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Simple Food and Drink Ideas for a Great Party with a Small Wallet

Updated on December 19, 2014

People tend to munch nonstop while having a good time. Here are some easy and budget-conscious things to prepare that can stay fresh all night in a crock pot or refrigerator.

I always make way too much food and spend the next week eating the leftovers.  This layout feeds about 25 people.  You can also keep things warms in the oven on low heat if you and your guests are careful.
I always make way too much food and spend the next week eating the leftovers. This layout feeds about 25 people. You can also keep things warms in the oven on low heat if you and your guests are careful.

Basic Sample Shopping List ~ 10 People

Feel free to add or subtract based on your budget. Please drink responsibly.

Gravy Burgers and Hot Dogs

  • 3lbs Ground beef (or ground chuck for less mess) $8
  • 1 can/jar/packet of beef gravy $1-$2
  • 2 packs of hot dogs, offbrand if needed <$4
  • 2 packs of "slider" buns (tiny) plus 2 packs hot dog buns $4

Jello Shots and Bullfrogs

Can easily make it alcohol-free or BYOB - grab a couple 2-liters and skip the rest.

  • 4 two-liters (2 Mountain Dew) $4
  • 4 packets of Kool-Aid (2 different flavors) $1
  • 4 small boxes of gelatin (assume 1 box fills ten 2oz containers) $4
  • Jello shot containers (recommendation below) $3 for forty
  • Vodka - 1.75L of 40% Svedka works nicely at just over $20

Side Snacks

  • 9 ears of corn $3
  • 2 bags of chips or pretzels $4

Optional if desired

  • Disposable plates/utensils/cups/napkins - pick a theme!
  • Condiments

Main Course Ideas

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Stuffed green peppers - halved to serve. Cook hot sausage with ground beef. Add raisins, tomato soup, diced tomatoes, rice.  Bake until pepper softens.  Top with walnuts and pepper jack cheese.Gravy Burgers - "slider" sized. Shape small and thin.  Cook until brown inside, then cover in gravy to keep warm and moist.More gravy burgers!Cheese is optional. Aluminum foil helps keep things clean.Cheeseburgers on garlic bread buns. "Slider" size buns were buttered and then browned in a pan sprinkled with garlic salt.   Not a required step, but it's amazing.Hot dogs in countertop electric grill.  Can boil or heat in a skillet if desired.Interactive party activity - make your own pizzas!  You can make the dough yourself and have it ready, or you can buy it.Breakfast Party Layout: Sausage/cheese biscuit sandwiches, cinnamon waffles, pancakes, scrambled eggs, cheese omelette bites, bacon, hashbrowns (diced and seasoned potatoes cooked with onions).Breakfast Casserole: Easy thing to store (raw or cooked) in the refrigerator and heat up later. Mix raw eggs with cooked sausage, cheddar cheese, milk, cubed toasted bread, salt/pepper. Onions and green peppers optional.
Stuffed green peppers - halved to serve. Cook hot sausage with ground beef. Add raisins, tomato soup, diced tomatoes, rice.  Bake until pepper softens.  Top with walnuts and pepper jack cheese.
Stuffed green peppers - halved to serve. Cook hot sausage with ground beef. Add raisins, tomato soup, diced tomatoes, rice. Bake until pepper softens. Top with walnuts and pepper jack cheese.
Gravy Burgers - "slider" sized. Shape small and thin.  Cook until brown inside, then cover in gravy to keep warm and moist.
Gravy Burgers - "slider" sized. Shape small and thin. Cook until brown inside, then cover in gravy to keep warm and moist.
More gravy burgers!
More gravy burgers!
Cheese is optional. Aluminum foil helps keep things clean.
Cheese is optional. Aluminum foil helps keep things clean.
Cheeseburgers on garlic bread buns. "Slider" size buns were buttered and then browned in a pan sprinkled with garlic salt.   Not a required step, but it's amazing.
Cheeseburgers on garlic bread buns. "Slider" size buns were buttered and then browned in a pan sprinkled with garlic salt. Not a required step, but it's amazing.
Hot dogs in countertop electric grill.  Can boil or heat in a skillet if desired.
Hot dogs in countertop electric grill. Can boil or heat in a skillet if desired.
Interactive party activity - make your own pizzas!  You can make the dough yourself and have it ready, or you can buy it.
Interactive party activity - make your own pizzas! You can make the dough yourself and have it ready, or you can buy it.
Breakfast Party Layout: Sausage/cheese biscuit sandwiches, cinnamon waffles, pancakes, scrambled eggs, cheese omelette bites, bacon, hashbrowns (diced and seasoned potatoes cooked with onions).
Breakfast Party Layout: Sausage/cheese biscuit sandwiches, cinnamon waffles, pancakes, scrambled eggs, cheese omelette bites, bacon, hashbrowns (diced and seasoned potatoes cooked with onions).
Breakfast Casserole: Easy thing to store (raw or cooked) in the refrigerator and heat up later. Mix raw eggs with cooked sausage, cheddar cheese, milk, cubed toasted bread, salt/pepper. Onions and green peppers optional.
Breakfast Casserole: Easy thing to store (raw or cooked) in the refrigerator and heat up later. Mix raw eggs with cooked sausage, cheddar cheese, milk, cubed toasted bread, salt/pepper. Onions and green peppers optional.

