20+ Inexpensive, Easy Meals for Large Groups

By Polly Conner
January 2, 2021
20+ Meal ideas for groups of people

Feeding Large Groups

I’ve been feeding large groups of people for 15+ years. High school groups, college students, and adult small groups have been in a regular rotation around my dinner table.

I also come from a family that exemplified hospitality so well. Growing up, my parents regularly opened their doors to my friends, their friends, their friends’ friends, and more. I grew up seeing my parents feed groups of people and now find myself doing the same.

It’s worth noting that our kitchen table and the food that goes on it isn’t all that fancy. The truth is, 95% of people don’t care about that stuff. The important thing is that they feel welcome, loved, and nourished in our home. Since we do make it a regular habit of feeding groups of people, our meals need to be somewhat inexpensive but still feed a large group!

Large group eating together at a table

Because I am so often making meals for large groups of people, I’m constantly on the lookout for meals that are tasty AND feed large groups.

I created this round up of inexpensive, group dinner ideas more for my sake. I needed a reference to go to when I have a crowd coming over and my only idea is spaghetti or pancakes. Hopefully it will prove to be useful to you, too!

On to the easy meals!

20+ Inexpensive, Easy Meals for Large Groups

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

The key to this recipe for large groups is in the homemade BBQ sauce. Once it’s in the slow cooker, it’s pretty much hands off which is something I need when I have people coming over. And guys, this recipe is GOOD. So good that it made it into our newest cookbook. Try our Asian Slaw on the side.

Pssttt! It’d be a huge bummer if you overcooked or undercooked a slow cooker meal for your group. Make sure to download our Slow Cooker Cooking Times Chart below.

After testing hundreds of slow cooker recipes for our website and cookbooks, we have narrowed down the perfect cooking times for almost any type of slow cooker recipe. You’ll want this one-page resource – I promise!

Hearty Baked Penne Pasta

This recipe feeds an army. Almost everybody loves the hearty, beefy, cheesy pasta. Serve it with some garlic bread and a salad and you’ve got a great meal for your next group. When I’m not hosting groups, I assemble this pasta, divide it in two, bake one, and freeze the other. It makes a GREAT freezer meal. Just be sure to undercook the noodles a tad if you’re going to freeze it. Here are 70+ other great freezer meals!

Easy meal for groups of people: Baked Penne Pasta

Crockpot Breakfast Casserole with Bacon and Gruyere

Everyone loves breakfast for dinner! Guests will oooh and ahhhh over this gourmet Crockpot Breakfast Casserole at your next brunch or holiday gathering. Its depth of flavor and beautiful color come from the bacon, onions, garlic, kale, roasted red peppers, and Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses. Bonus: It’s naturally gluten-free.

Breakfast Casserole in a Crockpot on a wooden cutting board

Killer Carnitas

These slow cooker carnitas are one of my all-time favorite, inexpensive dinners for large groups . They are easy, affordable, delicious and can be customized for each person’s preference. This recipe is from our cookbook, From Freezer to Table, but if you don’t have that Pulled Pork with a Mexican Flare is pretty similar!

Killer Carnitas: From Freezer to Table

Chicken Spaghetti

When I made this Chicken Spaghetti recipe for the first time, my husband ate it for about 5 meals in a row and proceeded to ask me to make it again the next week. It’s creamy, flavorful, and filling. This recipe easily makes TWO 8×8 dishes or one very full 9×13 dish. It’s a great dinner idea that will feed a group of people!

Tip: Here is where you can find grass-fed beef and organic chicken you can trust!

Chicken Spaghetti

Easy Ham and Cheese Sliders

These truly are one of my go-to group recipes. They are cheap and easy to make in mass quantity. AND, adults love them. Kids love them. Everyone loves them. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked for this recipe after making it for people in my home.

Ham & Cheese Sliders for groups of people

Slow Cooker Chicken and Cheese Taquitos

To make this a meal for large groups, simply double the portion in the slow cooker. It’ll cook for the same amount of time, and you’ll have twice as much to feed people! You can also make them in the Instant Pot using this method. I always always always double this recipe when I make them and freeze one for later.

Tip: Here the containers we use and recommend when freezing meals.

Slow cooker chicken and cheese taquitos

Baked Italian Meatballs

Meatballs are so easy to make lots and lots of. You can use them to put over spaghetti or stretch them even further by putting them in sub sandwiches. These are pretty cost efficient, as well.

Meatballs for groups of people

Slow Cooker French Dip Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

This recipe goes a looong way. While you can make the meat ahead of time, the sandwiches will need to be eaten soon after they are assembled. Keep that in mind as you plan! If you want to use it as a lunch for groups, just make the meat the day before and rewarm it before assembling the sandwiches the next day.

