Help Me Feed 40 Hungry Teens on a Budget
September 12, 2022 9:48 PM   Subscribe

I have signed up to bring dinner for my son's high school football team this Thursday, the night before their next game. All together, there are 40 people between teens and coaching staff. I have a 45 minute drive to get there and no kitchen access once there, so I need to pick up take-out from the local area ready to serve, or with minimal prep needed. I'd like to keep the total around $400. The location is a mid-sized town in the San Francisco Bay Area with all the usual chain restaurants, grocery stores, Costco.

I had planned to do Panda Express since I figured I could get a variety of main dishes and sides, accommodate a variety of preferences, and feed everyone for about $10 a piece, which is really my limit. The coach vetoed it because he said, "no fried food." There are many options that aren't fried, but I'm trying think of something else since he seems against that choice. Help me brainstorm ideas.
posted by ms_rasclark to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Big subs you can slice up? Seems like the easiest option. You can probably get something like this at Costco, a grocery store, or a local deli/sub could do a mix of fillings and grab some platters of grocery store cookies for dessert. Chips and fruit for sides if your budget allows.
posted by emd3737 at 10:01 PM on September 12, 2022 [12 favorites]

Best answer: The Costco near me (also in the Bay Area) has trays of pre-prepared, oven-ready casserole-type things. I think the last time I was there they had macaroni and cheese, and possibly lasagna and chicken pot pie, along with ribs and rotisserie chickens. Is there a way you could heat up some of these casseroles in the oven at home, and wrap them in old towels or something to keep them warm while you are driving? Some chicken pot pie and mac and cheese and salad (those huge things of baby spinach with dressing and cut up Campari tomatoes) and some fresh sliced French or Italian bread seem like they would make a good dinner.

If you don't want to heat things up, I think Costco also sells chicken salad, so the meal could be assemble your own chicken salad sandwich (on loaves of Costco bread or croissants), with sliced Campari tomatoes, spring mix or spinach from those big boxes, and cookies and whatever fruit Costco has that looks good.
posted by Lycaste at 10:24 PM on September 12, 2022 [4 favorites]

A taqueria that caters will be able to do 40 burritos for you. Get a variety and have them cut in half. (Get 50 to be safe.)
posted by vunder at 10:25 PM on September 12, 2022 [13 favorites]

Pizza? You should easily be able to make that fit your budget, teenagers like it, and you can accommodate different diets and preferences by making sure you have a mix of different pizzas (veggie, gluten free, dairy free, etc).

...although if the coach vetoed fried food for health reasons I'm not sure that pizza is much of an improvement.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 10:30 PM on September 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

God Taqueria is such a great answer.
posted by PinkMoose at 11:18 PM on September 12, 2022 [10 favorites]

Yeah. Tons of restaurants cater and would like your business. The "up against the clock" aspect may make it tough, but someone at most restaurants will work with you to get 45 kids fed on a budget like that. I am not your Program Coordinator, but it's one aspect of my dayjorb. Taquerias sound great. But at least around here, most types of food are available for a large group, many on short notice.

Our favorite is this one sushi place. Platters of 100+ maki... ok drooling now...
posted by not_on_display at 11:23 PM on September 12, 2022

A steaming stock pot of chilli would still be plenty hot enough, even after a 45 minute drive. Some crusty rolls, maybe carrot and celery sticks, and boom. Done, for way under $400. For dessert, ice cream cake (can thaw in a cooler while the kids inhale dinner) or sheet cake from one of the local stores.
posted by kate4914 at 11:36 PM on September 12, 2022 [3 favorites]

CostCo pizza + salad.
posted by oceano at 12:28 AM on September 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

A stock pot of chili feeds, like, ten to fifteen. I think a local restaurant is your best bet, for sure.

A sub platter with maybe some salads mixed in would be good variety (is there a Specialty's nearby? Maybe Panera?) or bunch of fajitas / burritos (Chipotle, if you want something familiar / similar to Panda in spirit and easy to order online). Or you can get Thai for 40 and make a local restaurant happy and maybe be the cool parent (or the weird one, you'd know better than me).
posted by Lady Li at 12:43 AM on September 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Chipotle Catering. Get 2 “Build your own, Triple”, 1 “Build your own, single”, and 1 15-person chip&dip.
posted by at at 2:44 AM on September 13, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Football equals carb loading. I spent a bunch of time at university working for the main large residential dining hall such that 40 is like nothing if you had an industrial kitchen or such. It's way way easier to cook for hundreds at much less than $10 a head if you have the infrastructure.