Only Basic Recipes Included

The dishes shown are my own photos of simplified versions of recipes that you can easily find online. I never feel the need to garnish - basic seasonings taste amazing. Add your own twist to make them unique! I find that looking at 3-4 different recipes gives me a great idea of how to tweak it to make it best for me.

Side Dishes

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pasta salad (noodles, Italian dressing, Parm. cheese), deviled eggs (egg center, mustard, mayo, pickles), pineapples/strawberries/grapes, salami with cream cheese center, chicken salad (cooked and diced chicken with mayo/egg whites/celery/pickle).Everything's better with bacon. Twice-Baked Potatoes: bake whole potatoes until they start to become squishy. Halve.  Scoop out insides - mix with buttter, milk, salt, cheese, browned onions. Top with bacon and cheddar cheese.Deviled Eggs and Potato Salad (boil whole potatoes then skin, slice, and add mayo/pickles).Corn on the cob.  Boil then rub them on heavily buttered bread and sprinkle with salt.
Pasta salad (noodles, Italian dressing, Parm. cheese), deviled eggs (egg center, mustard, mayo, pickles), pineapples/strawberries/grapes, salami with cream cheese center, chicken salad (cooked and diced chicken with mayo/egg whites/celery/pickle).
Pasta salad (noodles, Italian dressing, Parm. cheese), deviled eggs (egg center, mustard, mayo, pickles), pineapples/strawberries/grapes, salami with cream cheese center, chicken salad (cooked and diced chicken with mayo/egg whites/celery/pickle).
Everything's better with bacon. Twice-Baked Potatoes: bake whole potatoes until they start to become squishy. Halve.  Scoop out insides - mix with buttter, milk, salt, cheese, browned onions. Top with bacon and cheddar cheese.
Everything's better with bacon. Twice-Baked Potatoes: bake whole potatoes until they start to become squishy. Halve. Scoop out insides - mix with buttter, milk, salt, cheese, browned onions. Top with bacon and cheddar cheese.
Deviled Eggs and Potato Salad (boil whole potatoes then skin, slice, and add mayo/pickles).
Deviled Eggs and Potato Salad (boil whole potatoes then skin, slice, and add mayo/pickles).
Corn on the cob.  Boil then rub them on heavily buttered bread and sprinkle with salt.
Corn on the cob. Boil then rub them on heavily buttered bread and sprinkle with salt.

Drinking Ideas

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Jello shots! 2oz is bigger that people are used to, but I liked the size.  I put remaining jello mixtures in bigger containers and ate it by the spoonful :P.Jello shots (I chilled them with the lid off initially). 1 cup hot water. Dissolve 1 small box.  Add 1/2 cup cold water, 1/2 cup vodka.Jolly Rancher Vodka: Local stores sell rather inexpensive jars that are easy to clean and use again.  We stored some jars in the freezer for a year and it still tasted amazing.  Very easy to make.Skittles Vodka tastes great, but there's a longer preparation time because you have to strain out the waxy substance that doesn't dissolve *shudders* (that causes you to never want to make it again).Try shaved ice beverages - use any drinks or sodas that you like! Battle Shots game made from old pizza boxes.
Jello shots! 2oz is bigger that people are used to, but I liked the size.  I put remaining jello mixtures in bigger containers and ate it by the spoonful :P.
Jello shots! 2oz is bigger that people are used to, but I liked the size. I put remaining jello mixtures in bigger containers and ate it by the spoonful :P.
Jello shots (I chilled them with the lid off initially). 1 cup hot water. Dissolve 1 small box.  Add 1/2 cup cold water, 1/2 cup vodka.
Jello shots (I chilled them with the lid off initially). 1 cup hot water. Dissolve 1 small box. Add 1/2 cup cold water, 1/2 cup vodka.
Jolly Rancher Vodka: Local stores sell rather inexpensive jars that are easy to clean and use again.  We stored some jars in the freezer for a year and it still tasted amazing.  Very easy to make.
Jolly Rancher Vodka: Local stores sell rather inexpensive jars that are easy to clean and use again. We stored some jars in the freezer for a year and it still tasted amazing. Very easy to make.
Skittles Vodka tastes great, but there's a longer preparation time because you have to strain out the waxy substance that doesn't dissolve *shudders* (that causes you to never want to make it again).
Skittles Vodka tastes great, but there's a longer preparation time because you have to strain out the waxy substance that doesn't dissolve *shudders* (that causes you to never want to make it again).
Try shaved ice beverages - use any drinks or sodas that you like!
Try shaved ice beverages - use any drinks or sodas that you like!
Battle Shots game made from old pizza boxes.
Battle Shots game made from old pizza boxes.