Slow Cooker French Dip Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Crowd Pleaser Mexican Soup

If I had to guess, this is in the top 5 recipes I have made most frequently for groups of people in my home. My husband wants it ALL. THE. TIME. It also makes a big ol’ batch. AND it’s really filling. Serve it with some tortilla chips and with shredded cheddar cheese and you’re people will be happy campers. We loved this recipe so much that we even adapted it to be made in the slow cooker.

mexican soup recipe great for large groups

Slow Cooker Cheddar & Bacon Potato Soup

This decadent, comforting Cheddar and Bacon Potato Soup makes your home smell amazing and so welcoming to guests after it slow cooks all day. It’s filling and a total crowd pleaser.

Slow cooker cheddar and bacon potato soup

Chicken Parmesan Casserole

Looking for a super easy meal idea to make for a group of people? This recipe has been one of our most popular blog recipes for a long time. Probably because it’s so easy to make and everyone likes it. After baking the casserole, serve it over some pasta. For a group, I’d recommend doubling it to make enough for a 9×13 dish.

Chicken Parmesan Casserole

This recipe is in our free e-cookbook, Top 10 Easy Freezer Meals. You can download this, print it off, and have it for future reference when looking for great freezer meals. Many of the meals in this ebook will work GREAT for groups of people too!

Top 10 freezer meals

Southwest Chicken and Bacon Wraps

Bacon, marinated grilled chicken, two kinds of cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes wrapped in a tortilla with ranch salsa sauce.  What’s not to love about the Southwest Bacon and Chicken Wrap? I love creating meals that people can customize to their liking. It’s easy to double the chicken and other ingredients and just lay out an assembly line.

Meal for groups of people: Southwest chicken and bacon wraps

Beefy Baked Ravioli (Fake Out Lasagna)

This fake-out lasagna is inexpensive, can be made in advance, and feeds an army! It’s a dinnertime favorite in my home. It’s very easy to make, super filling, and is freezer friendly. Kids love this meal. Who we kidding, all ages love this meal!

Inexpensive meal for groups of people: Fake out lasagna

Slow Cooker Parmesan Sliders

Here is another SUPER easy meal idea for groups of people: Chicken Parmesan Sliders. Just put a few ingredients into the crockpot and you’ll have one of your favorite meals for a busy night. Making them into sandwiches is a great way to stretch the chicken mix and feed more people.

Chicken Parmesan Sliders: Great meal for groups of people

Cheesy Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas

Here’s my husband’s and my favorite enchilada recipe.  If you want to go lighter on the cheese, these enchiladas are really quite good for you.  With the chicken, beans, vegetables, and whole wheat tortillas, you’re getting some great lean protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.If you’re making this for kids, you may want to pull back on the spice a bit. Double it for a large group!

Cheesy Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

I realize there are many paths to an excellent homemade roast, but this one I researched and have tested MANY times over the years. This real food Pot Roast, along with some Homemade Wheat Sandwich Bread to sop up the sauce, might well be my favorite comfort meal of all time.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast for a crowd

Crock Pot Pumpkin Spice Latte

If you’re hosting in the fall or winter, this delicious drink is a total crowd-pleaser. Not to mention it makes the house smell AMAZING.

Crock Pot Pumpkin Spiced Latte

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

Breakfast for dinner is always fun for a group! Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal is a great place to start. Not only are the ingredients cheap and the assembly instructions simple, but people just really love this recipe! We have lots of variations of baked oatmeals on the blog. Just poke around our breakfast category in our recipe index. Pancakes are always a win too

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

10 Minute Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

This one-pot wonder is packed with flavor, but is also vegetarian! This winning combination of ingredients and flavors is sure to impress your family and friends. Just might win the award for the easiest (yet still super tasty) recipe on our blog.

Tortilla Soup

Slow Cooker Shredded Balsamic Beef

Everyone, from ages 4 to 42, devoured this tender, flavorful meat dish. I have served it with mashed potatoes (and of course veggies and fruit), which is perfect for all that extra sauce in the crock. Then, the next night we had this same Slow Cooker Shredded Balsamic Beef on mini wheat rolls as “french dip” sandwiches. A great idea on making this stretch for a large group.

Easy meal for large groups: Balsamic Shredded Beef

Mini Fruit Pizzas 

I had to include one dessert idea. Mini Fruit Pizzas are one of my favorites to serve to a crowd. They are really easy to put together and all ages enjoy them. Each person makes their own so they can pick and choose what goes on their fruit pizza. It’s a fun way to wrap up a group gathering!