I might try to find an Italian chain and have a mass of spaghetti and meatballs and bread and maybe a salad of some sort. Easy if you could go big and do it yourself like renting a big pot and propane burner. Pasta is dirt cheap, bulk sauce, bags of Costco meatballs, loaves of bread, some salad stuff. Beans and rice could serve the same purpose, cheap ingredients, rent the equipment, budget to spice it up and add stuff. Homeless chow, people came to the park every Sunday and fed more than 40 homeless people out of big pots of rice and beans.

Along the catering line, yeah, around here there are Family Style Italian places that easily bring out food for 20 people like nobody's business because they have big grills and pots. (It's terribly fun, they have a table for four in the kitchen proper that you can get... they let you sample almost everything, facinating).

I would get with the coach or whatnot to work out what is a "night before the big game meal" sort of thing and go from there. But yeah, you could probably get something like 40 under $10 pizzas or something and meet your budget.

In lieu of a kitchen and equipment to easily handle 40 people... Yeah, mostly outsource and use the remainder for Costco and desert of such things.

Party subs are probably also pretty good, chips, drinks, some cake or ice cream or something. There's only so much you can pull off.

(I only half way miss residential dining, it's so much easier to feed hundreds if not thousands of people than it is to make a meal for one or a handful of people.)
posted by zengargoyle at 4:11 AM on September 13, 2022 [5 favorites]

Maybe it’s because I grew up in NJ but pretty much all sports teams had a pasta dinner the night before a game (like you’re describing). In part because it’s delicious but also because holy shit teenagers can EAT and pasta can be pretty cheap all things considered.
posted by raccoon409 at 6:12 AM on September 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

a taqueria is a great idea. As a parent who has served dozens of POST game meals, if you can get whoever you use to make 40 seperate meals, you will be ahead of the game.

One of our easiest was getting a pizzeria to make 40 medium pizzas and then sending homemade cookies. Pizza boxes are kind of a plate, so you don't have to take plates or silverware.

Tacos or burritos would be the same if they would bag or plate them up indivdually with some chips and salsa in each serving

If they have tables etc to sit at and serve from, then go for more complicated meals.
posted by domino at 7:10 AM on September 13, 2022

Nthing lasagna (meat and meatless versions) with garlic bread, bagged salad, and fruit. We did this every pre-game team dinner when my son played in HS. We ordered the pasta and bread from a local restaurant. They actually gave us a discount and we put a poster up for their restaurant at the field.

We did the sub or rollups for lunch on two a days during the summer with bagged salad, fruit, and whatever treats the families would bring (cookies, rice crispy treats, etc.).
posted by jraz at 9:47 AM on September 13, 2022

$10/kid? No grease? (so there goes the pizza idea)

I've used Chipotle catering in the past for 20+ Marching Band kids. Burritos in bulk are (in my area) about $8-9 ea. Order them all online via a simplified catering specific site, and then go and pickup 40 or so in a pair of big boxes. It comes with the chips/salsa/quac/napkins/etc standard. To keep it simple I just got a bunch of chicken ones and a few veggie for those who were vegetarian. I didn't give them the option of beef or pork since beef/pork eaters would also eat chicken, but the opposite was not always true.

JimmyJohns or similar should also offer a similar deal on a bunch of subs.

Both of these will dump about 1000 calories of carbs and stuff into each kid. Good for a football team.

Both of these are decent because they do not need to be kept hot like pasta which otherwise would win the carb load for very low cost contest. Cleanup and serving is also really easy with no real need for forks or even plates.
posted by SegFaultCoreDump at 11:50 AM on September 13, 2022

Slightly more difficult to eat, but Thai food is great for a crowd. Get a variety of noodle and rice dishes. With lots of extra rice for carbs.
posted by hydra77 at 12:11 PM on September 13, 2022

I do know that Costco has premade wraps that you can buy in bulk, if you want some variety.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:26 PM on September 13, 2022

All the local pizza places around me have catering menus. At my job, we used to have events for 40-50 people, and these folks were perfect. We got four or five trays, chicken parm, lasagna, baked zitti and salad. They even had sterno chaffing dishes to lend (with deposit). Throw in some drinks, you're good go.
posted by Marky at 7:35 PM on September 13, 2022

A stock pot of chili feeds, like, ten to fifteen. I think a local restaurant is your best bet, for sure.

posted by kate4914 at 7:42 PM on September 13, 2022

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