Don’t serve boiled hot dogs for lunch or dinner or breakfast. Consider the folks coming, and go from there.
Third, get a budget approved so you know what you have to work with.
Fourth, remind yourself that all kinds of people do not love all kinds of foods. There will certainly be a variety of taste buds invited to enjoy your food. It helps to use menu items that allow people to “build their own” plate of food. For example, serving a Taco Bar with couple kinds of protein (ie…shredded Mexican chicken, and ground beef taco meat) and tons of different toppings will appease many. People can choose what they like and leave what they don’t, which will award you a higher quantity of smiles. This also helps provide variety for people with food allergies.
Fifth, don’t feel like you have to make absolutely everything from scratch or even with your own two hands. Buying big platters of cookies, brownies and other baked goods is totally cool. Seriously. 🙂 I helped on a food committee once for Pioneer Trek and we ordered most of the food pre-made from Sysco. (Beef Stew, Chicken and Rice, Uncrustable Sandwiches…etc). We were feeding over 400 people for 4 days, literally in the middle of no-where and it was a life saver to have meals that were already prepared. We heated the meals in dutch ovens over a camp chefs, which was a great choice.
I’ve put together some sample menu’s for you all, complete with many links! Also, at the bottom of this post are links to many, many recipes that double and triple (or quadruple) well.
Menu Day #1:
Breakfast: Hungry Man Breakfast Burritos, Fresh Fruit, Orange Juice and Chocolate Milk
Lunch: Deli Sandwiches, Pepperoni Pasta Salad, Chips, Watermelon Slices, Cookies
Dinner: Taco/Nacho Bar, Tropical Party Punch, S’more Bar
MENU DAY #2:
Breakfast: Pancakes with Buttercream syrup, Scrambled Eggs, Sausage or Bacon, Orange Juice
Lunch: Chef Salad Bar (with several protien options), Breadsticks, Frozen Go-Gurts,
Dinner: Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Cheesy Potatoes (Dutch Oven), Veggies and Dip, Frosted Brownies
MENU DAY #3:
Breakfast: Breakfast Casserole with Potatoes Ham and Cheese, Fresh Fruit, Muffins
Lunch: Chicken Salad Sandwich Wraps, Chips, Apples with Creamy Toffee Fruit Dip
Dinner: Pasta Bar with Hearty Meat Sauce, Alfredo Sauce, Olive Garden Salad, Garlic Bread, Lemon Sugar Cookie Bars
MENU DAY #4:
Breakfast: Make Ahead Breakfast Sandwiches , Bacon or Sausage, Fruit
Lunch: Grilled Hot Dogs, Berry Almond Salad, Chips, Veggies and Dip
Dinner: BBQ Chicken, Baked Potato Bar, Fluffy Orange Jello Salad , Samoa Texas Sheet Cake
4. Allergies to consider.
This is a tricky and sensitive matter. There are so many different allergies to consider that can be ultimately life threatening. That’s scary stuff. Make sure you are aware of any and all people with allergies that will be attending your event. It helps if one person on the food committee is responsible to oversee food allergies, making contact with those individuals (and their parents) to let them know what the menu is and to make arrangements for them to either bring food from home, or to see if it’s reasonable for the food committee to adapt some of the recipes. This is another reason adding menu items that are “build your own” is helpful. Those allergic to dairy can pass on the cheese, gluten-free folks can skip the bread, etc.
5. Quantity, how much should you buy?
This is by far the hardest part for me. I’m not great at calculating how much of each thing to buy! It’s an overwhelming part for sure.
Spread sheet example from my cute friend Angela Howells (food committee chair extraordinaire)
It’s helpful to make a spread sheet, listing each meal, and all of the ingredients and equipment needed to make it, with the quantity of each ingredient needed. I would suggest buying a little more than you think you need. Running out of food is just the worst. Better to have a little extra.
I found the following chart for purchasing meat at Kraft.com, which seems to be spot on.
Meat Math Chart
|Meat||Per Person||4 People||12 People||40 People|
|Lean or Extra Lean Ground Meat||1/4 lb.||1 lb.||3 lb.||10 lb.|
|Spareribs||1 lb.||4 lb.||12 lb.||40 lb.|
|Steak – boneless
tenderloin, rib-eye, sirloin
|1/4 lb.||1 to 1-1/2 lb.||3 lb.||10 lb.|
|Steak – T-bone||6 oz.||1-1/2 lb.||4-1/2 lb.||15 lb.|
|Chicken – boneless||4 oz.||1 lb.||3 lb.||10 lb.|
|Chicken – bone-in||1 to 2
|2 lb.||6 lb.||20 lb.|
6. Shopping and storing the food.
Purchase as many things as you can, far, far in advance. Stock up on paper products, meats, canned goods, condiments and freezer items several weeks before the event. Plan to only purchase fresh produce, dairy and baked goods a day or two before so things stay nice and fresh.
Make sure you have enough freezer and fridge (or cooler) space needed to store perishable items throughout the event. Notice that big refrigerated trailer in the photo up there? We used that bad boy for a girls camp where we served 250 people, 3 meals a day for 4 days in a row. It was a life saver. If you are in the Salt Lake area and need one, take note of the number on the back of the trailer.
7. Preparing the food.
Plan to cook and freeze as much of the food as you can before your event. For example if you are planning to serve pulled pork sandwiches, slow cook and freeze all of the meat. Brownies, Bars and muffins also freeze super well. Having most of the food already cooked will save you oodles of time once at your event.
I hope these tips have been helpful to you! Read on to see many recipes that work well for a crowd.
Recipes that double (or triple or quadruple) well…
Pulled Pork Sandwiches (Crock Pot)
Sweet Cafe Rio Pork (Crock Pot)
BBQ Chicken Sandwiches (Crock Pot)
Cilantro Lime Chicken (Crock Pot)
Butter Cream Syrup
If you want your guests to love you forever, make this syrup. It is seriously a crowd pleaser like you wouldn’t believe!
SIDE DISH RECIPES
Good luck to you! Hope your event goes super well. 🙂