cheap party food ideas

Easy and Cheap Party Food Ideas for a Crowd

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Are you a party lover? Do you feel like throwing a party for your friends every second weekend, but you don’t want to eat through your income? Especially during holiday seasons. Well, fret not! You can celebrate good times and not tap into your savings.

Choosing the right foods and knowing shopping secrets can be handy. That’s why we reveal some top cheap party food ideas to our readers. With them, there’s no need to sacrifice taste or variety.

Keep on reading and prepare your checklist for your next 2020 party.

How To Plan Your Party Food Menu: A Step-By-Step Guide

Catering services are usually too pricey if you have a tight budget. Still, you want a decent party with various dishes. With us, you won’t need any same day loans online to survive the event.

Here are the six simple steps to help you get started:

  • Pick the date and invite your guests.
  • Choose your party theme.
  • Create the menu (from our cheap ideas below).
  • Prepare pretty but affordable decorations.
  • Open up the space by removing unnecessary furniture.
  • Relax and enjoy your party!

Brunch Ideas

Brunch seems to have become the most important meal as of late. Two meals in one, and you can still keep up with your diet. Doesn’t it sound lovely to all food lovers?

avocado cheese toast

These are your best shots if you’re looking for inexpensive ideas to feast your pickiest friends.

French Toast

The old good French toast will save you from much trouble. Its preparation is instant, and the dish is classified as semi-healthy. Apart from bread, you need eggs and milk mixed in a large bowl. You can also add cinnamon if that’s one of your favorite spices.

Dip both sides of each bread piece in the mixture. Fry it in a greased pan until both sides are golden brown. French toast is best served when still warm. So, if you’re not serving it right away, keep it in the oven. Decorate it with jam, maple or caramel syrup.

French toast is among the best kids party food ideas on a budget. Serve 20 people for as much as $10 for the whole meal.

Pancakes With Fruit

This is a great brunch idea for the eternal lovers of her majesty – the Pancake. The ingredients are pretty simple, and you usually have all of them at home. Mix two eggs, some milk, flour, baking soda, and mineral water in a larger bowl. Fry one by one in a preheated pan, and don’t forget to turn both sides.

Alternatively, it might be cost-effective if you use a pre-made mix. Or if you’re not sure whether you can get the right pancake mixture. In the end, decorate with strawberry pieces and chocolate topping. Yummy!

You can also get the same effect with waffles. The mixture is almost identical. Though, you need a separate kitchen utensil to get the final shape. So, there you have a range of easy party recipes on a budget. This tasty brunch will cost you about $20 if you’re a group of 30 people. It’s also a delicious and cheap dish for large families!

Scrambled Eggs And Toast

Easy to prepare, and you can’t go wrong with this popular brunch. The main items you need are eggs, a loaf of bread, and some toppings of your choice. For a party of 12 people, you will need about two dozen eggs and two loaves of bread. The total cost for, let’s say, a group of 20 people will amount to no more than $20. This is a real cheap party food for a crowd.

The procedure that you have to follow is simple. Scramble the eggs, add some salt, soak the bread in the mixture and fry it on a little bit of oil. Toast the bread for a better flavor. Serve on a big plate and add some toppings. Mediterranean kitchen lovers will finish off this meal with some olives and cherry tomatoes on top.


Bagels are a unique idea if you intend to bridge breakfast and lunch. What you can do is buy some mini bagels and then prepare the toppings yourself. Bear in mind that this brunch is all about the variety of toppings. Make your bagel bar colorful and appealing to the eye.

Toppings must include savory and sweet items. Purchase sliced vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, and radishes), sliced meat (turkey, salmon, or chicken) and eggs. Smears can entail butter, jam, honey, and peanut butter. Don’t forget to include some fresh berries and chopped almonds or walnuts.

Your ultimate bagel bar might seem a bit overpriced, but your guests will love it. If you’re prepared to pay as much as $60 for a party of 20, this will be the best brunch ever!

