Cooking for a large group of people can seem intimidating, but with a little advance planning and strategic menu selection you can not only feed a hungry crowd but enjoy the party as well. By choosing fun yet simple to prepare food, most of your work will take place before your guests arrive. Most of these crowd-pleasing menu suggestions are not only time efficient but cost effective as well.

Baked Potato Bar

Foil-wrapped baked potatoes are inexpensive to make and keep well in a warm oven until it’s time to eat. Place a variety of toppings, such as bacon, shredded cheese, salsa, chili, sour cream and ground meat in serving bowls. Allow guests to build their own potato. Serve with a tossed salad. You can also serve cheese sauce by keeping it warm in a crock pot.


Often reserved for church get-togethers or work parties, the timeless potluck makes feeding a large group of people a snap. As the host, you should provide the main course or meat for the gathering. Ask your guests to supply favorite side dishes and desserts. Request that they bring family favorites along with the recipe to share. For a twist on this idea, suggest a theme for your potluck such as regional or ethnic cuisine.


Assemble the lasagna up to the day before your party and store covered in the refrigerator. Several brands of lasagna noodles don’t even require you to precook the noodles. If you use these noodles, make sure you add a little extra sauce because they will soak up extra moisture. Bake for one hour and serve with a green salad and bread.

Clean-up Savers

By doing the bulk of your prep-work ahead of time you can have most of the cooking mess already cleaned up by the time your guests arrive. Use disposable foil pans for cooking and serving to avoid scrubbing pots and pans after your meal. High quality paper plates and plastic silverware almost completely eliminate after-party dishes.