Healthy recipes for meals for 30 people for under $50

I work at a free after school program that provides a free dinner for families. There are a lot of mouths to feed, and we only have $50 to do it. The meals are usually pretty good, but many times a bit less than nutritious. I was wondering if anyone had any healthy, inexpensive recipes they could share that can feed a crowd. Thanks!

  • Posted by: Becky
  • April 7, 2014


Gamze M. May 27, 2017
This is a hearty and a very nutritious dish..
Marilyn P. May 26, 2017
for about 30 people Marilyn
Marilyn P. May 26, 2017
I cook for the homeless once a month on the Univ. of texas campus What are some good main dishes for about 30 people Marilyn
Marilyn P. May 26, 2017
I cook for the homeless once a month on the Univ. of texas campus What are some good main dishes for about 30 people Marilyn
Marilyn P. May 26, 2017
Marilyn Parker
kimhw April 8, 2014
I have boys that would live on meatloaf if given the chance. To make it healthier, I buy as much ground turkey as I can when it's on sale, I add mushrooms peas and onions to the food processor and add that to the meat. A big spinach salad and some mashed potatoes. Yum.
luvcookbooks April 8, 2014
Laurie Colwin has a nice essay about cooking for a crowd (she was cooking for a homeless shelter). It will give you some ideas if not too specific. It's in either "Home Cooking" or "More Home Cooking". I am thinking a supermarket might make some contributions to help you stretch your food dollar and sometimes coupon shopping is helpful when you are doing a project like this-- if you have a place to store food, you can buy things like canned tomatoes on sale, which can be made into tomato sauce, roasted tomatoes, tomato soup, etc.
luvcookbooks April 8, 2014
Black Bean Chili is super cheap. You can make homemade whole grain bread to go with it, also super cheap (cheaper than buying bread). I think you will need to use dry beans. You can make rice if you don't want to make bread or it prices out to be too expensive. I think you can serve 30 with about four pounds of dried beans. Six lbs if you want to be on the safe side. I would guess 12 cups of dry rice if you use a long grain rice. You will likely have a few leftovers.
inpatskitchen April 8, 2014
A while back there was a contest for Your Best Cheap Feast which may give you a few ideas to play around with. Many of the recipes look like they could be expanded to serve 30.
S April 8, 2014
Grilled cheese sandwiches and a simple tomato soup. Use whole wheat or a multi-grain bread. Shred the cheese for easier melting.

Definitely agree with the lentil and bean suggestions. Black beans and rice with onions and peppers if they don't break the bank.

Here's a link to Chopped Bread, also known as Chop Bread. Lots of recipes on line, but this link gives you pictures for the process. If you make your own dough, it's cost effective. Then add in whatever the budget will bear -- onions, cheese, shredded carrots, diced celery, spinach leaves, olives, sweet or hot peppers, diced and drained tomatoes. Serve with a mug of chicken broth.
I'm sure you've asked bakeries and grocery stores for out-of-date items which can still be usable.

You didn't ask about dessert. Even a few leftover M&M's from Easter or Christmas, stored in the freezer, makes a special treat down the line.
HalfPint April 8, 2014
Rice Porridge, sometimes called congee, sometimes called jook. It's a good way to stretch rice and feed hungry families for very little money. Here's a vegetarian recipe (lists sesame seeds, but you could probably omit that):

Or make the chicken version that my mother made for us:
-poach a whole chicken, ~3lbs or so, in 10-12 cups of water with couple of peeled onions and thumb-size knob of fresh ginger root, sliced into big thick pieces. Simmer until chicken is cooked, ~30 mins, skim off any scum that rises to the surface. You can discard the ginger and the onion or leave the onion in.
-Take out the chicken. Let it cool until you can handle it. Remove & discard skin and shred the meat. Set aside.
- Bring the broth to a boil and stir in ~2 cups of uncooked rice. Boil for about 5 minutes, stirring consistantly during this time. Then lower the heat (~medium low)to get the porride to a simmer. You don't have to be at the pot, constantly stirring, but you will want to stir enough to keep the bottom from burning.
-Simmer until the rice has broken down and the porridge is thick and creamy. This can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes, depending on the rice used. We (Vietnamese) usually eat long grain white rice.
-Mix shredded chicken back into porridge and heat through.
-Taste and season the porridge with salt & pepper. Underseasoned porridge is not as satisfying as a well seasoned porridge.
-Ladle into bowls and serve hot.
This batch recipe will probably feed about 8-10 adults, providing ample chicken meat per serving.

Voted the Best Reply!

Horto April 8, 2014
go beans!
healthy, soak overnight, dried beans are not expensive, chili, soups, tacos….sounds like fun though, my daughter rowed and we had to feed them all day long….on a riverbank! have fun!
Maedl April 7, 2014
A few more thoughts came to mind. Of course, you could also do macaroni and cheese. but that made me think of a whole category of German and Austrian dishes called Mehlspeisen. These are main dish courses based on flour. They do not contain meat, so they were more or less suitable for fast days. They can be either sweet or savory, but they are always filling. Here are a few links ti get you started:
Maedl April 7, 2014
Look for interesting recipes using lentils and other beans. Check Middle Eastern, Italian, Persian, Central Asian, and Indian cookbooks for ideas. A simple tomato sauce over polenta (corn meal mush) is also a good choice.
sexyLAMBCHOPx April 7, 2014
Here's a contest winner:

Perhaps sub out the lamb with ground beef, turkey or chicken and modify the recipe that calls for anything too expensive with something else.
ATG117 April 7, 2014
Pasta carbonara comes to mind, but even then, $50.00 is pushing it!
ZombieCupcake April 7, 2014
Sheppard's pie is a good one for a tight budget.. Use whatever lean meat is on sale and vegetables as desired. Potatos you don't usually need to worry to much about. Also chili works too beans are cheap and a good filler when ingredients are scarce.
aargersi April 7, 2014
You need to feed ALL of them for $50.00? Wow. I would have a look at the quinoa recipes / article that is on the main page today. I would think any sort of warm grainy salady dish, with some crunchy veggies and perhaps nuts and/or dried fruits would be healthful, hearty and budget friendly.
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