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?