November 22, 2017

Feeding the 5,000 (What are Your Choices?)


Most people don’t plan spontaneous graduation parties, but if there’s one thing I’ve realized, often spontaneous is best when it comes to group gatherings. Such was the case for our get together Sunday evening.

Whenever my extended family gathers, it’s a party. Now it might not be the most organized, nicely laid out, plan every minute kind of party, but it’s always fun.

As an ongoing hostess of large group get-togethers, I’ve learned that people just want to gather. They desire community. They want to feel a part of something bigger, but often we let our own expectations get in the way of initiating that and making it happen.

Food is always an issue for many. They don’t have a budget to spend on feeding a lot of people or they just don’t know where to begin to pull off something for the masses. I’ve become fairly efficient in feeding the masses, so I thought it would be fun to share what your Go To items are for “Feeding the 5,000.”

Many of you may have have heard the bible story in which the disciples started panicking because thousands of people showed up to hear Jesus, and yet they didn’t have the food to feed them.  Typically, I can’t  relate with those exact feelings because I always have enough food. I normally am over prepared to feed the masses, but this past Sunday, I sensed those same feelings that the disciples must have struggled with that day, and yes, it was a bit of panic.

We came home from church and every child in my family, along with my husband started naming people that mentioned they were coming. WHAT? No one said they were coming. I thought we were having a fairly small, intimate gathering. (Now remember, small for me is about 50, so I was prepared with meat for that many, but not way more.)

My husband looked at what I had made and said, “We do not have enough food. I am going to go buy hamburgers.” Knowing I had already spent my budget on meat (20 pounds of NC BBQ and 120 beef hot dogs), I stopped him, “No, we are fine.”

“No, we don’t have enough food.”

“I’ll make it work.”

For me, there’s nothing worse than a party which doesn’t have enough food, and I was not about to be my own worse pet peeve, so I looked at what I had, and tried to imagine those five loaves and two fish stretching. Now, no miracles occurred, but there are those items that you can stretch on the fly and we did that with success. Here was my plan with two hours before start time.

I quickly threw in more noodles for the pasta salad, and called my mom to come 30 minutes early to help me start chopping veggies. (MOM, HELP!)

I had already made ten pounds of my newly developed Loaded Baked Potato Salad recipe. (For those that follow along with me on Facebook, you knew I was determined to do a copy cat recipe, and oh, did I nail it. YUM!) It might not look good, but it’s so yummy. It’s kind of a knock off of my Double Stuffed Potatoes, but in salad form.

With the first batch of potato salad, I used boiled red potatoes, but now I just threw ten more pounds of potatoes in the oven to bake, fried up some more bacon, and when they were done, I just added them to the already completed salad and started concocting once more. Yes, twenty pounds of potato salad for this lady who doesn’t like traditional salad, but this one is Oh, so delicious. ( I might have even had a bit of left overs for breakfast…maybe.)

At a recent yard sale, I purchased all of these super huge bowls (shown above) for only $0.50, so they were perfect for my pasta and potato salad. I was so grateful I had those stored away.

We doubled the taco dip we were making and added lots of fresh veggies to make it stretch and go further. I had not planned on serving a fruit salad, but I had three cantaloupes that I picked up from Aldi’s for only ) $0.99, so I asked my mom to cut them up. When she was done, she mentioned that we needed a bit of color in there, so we added some bananas, apples and a can of mandarin oranges and we had a quickly concocted frugal fruit salad.

For party go-ers, there’s nothing that screams “special” more than punch. But don’t let the term “punch” fool you. Many people don’t make it because they think they need a fancy bowl, cups and some secret recipes. I do have a favorite punch recipe, but for this party, I went with what I had on hand and had already purchased at rock bottom prices.

I just kept mixing white sodas, Sierra Mist (that I got BOGO), Fruit Ice Tea (both which I wrote about on my Eagle Eye Grocery Guru post), juices and Rasberry Sherbert. I am just going to tell you. I never once measured. When the beverage servers got low, I just dumped. Anything with a little sherbert floating on top makes it special.