Stackable Jello Shot Pyramid

Polar Ice PI125200CT 125 Count Plastic Jello Shot Cups with Lids, 2-Ounce
Polar Ice PI125200CT 125 Count Plastic Jello Shot Cups with Lids, 2-Ounce

These come in different quantities depending on how many people you're expecting. I usually make about 40 for 10 people (assuming a decently even mix of males and females with varying alcohol consumption habits).

 

Bullfrogs!

Ingredients

  • Vodka, Svedka or Skyy
  • 2 Packets Kool-Aid, Orange, Tropical Punch, and Blue Raspberry Lemonade are good flavors (separately)
  • 2-Liter Mountain Dew
Prep time: 3 min
Ready in: 3 min
Yields: Serves around 5 people

Easiest Party Drink

  1. Empty a 2-liter of Mountain Dew down to the top of the label.
  2. Add 2 packets of your favorite Kool-Aid.
  3. Fill back up with vodka.
  4. Gently tilt to mix.
  5. Serve chilled or over ice. (Also works well in bulk in drink coolers/dispensers)

Best Party Drink

5 stars from 3 ratings of Bullfrogs

Dessert Ideas

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Can of biscuit dough broken into balls and fried until brown (very short cook time).  Then dunk them in chocolate or a sugar mixture.  (Don't use baking soda that was mislabeled as powdered sugar...)Grab any cinnamon roll recipe you like, or you can use ones straight from a can.Homemade Ice Cream "Cake". Layer of one ice cream.  Layer of crushed cookies mixed with liquid chocolate "shell" that will harden when cooled. Layer of second ice cream.  Top with whipped cream and sprinkles if desired.  $10.Crushed Cookie and Chocolate Center Ice Cream CakeRegular cake with a few cupcakes.  Only takes 1 can of icing and 1 cake mix. $3Cans of colored icing with decorative tips make it easy to decorate a cake for any theme in a matter of minutes.  If you can use easy-cheese cans, then you can decorate a cake.My dad's one of the few people that doesn't like the taste of the decorative icing.  Easily worked around.Co0o0o0okies!Oops. Make sure you finish everything BEFORE people arrive. Distractions are fatal to food.
Can of biscuit dough broken into balls and fried until brown (very short cook time).  Then dunk them in chocolate or a sugar mixture.  (Don't use baking soda that was mislabeled as powdered sugar...)
Can of biscuit dough broken into balls and fried until brown (very short cook time). Then dunk them in chocolate or a sugar mixture. (Don't use baking soda that was mislabeled as powdered sugar...)
Grab any cinnamon roll recipe you like, or you can use ones straight from a can.
Grab any cinnamon roll recipe you like, or you can use ones straight from a can.
Homemade Ice Cream "Cake". Layer of one ice cream.  Layer of crushed cookies mixed with liquid chocolate "shell" that will harden when cooled. Layer of second ice cream.  Top with whipped cream and sprinkles if desired.  $10.
Homemade Ice Cream "Cake". Layer of one ice cream. Layer of crushed cookies mixed with liquid chocolate "shell" that will harden when cooled. Layer of second ice cream. Top with whipped cream and sprinkles if desired. $10.
Crushed Cookie and Chocolate Center
Crushed Cookie and Chocolate Center
Ice Cream Cake
Ice Cream Cake
Regular cake with a few cupcakes.  Only takes 1 can of icing and 1 cake mix. $3
Regular cake with a few cupcakes. Only takes 1 can of icing and 1 cake mix. $3
Cans of colored icing with decorative tips make it easy to decorate a cake for any theme in a matter of minutes.  If you can use easy-cheese cans, then you can decorate a cake.
Cans of colored icing with decorative tips make it easy to decorate a cake for any theme in a matter of minutes. If you can use easy-cheese cans, then you can decorate a cake.
My dad's one of the few people that doesn't like the taste of the decorative icing.  Easily worked around.
My dad's one of the few people that doesn't like the taste of the decorative icing. Easily worked around.
Co0o0o0okies!
Co0o0o0okies!
Oops. Make sure you finish everything BEFORE people arrive. Distractions are fatal to food.
Oops. Make sure you finish everything BEFORE people arrive. Distractions are fatal to food.

Highlight of the Night!

What's the most important aspect of a great party?

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