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Topic: Cooking for a group on a budget -- HELP!  (Read 5710 times)
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« on: September 14, 2008 03:43:42 AM »

okay, so i'm about to start a program called Katimavik and basically, i move into a house with 12 other people around the same age as me (which means we all have like, zero cooking experience).  we all take turns making meals, and i was wondering what some good ideas for meals for a group are?

i mean, obviously things like pasta, chili, stirfry, etc, can be made in massive amounts, but we have to spend nine months together, and nine months eating just that would probably kill me.

i can follow a recipe, and i know how to cook well enough that i don't burn things and such.

also, we have a veeeeery limited budget, so cheap would be nice!
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2008 11:13:20 AM »

How about hundreds of different ways to eat ramen noodles?
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2008 04:18:33 PM »

I'm assuming that you might be on your own for both breakfast and lunch, and its supper that is the issue.

 I would suggest prepping all your items at the beginning of the week, or at the last, the day before. Being organized and prepped ahead of time will make this more bearable. Make a list of planned meals and alternates if needed to keep everyone on the same page...rotate duties...Next...menu ideas....ummm....

Casseroles - assemble in the largest pans that fit in the oven ( hotel pans would be nice). Easy assembly with these, recipes can be doubled or tripled depending on your needs. I can make 1-2 pans of chilaquiles or enchiladas pretty quickly, as long as I'm organized about it.

Roasted Chickens or Turkey Breasts- put 'em all together in your largest pans, season, and cook all at once. What isn't eaten, can be shredded off the bones and used the next day for another recipe or frozen.

Beans - Black, pinto, chick peas - Cheap protein. I normally take about 1-2 lbs of beans, an onion, half a head of garlic and a few bay leaves. Salt towards the end.

Rice- Ah, so many ways to make it! Remember, 1 cup of rice to about 3 cups of liquid. Add frozen peas/chopped carrots or corn to the mix if you'd like.

Pastas - I would think like 2-3 lbs of pasta, plus 2-3 large cans of sauce would make part of a meal. You can buy jarred or large canned sauces fairly cheaply, but to make them taste better, saute some garlic and onions in the sauce pot before hand, with whatever other veggies/herbs or meats you'd like to add.

Soups- Easy peasy.... Toss a chicken into the pot, cook through, strain broth, put back into stock pot, shred chicken, add copius amounts of vegetables and pasta or a few handfuls of rice. Omit chicken part, you have veg. soup. Add chick peas instead.

Fruit Salads - Use a bag of apples (usually 8-10), chopped, as your base and build off from there with a large can of crushed pineapple (acidic, keeps the fruits from browning) and other fruits that are in season. Add nuts, dates, raisins, shredded coconut, etc to make it go further.

Waffles or Pancakes - I use an entire box of blueberry pancake mix from Tesco/Fresh n' Easy and add a few eggs and enough milk to get the right consistency. A waffle maker with at least 4 grids, or a large griddle works well, and makes quick work of it. Leftovers get frozen in my house and reheated for quick breakfast's during the week.

Stock up on koolaids, teas, juices, etc that can be kept at least by the gallon.

Not sure what your budget is, but if milk is an issue, and others are willing to drink it, mix up some evaporated milk with water and mix equal parts together with regular milk, like 2% or whole. Let is set overnight. Not alot of people like powdered milk, though.   Lips sealed

Eggs- see if there's a local producer around who'd be willing to sell a flat or commercial crate of eggs, instead of having to purchase them by the dozen at the grocer.

Grill - Become familiar with it, and marinades for meats, kabobs, etc. You'll like it. Really.

My immediate family is 30 people (inlaws,siblings, neices/nephews), and that's just half that's within driving distance, we get together weekly, so cranking out enough for everyone plus seconds can be a challenge at times.. The other half live 2000 miles away, thankfully, with all the cousins. Smiley In my house, there's 7 of us that I cook for everyday.

Hope this gives you some ideas to jump off from and branch out.

Edit:  Take a look at http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/index1.htm, I found the link somewhere here from another poster. Some insight on purchasing, budgeting and smoemeal planning.

« Last Edit: September 14, 2008 04:23:40 PM by Coralia » THIS ROCKS   Logged
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« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2008 07:32:25 PM »

COSTCO! Especially nice of someone's mom/dad has a membership, so you don't have to pay for it yourself, but that for sure is going to be the most cost effective way to buy bulk foods.

