Recently, I was given the responsibility to make supper (yes, I call the third meal of the day supper, not dinner) for one of my campus organization's general body meetings. With fifty dollars and forty people to feed, I had quite the challenge. However, with some creativity and a detailed budget, I managed to feed a crowd on a college budget. 

This experience got me thinking that my university has hundreds of student organizations to offer and I know so many universities that are similar. Somewhere along the course of an organization's life, it encounters a college kid's budget and the dreams of a social event. While these two things do not always mesh well together, here are some recipe ideas, tips, and tricks to feed the chapter of your campus organization for less. 

Beyond the Pizza Box

pizza, tomato, vegetable, cheese
Jennifer Cao

The college standard for any meeting is to order pizza from the local favorite and have boxes delivered to the event. For something a little more personal and nearly as effortless, opt for making a meal at a member's house or holding a potluck. This can make the gathering unique and meaningful for current members and those looking to join.

Meal Ideas

Preparing a meal for a crowd can be tricky. There are many diets and picky eaters to accommodate for with little money to give endless options.  I recommend using some type of starch for the meal. Think spaghetti, lasagna, a baked potato bar, pancakes, do-it-yourself pizza bagels, and rice dishes

chocolate, candy, sweet, cream, cake, goody, pastry, sweetmeat
Gabby Phi

In terms of preparation, the ingredients for these meals are very cheap, especially in large quantities. They do not require any special kitchen skills and can be prepared ahead of time.

Satisfying the needs of your group is simplified as well. These recipes can be modified to fit vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free lifestyles. Also, the ingredients for these starch-based dishes are crowd-pleasing; I have never met a college student against a pasta dinner.     

pasta, spaghetti
Alex Frank

Shop with the Season

This tip seems to be the most obvious, but it makes sense. Want to serve fruit for dessert? Don't decide on watermelon in January. Produce in season will have more vibrant flavors and save you room in your wallet. 

pepper, tomato, pasture, vegetable, lemon, Fresh, farmer's market
Caroline Ingalls

Bonding and Help

Deciding on a menu, searching Spoon University for delicious recipes, planning a budget, shopping for groceries, and preparing and serving a meal is a lot of work for one person! Take the opportunity of enlisting help from your fellow student organization members.

coffee, tea, kettle, ladle
Ellen Gibbs

Reach out to those who haven't had the chance to really get involved yet. This is an opportunity for them to feel welcomed into the organization. There really is no bonding and team-building like time spent together in the kitchen.


You don't have to be the treasurer of your chapter to budget for an event or a dinner. Simple steps include finding how many people will be attending and how much money can be set aside for this meal. 

Kayla Rosengarten

From there, it's all about writing and keeping a shopping list. Before hitting the grocery store, record what ingredients your recipe calls for. With the help of a couple of quick internet searches, you can find the price for these ingredients before even driving to the store. This method allows for you to search for online coupons and compare product brands. In keeping track of your budget, you can easily feed whatever crowd you serve.