The key to being flexible with parties is to not over think things too much. 🙂 I want things to look nice, and often it’s just the little extra touches that people do notice, not the things we spend a lot of time on.

I cracked up because the food item I was asked continually about were the decorative ice cubes I made for the punch. I knew it would be on the warm side, and I didn’t want the ice cubes to dilute the punch, so I took these mini cake pans I purchased at a yard sale for a quarter and froze the fruited ice tea the night before.

Again, I shared my bedlam on Facebook when I mentioned I purchased a Groupon for fancy cupcakes specifically for the party. Since I always make things homemade, I didn’t think about the fact that I needed a ton of advance notice for graduation weekend. Yes, my fault. I called two days prior to the party and they were booked. BOOKED? I never even thought that would be a possibility, and I certainly didn’t have time to make desserts because I was going to be gone all of Friday and Saturday at a conference.

Well, I was letting go of fancy desserts and just planned on a hodge podge of things – brownies (and brownie sundaes with ice cream, hot fudge and whip cream), my ugly cupcakes, cookies, a trifle – yes, a complete hodge podge UNTIL my friend Rebecca showed up after the party started.

LOOK WHAT SHE MADE!! SHE SAVED MY POOR BEDLAM DESSERTS! (Now, honestly, no pressure, bedlam desserts were being gobbled up just fine, and the party still would have been a success, but these cupcakes were breathtaking.)

     MINE                                                                                 HERS

I paraded them around. I might have even called everyone to attention to ooh and aahhhh, and then I pushed people out of their seats, just to place these beauties in a place of honor.

Now this is what I love. My sweet friend knew my desire for fancy cupcakes and she did these spontaneously. It was so sweet, and I truly am ever thankful, just like my serving tray says.

I also want to share her secret, so that all of you can know how easy it is to make something amazing. These were unbelievable in appearance, but she used a box cake mix and frosting.

Isn’t that the best??

Does that relieve some pressure? It shows me that we can all throw amazing parties, and present show stopping desserts without a lot of hassle, but just a little creativity, and some time. I’ll put up a separate post with what she did, since they need there own honoring.

I got quite long winded telling you how I fed my “5,000,” but hopefully, we can all take a deep breath and realize that entertaining is about flexibility,  enjoying the process, and letting go of perfection. No one wants to come when it’s always perfect, and hopefully, people feel more at home when we share just a bit of our bedlam. 🙂

And, the GREAT NEWS? We even had left overs. 🙂

I can’t wait to see some of your Tasty Tuesday recipe inspiration today. Please link to your recipe post, link back here to my site, and share with the others,

If you found out 30 – 40  extra people were coming to your house, what foods would you go to in order to feed the masses?


  1. Your friend, Rebecca, is a keeper! Congrats on a successful party.

    Thanks for the linky.


  2. I’m so glad your gradutation party went well. Such a great milestone to celebrate. We had our first graduate also…and I probably added a little more stress than there needed to be in preparation for the party.

    When we find out we’re having extra people, I just open the refrigerator, freezer and pantry and start pulling things out. This is where having a stored food really pays off. I almost always have several pound of various cooked beans in my freezer so I’ll use those. Most are not seasoned when I freeze them so they are pretty versitile. But I freeze my pintos already seasoned so I can just thaw those out and put them in a crock pot. It’s amazing how filling beans can be.


  3. I also shared a recipe for iron inhibitors in food from my iron site.


  4. I need the recipe for your loaded baked potato salad for a baptism celebration in 2 weeks – how would it differ from your double stuffed potatoes? Thanks!


    Jen Reply:

    I will try and recreate the recipe, but it might be tricky with amounts since it was twenty pounds. haha. It was very similar, except I cubed the potatoes, and along with sour cream, I added some mayo and some ranch dressing dry mix, along with seasoning salt (french fry salt). I added a pound of bacon which I would have done even for a smaller amount. I actually needed more for this size. I added vadalia onions, finely chopped, but green onions/scallions would be yummy too. I did not add butter or milk, just lots of extra sour cream.