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« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2008 08:38:31 AM »

Not the cheapest but a great way to cook for a group-cajun shrimp boil.  Use outdoor propane cookers and do it up!  I also use my propane cooker for corn on the cob, and other need-to-boil-a-ton-of-water-really-fast recipes.  (Like pasta for a ton of people, for instance.)  Any chance any of your group is a hunter?  That could really defray the cost of meat...
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2008 01:44:27 PM »

thanks everyone!

we're actually going to be making meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so any breakfast suggestions that are quick and can be massproduced would be nice!
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« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2008 06:24:32 PM »

thanks everyone!

we're actually going to be making meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so any breakfast suggestions that are quick and can be massproduced would be nice!

any kind of baked omelette casserole is great to make in large quantities, cheap, and filling.
also breakfast tacos/burritos - you can cook any meat for it the night before and nuke it last min, and you can cook hashbrowns in the oven so the only thing you have to fuss with is eggs.
pancakes/waffles are great because you can make them in large amounts ahead of time and freeze them [and theyre CHEAP]

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« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2008 11:44:52 PM »

My family makes this casserole for alot of breakfast-time family gatherings (easter, etc.)

1 1/2 c. croutons
3/4 lb. sausage, fried and drained (or cubed ham)
6 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c. milk
1 c. Cheddar cheese, shredded)

Place croutons in well-greased casserole dish. Spread sausage and half of cheese onto this. Combine milk and eggs and pour over all. Cover and put in refrigerator overnight. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

One hour before serving next morning, bake in 325 degree oven uncovered.

Makes a 13x9 pan full. Two pans should easily do for breakfast for 12. But DON'T skip the "making it the night before" part. The croutons have to soak up the egg or it's just gross.

Also, I have tried this (and loved this) pancake mix recipe. It looks daunting at first, but if you just get a really really big container, and buy the ingredients in big packages, you can make a whole buttload of pancake mix for really, really, really cheap. I filled a two-gallon container for under $5. Also, pancakes are really easy and fast to make, so they would be a great breakfast for a big group. Buy your syrup (NOT butter-flavored) at someplace like Costco or Sam's Club, because you'll go through it SO fast. Get the group together and everyone chip in to invest in a big griddle (I like my fold-up electric one, it's easy to use and easy to clean), and just serve pancakes and butter and syrup.

Other thoughts: offer coffee before milk and juice, as coffee is much cheaper. Make your juice from the cheapo cheapo concentrates, the store brands are often less than 50 cents per can. For the rest of the day, definitely kool-aid. Sun tea is also cheap and easy to make (basically NO work).

Make your own spaghetti sauce, it will be as cheap as the kind that comes in a metal can (on the bottom shelf) and taste much better, plus you'll know exactly what's in it! I use canned crushed and diced tomatoes, but if you have a vehicle and there is a farmer's market nearby, you can get great deals on fresh tomatoes (and other produce) and make your sauce with them for next to nothing. I seriously got a HUGE box of tomatoes for like $4 once. No joke.

Remember that cooking from scratch is almost always cheaper than buying premade boxed anything. Make your own lasagna (it will taste better and cost like 1/3 as much as the frozen kind), use grains and veggies to fill out meals, never underestimate the value of freezing things ahead of time and thawing/reheating them right before mealtime, and consider growing your own foods. Dinty-Moore type beef stew in a 1:2 ratio with rice is so delicious, and so filling. "Home cooking" is also very filling, and often really cheap, since it's mostly meals that survived through the depression. Shop anyplace but regular grocery stores: farmer's markets, roadside veggie stands, butcher shops, oriental markets, warehouse club stores. Keep a running spreadsheet or list of how much you usually pay per ounce, per pound, per unit, whatever for anything, and use that to know for sure if you're getting a deal. Buy some snack foods! If you don't buy them with your normal groceries, you end up running out to a convenience store at 2 am when you need fuel for staying up late, or you have pms cravings, or whatever, and you pay 3 times as much.

That is all.

Well, probably not, but that is all for tonight.


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« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2008 04:33:09 PM »

I was at a friend's house lately, and this is what she had on the table:
~a huge pot of sushi rice
~little strips of the seaweed paper (just cut with scissors) you use for sushi
~sliced tiny strips of cucumber & carrots
~a plate of "fake crab," little shrimp, smoked fish, etc.

Everyone just rolls their own. It was tons of fun and delicious!!
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« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2008 08:21:24 AM »

Tacos.  You can feeda ton of people with tacos and they are a fun, social meal.

Brown some meat, a pound for every 4 people or so.  Season with tacos seasoning or spice it how you like.

shredded lettuce head, 1/2 head for every 4 people
diced tomatoes, about 2 per 4 people

shredded cheese

use either canned refrieds, canned reds or pintos, or even cheaper, but slower would be dry reds or pintos, or even make your own refireds (I like to add diced chiles to refrieds) or you can put out more than one kind

make your own if you can swing it
lime juice
hot peppers

whatever you like

You can make bean dip or cheese dip (like Ro-Tel) to go with if you want

just put it all out and let everyone fill their plate with fixin's that they like and fill a tortilla and eat it.  Repeat until you are stuffed.

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