Monday, August 11, 2014

Tips For Feeding A Crowd!

Our yearly family reunion was held at Tybee Island earlier in the summer.  Years ago when we began this traditional vacation there were six of us--now there are eighteen with one more on the way in a few months!  And this year my sister Crystal joined the party!

We wanted to have maximum fun...

...with minimum fuss.

These are some things we did that worked well for us...

  • Divide and conquer.  There are lots of ways to divide up the work but after talking it over together, everyone in our group decided that each family (or team of two families) would be responsible for one meal--from grocery shopping, cooking, through to clean up.  Then they could relax and enjoy the other meals guilt-free when it was someone else's turn.  Crystal (my sister who joined us this year) is a great cook and she was in for helping out too.
  • Plan ahead.  We discussed and settled on menus before leaving for vacation and decided on a schedule so everyone knew what to expect and could bring anything needed from home along with them--or research which restaurant to call!  This also helped us avoid duplicating each other's meal plans.
  • Keep it simple.  Don't be overly ambitious.  Select an easy menu to prepare (unless you love to cook and don't mind spending the day in the kitchen.)  Disposable plates, cups, napkins and eating utensils make clean-up easy and you can be quite creative with all of the choices of colors and designs.  
  • Frills only if it is fun. I love to decorate--for me it is part of the fun. I bought some red tablecloths (easy care inexpensive ones on Amazon) and changed out the toppers plus added a few inexpensive props to make our mealtimes together more festive--totally not important but it is fun for me.  Only do the "extras" that add to the fun for you--skip anything else that drains you of energy.    
  • Assemble-it-your-way meals work well with large groups.  In our group we have vegetarians, meat-and-potatoes-only eaters, seafood lovers, seafood haters, gluten-free dieters, dairy-free dieters, Paleo dieters, etc.  Planning meals is pretty tough. We opted for meals such as a taco bar with a variety of options that allowed each person to customize.  Some other ideas:  Skewer your own shish kebobs offering meat and veggies as you like it or......Pasta night with sauce (meatballs option for meat lovers), salad, and bread---and yes, they make gluten-free pasta.
  • Order take-out.  My husband is fond of saying that I cook the best take-out in town.  When our kids were growing up and had after-school activities that took me away from the house all afternoon we would sometimes (all right often times) resort to picking up all or part of the meal at a local restaurant.  Some of the kids chose to forgo cooking altogether when it was their turn and ordered take-out Chinese food or pizzas and salad--I guess it reminded them of mom's "home cooking"...ha! 
  • Splurge for one fun evening in a restaurant.  If the budget permits, go out to eat and enjoy some of the local cuisine.  I like to factor this kind of a treat into the vacation budget when I am making plans.  In this case we walked to a nearby seafood spot that had land-lover options....not fancy but good.

Here are a few shots of our fun evenings.  Maybe they will be idea starters for you...

Mexican night hosted by Kristen, James and Crystal with chips, guacamole, and ingredients to build your own taco plus rice and beans.

I had sombreros in my party stash from a party I gave a while back.  They came in handy as a way to serve tortilla chips.

Chinese Take-out night hosted by Jonathan and Lisa and Tom and Meghan

I found this cool Chinese dragon on Amazon--it was inexpensive but looked like a million bucks in adding to the ambience!  

This dinner was also a celebration for Jonathan and Tyler who share a birthday....There was a delicious strawberry birthday cake and ice cream for dessert---Yum!

Memorial Day meal....Burgers and boiled shrimp with corn on the cob, 
baked beans, red rice, and coleslaw.

Same red tablecloths with red-checkered toppers and red, white, and blue all-American colors in honor of Memorial Day.  If you substitute white instead of blue napkins you would be ready for Italian night.

We were staying at three different cottages so each night we asked everyone to gather on the patio at Doc Holiday to visit until the final touches were put on the meal...this particular evening my brother Bill and his family joined us.

After we asked the blessing everyone served their plates and chowed down!  The beach always makes you hungry--why is that?

Toward the end of the week our numbers dwindled since some of our group had to leave early.  Jordan, Sarah, and Crystal found a pizza place at Tybee that had a gluten-free pizza option and they ordered delivery of several pizzas and salad according to the requests of  the remaining family.  We swam at the pool and ate informally on the screened porch--it was such fun and so relaxing that I forgot to take pictures!

How do you do things when you have to feed a crowd?  Any versatile menu suggestions?  Any do's or don't's that work for you?  Other pointers?  I'm up for ideas!  Please share. (Facebook friends please share here on the blog so everyone can benefit from your ideas.)

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