Lunch Or Dinner Ideas

If you decided to throw a dinner party, then you need some more careful preparation. And you need our undisputable ideas for delicious meals. Whatever you choose, you won’t make a mistake!

chicken kebabs

Taco Bar

Taco bars are always praised for their simplicity and rich flavor. Plus, they’re inexpensive snacks for large groups. Your basic ingredients are taco shells that you can either prepare yourself or buy on sale. Then you need some shredded lettuce and cheese, some chopped tomatoes, and the famous salsa sauce. Don’t forget to cook some seasoned beef or chicken, too.

The serving can be in a buffet style. Set the table aside and arrange all foods around the tortillas. And there you go; you have everything to build your beloved taco! Your home-made tacos will cost you approximately $5 per person. So, if you’re a bunch of 20 people, prepare not less than $100.


Depending on the occasion, you might decide to treat your close friends with a hearty BBQ. This is a favorite afternoon meal in the summer period. Various types of meat are obligatory, including chicken, sausages, steak, and burgers. Have them prepared the night before, so they are tender and mouth-watering the other day.

Since the entire meal can be a bit pricy, consider sharing the cost with your guests. You can prepare grill, sides, buns, and drinks while others can bring the meat. Or try a different combination.

If the occasion is important, don’t hesitate to go a bit over your budget this time. The price you’ll pay for a barbeque for 20 people can get to $200.

Pasta Bar

Don’t we all love all those farfalle and fusilli? Sounds Italian and yummy, right? Don’t be surprised that they are as inexpensive as appetizing. In a word, pasta is a budget party food.

The first and utmost rule is to buy at least five different varieties of pasta. Plus, purchase or prepare three varieties of sauce. This can involve the usual red sauce, a mushroom sauce, the four types of cheese sauce, or a green sauce. Have some green salad aside to enrich the taste.

You can serve more than 20 people for less money with the pasta bar option. The total cost for all the ingredients can be around $20 with the right planning.

Eggplant Casserole

Who doesn’t like a rich taste that is light on the wallet? This dinner idea is also quick to prepare and healthy. For a big pot that’ll serve 12 people, you basically need about four pounds of eggplant and two pounds of minced meat. Spices can vary depending on your eating habits, and you have to add some onions.

The sauce consists of cooked minced meat and chopped onions and tomatoes. At the end of the simmering procedure, add your favorite spices such as salt, pepper, and parsley. Arrange the eggplant slices in three layers in the baking tray. Among each layer, pour some of the meat sauce. After 40 minutes of baking in the oven, you can pour beaten eggs, cheese, and milk over the last eggplant layer. And that’s that! You have a wonderful lunch for a dozen people for $30 at the most.

Steamed Rice With Veggies and Soy Sauce

Any rise combination will do wonders as cheap party meals for a large crowd. The preparation is effortless, and the meal is nutritious. Stream rice in the desired quantity and be aware of the timing. You don’t want your rice to be too sticky or undercooked.

Choose veggies depending on the season and mix them with the rice. Alternatively, get canned or frozen vegetables such as broccoli, peas, and corn. In the end, pour some soy sauce, and your dish is ready!

Enrich your risotto with some fried mushrooms or chicken if you decide to make the meal flashy. The cheaper option will cost you about $15 for a group of 20 people.

Appetizer Ideas

You decided you want something authentic and unusual. You want to serve something in between meals. You realize you need easy and cheap party food ideas. Just take up our favorite ideas!

guacamole tuna

Crackers and Fruit Tray

This kind of platter can cost a bit over the top, but some tips can help you be cost-efficient. When in search of crackers, look at bigger supermarket chains that often have promotions. They have knockoffs on multi-variety cracker boxes, and that’s what you’re looking for.

Choose fruit, depending on the season. Buy fruit that is abundant in the particular season. It’ll be cheaper and fresher. Plus, it’ll taste better. The overall cost for a 20 people appetizer will reach no more than $20.

Adding cheese to the side can be a good idea. Avoid buying pre-sliced cheese as this will cost you a few bucks extra. Slice it or chop it yourself before serving. Make cheese balls if you feel like cooking something special.

Guacamole or Pico de Gallo Dip With Chips

Prepare an appetizer that will make you a popular host among friends and family. First, make sure you have enough tortilla chips. Next is the dip that can actually be home-made.