Fruit pizza cookies

Smoked Pork Shoulder

This is one of my husband’s favorite recipes to make for a group. The pork shoulder (also known as a pork butt) smokes all day and yields a HUGE amount of delicious pulled pork. We turn them into pulled pork BBQ sandwiches. The leftovers freeze great too!

Smoked pork shoulder being shredded

Bonus Recipes for Groups of People

If you own our latest cookbook, From Freezer to Cooker, all of our recipes for large groups can be found on page 246! Every recipe works in BOTH the Instant Pot AND the slow cooker.

From Freezer to Cooker

If you own our cookbook, From Freezer to Table, here are 10 recipes that would be great for a crowd. This book is filled with our family’s favorite freezer meal recipes. With over 250 5-star reviews on Amazon, you can be sure it’s well-tested and well-loved.

Learn to prepare delicious, healthy, stress-free meals for the family that go from freezer to table in no time!
  1. Cilantro Lime Chicken: Page 68 (Put them in wraps and provide Mexican fixings.)
  2. Cheddar Chive Burgers: Page 98
  3. Totally Tasty Taco Kit: Page 108
  4. Foolproof Pork Tenderloin: Page 114 (Make two for a large crowd)
  5. Baked Pink Pasta with Sausage: Page 153
  6. Meat Lovers Lasagna: Page 168
  7. Creamy Chicken, Veggie, and Wild Rice Soup Page: 183
  8. Cheeseburger Soup: Page 189
  9. Chili Rubbed Beef Brisket: Page 195
  10. Killer Carnitas: Page 196

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19 replies
  1. Cathy H. says:

    So many great ideas! I have served the Hearty Baked Penne, Beefy Ravioli, and Chicken Parm Casserole – all hits…now to try some of the others you’ve shared. 🙂

  2. Flan says:

    I see a lot of meat meat meat… quality meat is expensive, cheap meat is full of chemicals. Both not suited for a group. Meatless meals are equally good.

  3. Becky says:

    Your life sounds just like my life! College ministry, and plenty of last minute, hungry guests (plus 5 hungry kids). Good food, lots of joy, and a messy house. Happy chaos we call it. Our church is starting Wednesday night dinner fellowship times and trying to keep the meals stress free, so these ideas are great. Thanks!

  4. Calleen says:

    I cook at a soup kitchen in rural Michigan for 35-60 hungry people. Always looking to change it up for them for new recipes. Thanks you are my go to site.

  5. Willis says:

    Googled meals for large groups and perused a couple of okay sites, then stumbled onto yours and- without a doubt- THEE BEST HANDS DOWN ideas for easy cooking for large groups. I plan to volunteer to cook lunches for our church group of 50-75 once a month and I absolutley loved these ideas. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Jane says:

    Appreciate your phrase “our house is a house lived in.” We’ve moved from a season in which the house was fairly clean and we had time to prepare special guest meals to a season of … nope. That’s even with outside help for housecleaning. Guest meals come from Costco or Trader Joe’s.

    And yet… people still gather around the kitchen island and the table and connect. Laughter bounces off the walls (and ceiling – it’s a 1930’s Hobbit kitchen). We live in a part of the country where community and faith are uncommon. People often don’t even know what it looks like. When they experience it, they don’t care about spotlessly clean counters (thanks be) – they are just as eager to cover them with take-out pizza boxes and gather to learn from God’s word and to care for one another.

    I’m ever more grateful for a season that increasingly forces me to let go my self-image and self-imposed rules for hospitality. (I realize your post is about food – and the food looks wonderful – but I also think your comments about being ready to practice hospitality are important.)

    • Rachel says:

      Jane, I always appreciate your perspective on faith, food, and sharing your home. When you lived here, I remember feeling the warmth in your home. Is a Hobbit kitchen what I think it means–truly one that is inspired by Tolkien’s books? Or does it just mean it’s small? Either way, I love the reference. 🙂

      • Jane says:

        Rachel – thanks for your kind words! They mean the world.

        We estimate (based on the wallpaper behind the cupboards) that the kitchen is a 1930’s add-on to the 1905 farmhouse. The roof joists in the farmhouse are literally logs, while the add-on looks to have been built with whatever was to hand. When we pulled the lath & plaster walls off, the exterior walls were various sized boards, some randomly painted, and the spaces filled with pressed newspaper for insulation. It’s basically a shed attached to the house – with a roof that slants so low it joins the exterior wall at about five and a half feet. So you can imagine how tall Superhub fills the space 🙂

        Crowded? Cozy? Potato – Potahto.