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Inexpensive Luncheon/Open House

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Emphasis on the inexpensive! So it's back to business after a few days off and I'm listening to the same old song "we want a lot but don't got no dough..ya, ya, ya..."

I'm doing a small (50) open house/luncheon tomorrow for a retiring chief of police in my town. I do a lot for the department and the town, and have tried to keep my prices on the low side as they are good customers. I got a call from one of the partolmen who is organizing this function and he wanted a couple of apps, sandwich platter, and desserts. When I told him it would be between $12 and $15 pp, he almost fainted. Seems the guys are paying out of their own pockets and had no idea that it would cost that much. I'm accepting $250 so obviously need to keep the food cost down. No labor involved except mine, but my husband and I are also guests, so I'd be there anyway.

Here's what I'm doing- I could use some ideas.

BBQ Chicken wings (right out of the sam's club bag with the addition of my sauce)

Swedish meatballs (again, SAm's club with my sauce)

Finger sandwiches chix sal, tuna, egg, ?? probably our rolls as they're cheaper to make and we have to make bread anyway

chips, pickles

Dessert platter (the easy and cheap ones)

Coffee and punch

Thanks in advance!

Edited to add that I like to do nicer things than the above menu, but as far as I can see, that's what the budget will allow.
post #2 of 12
What about making some simple spring rolls? 50 would cost about 10 dollars to make in food cost. :) I guess for that matter, you can go the samosa route as well, or just do some tortilla chips + quac, or some self serve bruschetta, antipasto platter, maybe a cheese fondue with pieces of assorted bread, chocolate dipped biscotti or apple slices..

i'm just spouting out some low maintenance ideas :P
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

I like the fondue idea! The others (except the bruschetta) are too labor intensive on such short notice. Do you make your own cheese sauce? If so, would you share your recipe?
post #4 of 12

ham....again a bargain
Since it's lunch I'd do lunch size sandwiches, lose the appetizers
have chips, dip
maybe veg or grapes....something.....fresh
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
Just got back from the luncheon and it went very well. Did 3 kinds of finger sandwiches, Stroganof MBalls, teriyaki chicken wings, chips and salsa/sour cream, pickles, dessert platter, punch and coffee. I had the perfect amoutn of food- the only leftovers were the desserts, but they didnt' tell me they were having a cake. I am always amazed when I do something so simple and get rave reviews. Makes me think people don't get out much! It's a lesson for me, though; sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.
post #6 of 12

inexpensive lunch

I have been cooking all day for a party tomorrow at my bosses house (my social work job). We did the menu together and I am making the apps and desserts, she is making the dinner. 4:30-7:30. Spring rolls, 3 kinds of quesdaillias (sweet potato pepper; spinach, mushroom, goat cheese; & regular salsa, cheese), baked brie with carmelized onions, almonds and apples, anti pasti platter and shrimp shooters.

Dinner is skewered grilled fish, lentil salad, asian slaw, Indonesian Gado gado platter (not the traditional, but one I got from Moosewood years ago that is a full meal in itself) rolls

Dessert is 3 kinds of dessert pizzas: GF choc with coconut and almonds, sugar cookie with fruit and choc with orange cream cheese, crystalized ginger and craisins

I know it is a strange menu, but she wanted it this way... started out to be international, ended up just eclectic. I have spent all day in the kitchen & still have a ton to do... what is taking so long??? Put the veggies to marinate (had to cut & blanche) and made the gf pizza (meant the kitchen had to be GF, so that took time). Tonight will do the spinach, crustini, onions and brie. Spring rolls sauce & final pizza.

Not really happy woth how any of it looks either... ah well. Maybe it is the idea of doing what I do for a boss in another job and people who know I cater, but know my other life...
back to work
post #7 of 12
funny how that all works.....non-caterers dictating a menu and not realizing what prep is involved. Shoot I do it to myself everytime I mention seasonal veg springroll....they are outrageously labor intensive. One of my catering friends has an Asian restaurant make them to her specs....she makes money, says they are great.....she also brings in all her baked goods, sometimes from large wholesalers......this past Dec she hired on 2 full time cooks and a season is good.

Lentil, I used to shake my head in amazement when people would rave over the sweet sour sauce and crab rangoons.....not mentioning the scratch potstickers that took so much more time/energy/etc.....
A few years ago I quit fighting the's ok to have apricot jam, mustard, soy dip.....if they like it, great.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
Strange folk, those customers! But as you say, if they like it, great. BEtter still, if it cuts down on prep time for me, all the better.

pgr, I feel sorry for you and your menu. Wish I could help.

I learned an important lesson last Sunday when I hosted my sisters' Christmas party. We take turns hosting and when it's my turn, I go all out...showing off my cooking skills and cool recipes. This year, I was too busy and tired to do much. I had planned a great brunch with shrimp and grits, homemade cinnamon rolls, ham and biscuits and MUCH more! The week before, I was out straight at work and didn't any time to even think about my own party, so I called and asked them if they minded changing from brunch to mid afternoon. I brought home Mediterranean dip from work, used the extra chix wings and put bottled BBQ sauce on them, had my son do (eek!) tini keilbasa wrapped in poppin fresh pastry dough (with gourmet mustard, thank you very much!) to which he said, "Mom, these are gross and NO ONE will eat them." I should have bet him because we could have made 3X as many. They were a hit! I cooked a small turkey and a small roast beef for sandwiches, my sister brought GErman Potato SAlad, and another did desserts. I made homemade rolls and opened a jar of mixed pickles. Dinner was a huge hit and was the easiest thing I've ever done.

My showin' off days are over.:D

PS The beverage of choice was Lillet on ice with sliced oranges. Yum!
post #9 of 12

Inexpensive lunch

Well, I don't know why I worried - everything turned out as great as usual. People were very impressed (especially those who didn't know I was a caterer :)
And we did make a litlle money (did i mention this was a fundraiser?) The worst part was we had 30 positive rsvp's and only 5 showed, so WAY too much food!
The dessert pizzas were a huse hit and took very little labor.
Thanks for your support Lentil and shroom
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
Only 5 showed out of 30!!!!! I'm glad it went well- you worked really hard preparing that menu! Now the 5 who attended will tell the 25 who blew it off what a treat they missed. You're sure to get more business from it!
post #11 of 12

inexpensive lunch

OOPS! That should have said 15... still bad, but better than 5!!! And I hope they will tell the others. Also hope they will call me for catering :)
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
Well, that's better! :D
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