If you choose guacamole, you’ll need five large and ripe avocados. Make sure you add chopped red pepper and a bunch of fresh cilantro. Spice up with garlic powder, ground cumin, chili powder, salt, and lemon juice. Your Mexican delicatessen is ready!

For Pico de Gallo, you need 10 Roma tomatoes and a bunch of cilantro chopped. Add a red diced onion and some salt and pepper. Your refreshing dip is ready, and for the entire appetizer, you’ll pay no more than $15.

Deviled Eggs

This is the most effortless and yet eye-catching appetizer that you can prepare in no time. These appetizers are among the best party buffet ideas on a budget. Boil, peel, and cut the eggs in halves. The inside filling depends on you. Most popular fillings include a mixture of mayo, yellow mustard, vinegar, and spices.

This is a wide-known Easter dish in many countries. Serve it with lettuce on the side for extra decoration and taste. Apart from cheap, this appetizer is healthy, too. For as much as $5, you can prepare over 50 deviled egg halves.

Veggies And Dip Bar

If you’re ready to put some extra effort into making this lovely bar, you’ll cut the cost. What you have to do is buy various vegetables and chop or slice them yourself. Pre-chopped veggies at supermarkets are overpriced and not that fresh. Healthy eaters will definitely appreciate your veggie tray!

The menu can include carrots, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and onions. Place the chopped veggies on a platter and serve with some dips. Hummus, guacamole, or honey-mustard are among the best and most popular dips at any party.

Healthy food doesn’t have to mean you’ll splash out. An appetizer like this for a bunch of 20 people can be provided for $30.

BYO Favorite Appetizer

Potluck gatherings are easy to organize and don’t require much effort and money. Tell everyone what food to bring to a party you’re hosting. Remind them to get trip insurance if they’re coming from abroad.

A good idea is fast food vs. home cooking competition. Some of you can bring flatbread pizzas with a variety of toppings. Then people can make customized pizza that gets along with their taste. Desperate housewives can rely on delivery services.

Baked Goods

Baked goods make inexpensive brunch menus, and you have zillion options. The assortment is never-ending. Choose between muffins, brownies, cookies, or sweetbreads, and you’re halfway there.

carrot cake

Banana Bread

Having home-made food is crucial if you wish to keep your costs down. Plus, everyone loves a touch of warm home-prepared bread. The smell is just mesmerizing!

The recipe is super easy and takes no more than an hour to get it ready. For a group of 20, you need 10 ripe bananas, 3 cups of sugar, 6 beaten eggs, 6 cups of flour, some oil, and baking powder. For extra flavor, add walnuts, chocolate chips or cranberries. You might need to bake in several turns.

Mix all the ingredients, the bananas first. Separate the batter in loaf pans. Bake in a preheated oven for about 40 minutes or until you can insert and take out a clean toothpick. When ready, cool it down and then slice and serve it with some hot chocolate.

Blueberry Muffins

You have an endless sequence of combinations for muffin lovers at disposal. The classic recipe includes flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, milk, eggs, and melted butter that go into the same mixture. Blueberries come in the end, and then you bake for about 15 minutes in muffin tins.

A total of 30 muffins will cost you no more than $15 if home-made. If you want to reduce the cost, buy a pre-mix, and add some fresh blueberries. Muffins are real cheap foods to make for a party.

Parker House Rolls

These lovely bread rolls are one of the best Mother’s day ideas. The milk makes them taste buttery and soft. After having the rolls baked, the shell feels a bit crispy, so the contrast is perfect. The butter brushed after baking is what makes them so special and feather-light.

Eggs, milk, and butter in the dough give the tender texture. You’ll also need flour, instant yeast, sugar, and salt. So, if you have more time to spend on baking, don’t miss these divine treats.

Dessert Ideas

No party will come to an end without an appealing dessert. Guests with a sweet tooth will surely welcome any of the ideas below.

fruit pizza


Who doesn’t like a piece of chocolate, tart or cheesecake? If you’re looking for cheap party foods to make, go with a cake mix and a ready-made frosting. Or you can prepare the entire dessert yourself. This will require more money and time. The decorations can vary depending on the theme of the party.