  5. Unfortunately I am one of those who stresses when having to feed even a couple of extra people! Budget is definitely a huge factor, and I only buy what is needed for the week. I don’t usually stock up on food because I have found that the family will eat more if more is there.

    I really love people like you, though! SO hospitable. 🙂


  6. I think your staying relaxed is the BEST prep for a large party! It makes everything go smoother! We had an unusual crowd one year for my twins’ birthday and I just got the crockpot going and stretched all the food. It turned out fine!

    Our favorites for large crowds are BBQ Chicken in the slow cooker, Taco Bar, make your own pizza/calzones, Italian Pasta Salad, grilled burgers and hot dogs, or in cold weather–soups, stews, or chili in the crockpot.


  7. LOVED those cupcakes–I honestly will be looking for a graduate to take them to! Feeding more people than planned at my house always involves a pickle tray–I can a lot of pickles each summer, so it is not unusual for me to have several varieties of cukes plus pickled beets, carrots and summer squash. We are also usually well stocked on a variety of cheeses and crackers . And fruit salad–if you always have mandarin oranges, pineapple chunks. canned peaches etc. plus a jar of maraschino cherries in case you need color, you can add whatever fresh fruit you have on hand and make it look like you planned it that way! Another lifesaver is frozen meat balls–you can even microwave these if you don’t have time for the crockpot. My go to sauce is bottled chili sauce mixed with equal amounts cranberry sauce, but there are a million combinations out there and barbeque sauce is usually in my fridge. When frozen cooked shrimp is on sale I stock my freezer as this only takes ten minutes to thaw under cold water, so whether it’s for an impromptu gathering or a quick dinner, it always gets used. A block of cream cheese covered with any spicy/sweet sauce and served with crackers always seems to go over well too. And my sister in law has taught me to ALWAYS have a brownie mix in the pantry, and that if you’e got 45 minutes and a dozen eggs you can whip up a tray of deviled eggs for 24! A lot of being successful at making not enough seem like a bounty is in stocking your pantry and freezer when things you know you will use are on sale and if you’re really lucky you have a coupon too!!


  8. Deloris says:

    Jen, I HAAAAVE to know how she made the tassels on those graduation hats!! Please TELL!


    cassandra waters Reply:

    @Deloris, Did you find out how the tassels were made?? I need to know also! 🙂 Thanks!


    Deloris Reply:

    @cassandra waters, unfortunately not. I didn’t get a reply:(


  9. Angela Watson Newsom Did you get my response? I emailed it through the comments, but it didn’t show up here. 🙂 Otherwise, I can copy paste it again.


  10. Congrats on the graduation (and a successful party)! I’m with Angela – those potatoes look like some tasty eats. Thanks for hosting!


  11. I didn’t get it…I will keep my eyes “peeled” (like potatoes) for it though!


  12. Kudos to you! I cannot imagine feeding 50 people, let alone an EXTRA 30-40! I definitely suffer from that worry of not having enough food, though. So I overcook, but get to enjoy the leftovers! 🙂


  13. Love this story! I have frozen berries before in a bundt cake pan to make a floating ice ring for punch.

    Just curious after all that did you have any food leftover? Like all that potato salad. LOL. I had a similar story on Saturday for my boys’ birthday. Relatives showed up that didn’t rsvp so dh though we didn’t have enough burgers so he quickly defrosted and grilled 10 more from the case he brought home. Unfortunately, he miscalculated and we didn’t need those 10 extra after all. So I just ground them up into tacos last night. I also ran out of salt potatoes, but didn’t have an extra stockpile of those. But no one seemed to care.


  14. Kristina says:

    We have two mottos for parties: “the more the merrier” and “come when you can, leave when you must”. I should add a third, “there’s always enough for everyone”… Your post emphasizes what a little creativity can do for a party, and what really matters is a spirit of fellowship. I think it is telling that you didn’t manage very many pictures — you were too busy enjoying the moment, celebrating with your son, as it should be!

    What a special (and talented) friend to bring all of those cool cupcakes. Those were neat.



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