If you’re serving more than 20 people, go with a bakery cake. The least you can pay is $50. Either way, you’ll know that you’ve done great work as a host.

Brownies or Cookies

If it’s simple, that doesn’t mean the dessert won’t please the crowd. And it’s a great last-minute plan. Chocolate chip cookies are easy to make and can be arranged nicely. Plus, they can be stored for several days.

Brownie bars are cheap food ideas for a birthday party and easy to make, too. Whether fudgy or cake-like, the choice of brownie recipes is overwhelming. A good idea is to cut the brownies in various shapes and drizzle them with some chocolate syrup of raspberry sauce. Make a brownie sandwich with some ice-cream in between. A bunch of 60 brownies or cookies will cost you not more than $15.

That’s why many kids eat free restaurants give such treats to your kiddos.


More often than not, pudding combinations are delicious, and everybody likes them. You can go with the basic pudding formula and then add some fruit pieces and whipped cream on top. Pour some caramel topping if you opted for vanilla pudding. The combination is super tasty!

Pudding is the perfect ingredient for many fast no-baking cakes. Just lay some sponge fingers and pour chocolate pudding among the layers. Add strawberry pieces for extra flavor. Puddings are quick food ideas for parties and won’t cost you more than $15 for a table of 20 people.


Make these cracker sandwiches in the comfort of your home and ask for some more. Procure milk chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers. Place graham cracker halves on a baking sheet. Put a thin chocolate bar on each cracker. Then lay the marshmallow above. Top with a second graham cracker half and press it together.

Your sweet, melty sandwich is ready to be served. You can vary the classic combination if you add a spread of jam, jelly, or caramel sauce.

Drinks Ideas

If you chose to keep an eye on your finances, then you must also be aware of the beverage budget. Meaning, you’ll have to think of ways to cut the cost and serve drinks that don’t overburden your budget.

kids eat free restaurants 3


Drinks can be the most expensive aspect of your party if you’re not careful. So, plan carefully the drinks that you’ll serve your guests with. Frugal beverages such as lemonade are the best option for non-alcoholic parties. For the regular lemonade, you’ll need cold water, lemon juice, sugar, and some lemonade powder. You can also go with store-bought lemonade.

If you want to make it unusual or a real thirst-quencher, change its color. Prepare mango lemonade or cherry lemonade. Add pieces of your favorite fruit or some puree, and your guests will get totally charmed. Small and frozen watermelon chunks will make your red lemonade a fantastic and original drink. Add ice cubes from time to time.


If you prefer exquisite parties without breaking the bank, try various combinations of the Mimosa booze. The original Mimosa is made of 50/50 sparkling wine and orange juice. Two simple ingredients, and yet you get such a refreshing drink.

Opt for less expensive champagne that costs about $12. Buy orange juice at the store or make it yourself. You don’t want to have any pulp in it because it’ll make a mess when mixed up with bubbly. Mix ingredients cold with the wine going first. And don’t stir the booze. If you wish to garnish it, add orange twists on the glass rims.

For a more personalized taste, pour a dash of cranberry, pineapple or pomegranate juice.

Lemon-Basil Mojito Mocktails

This is one of the coolest and most refreshing drink for summer parties. The preparation is both fast and fun. Plus, children love it, and you can store it for the following day. The adult version can include some rum or vodka.

To prepare it, you need water, basil leaves, some sugar, lemons, Spring Lemon Tea, and crushed ice. The crucial step is to boil the sugar and the water until it’s completely dissolved. Crush half of the basil or mint and add it into the sugar mixture. After it cools down, add the remaining ingredients.

This 2020 is the high time you give this fabulous drink a go. Just pour it over crushed ice and decorate it with fresh basil leaves and lemon slices.

More Tips For Throwing A Cheap Party

To organize a cheap party isn’t all about the food and drinks. There are other aspects to consider, too. Stay with us until the end, and keep an eye on these life-saving tips.

  • The type of party you’re having will determine your food selection. Finger food is perfect for a wedding shower for 100 guests or a birthday party. If it’s a graduation or Christmas party, your food must have more substance.
  • Make the time of the day fit your budget. If you’re flexible in terms of time, go with brunch. The times of the day when guests don’t expect a full meal will be the cheapest option. Here, it’s acceptable to serve finger foods or some appetizers.
  • Look for free or food on sale. This is a vital aspect of your saving strategy. After planning your menu meticulously, start seeking promotions and discount flyers well in advance. Mind expiry dates and storage capacity as well. For instance, you can grab a free turkey for Thanksgiving or complimentary cookies for Christmas.
  • Tighten your belt on the beverage budget. Avoid serving spirits if you want to keep expenses down. Alternatively, serve only beer and wine. Another idea is to serve punch, coffee, and tea. Avoid individual cans and buy 2-liter soda bottles if that’s your choice for the party.

Cheap and Easy Party Food Ideas – Final Words

With a little bit of imagination, preparing inexpensive party food on a budget will be less of a worry for anyone. Plus, the more parties you throw, the easier for you it’ll become to make the perfect combinations in the future. Until you get more experienced stick to our tips and ideas.

Did this article save you tons of cash on that massive party? Well, we have tons of useful money-saving tips coming up. So, don’t forget to subscribe to our ProMoneySavings Newsletter and get them right into your inbox!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best finger foods for a party?

The assortment of excellent party food is endless. Take bacon-wrapped pineapple or stuffed dates, for example. Everyone adores mini turkey meatballs. Any kind of home-made chips is super tasty. Make potato, eggplant, or zucchini chips, and you’re ready to rock. Stuffed mushrooms are classified among top appetizers in the Western world, too.

What is the cheapest food to cater to?

Mexican, Thai, and Indian cuisines offer cheap party snack ideas with cheerful food to serve for any occasion. Meaning, any rice or noodle-based food will do the trick. Potatoes and bread in any variation can reduce the cost in half. Opt for canned food to further lower your expenses. Plus, brunch and breakfast meals are usually more affordable to prepare.

What food do you serve at a party?

When you decide to throw a party, food and drinks are your primary concern. Prepare the food to be easy to taste and in small servings. Finger food is your best shot in this case. Also, make the entire event in a buffet style so that everyone can taste a bit of everything.

What are some examples of finger foods?

Certain finger foods are considered to be the most popular for parties. Those include meatballs, sausage rolls, chicken drumsticks or wings. Goat cheese bruschetta with roasted cherry is becoming increasingly popular, too. Sandwiches are part of any party as they are pretty easy to make and accept any combination. Also, consider miniature quiches and cheese balls to stay within your party finger food ideas budget.

How do you make a cheap party platter?

A cheap but good-looking appetizer tray is not impossible to attain. The fresher and more colorful the ingredients, the prettier your platter will be. So, buy fresh items on sale the day before the party takes place. Slice meat or cheese as tiny as possible and experiment with food. Or chop it and serve with toothpicks. Add some salsa and arrange nicely.


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    10 thoughts on “Easy and Cheap Party Food Ideas for a Crowd

    1. Linda Ti says:

      Wonderful ideas! Thanks a lot. Hope everything will be okay and I’ll organize a great party with my friends! But now we must stay at home! #stayhome

      1. Emily says:

        Thank you! Stay safe!

    2. KeePeR says:

      OOOH!! I’m so waiting for the party! Waiting!! We need to wait, guys! KEEP CALM!

      1. Emily says:

        Agree with you. Keep calm and stay safe!

    3. GolG says:

      Snacks and drinks – cheap and easy. What can be better?

      1. Emily says:

        Agree with you. Thanks!

    4. Wang Jin says:

      Steamed rice with various toppings is always on my birthday party food ideas list. It’s so simple and cheap. It also gives ppl freedom to do their own mixes. Chicken and broccoli are always a hit, mushrooms too.

      1. Emily says:

        Thanks for sharing your own experience!

    5. Lola Phillips says:

      Honestly I hate hosting parties because they are too expensive and waste SO MUCH TIME. But I gotta say you have some great and simple ideas and I’ll try them next time I’m hosting.

      1. Emily says:

        Thank you!

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