Budget Bliss: Inexpensive Catering Menu Ideas to Save You Money

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Throwing a party or event can be a thrilling experience, but it often comes with the challenge of staying on budget. One of the most significant expenses for any gathering is catering, and finding the cheapest catering options can be tricky. Fret not, as we have compiled a list of 10 budget-friendly catering ideas that will help you host a memorable event without breaking the bank.

From finger foods to food trucks, we cover a variety of creative and cost-effective catering ideas that will delight your guests and keep your wallet happy.

In the sections to follow, you’ll find a wide range of the cheapest food catering options suitable for every occasion, taste, and dietary preference. Whether you’re planning a wedding reception, a company event, or a casual get-together, these affordable catering options will ensure a delicious and satisfying experience for everyone involved.

Short Summary

  • Finger foods, BBQ, ethnic cuisine and food trucks offer delicious catering options for any budget.
  • Family-style meals & potluck provide an interactive dining experience that encourages guests to bond.
  • Brunch food ideas, dessert ideas, soup/salad stations and appetizer spreads are healthy and customizable choices perfect for special occasions!

Finger Foods for Every Occasion

Finger foods are an affordable and versatile catering option for events. They offer bite-sized snacks like sliders, mini pizzas, and spring rolls that can be customized to suit different dietary restrictions or preferences. Serving finger foods is cost-effective compared to a traditional wedding menu. Guests can enjoy their dinner after cocktail hour without feeling too full.

Spring events could feature mint and floral alcoholic beverages, delightful lemonade bars, fondues and fountains. They can even feature refreshing cold soups, and simple yet scrumptious Mediterranean food options.

For weddings, taco bars, charcuterie boards, and mini appetizers are all budget-friendly options. Lastly, for events where guests mingle and move around – such as cocktail parties, networking events, or receptions – sliders, spring rolls, mini pizzas, and other bite-sized snacks are perfect choices.

The beauty of finger foods lies in their ability to adapt to any event. They even cater to various tastes and dietary preferences. Whether you’re hosting a formal affair or a casual dinner, finger foods are a fantastic food idea. Finger foods are the perfect way to provide delicious and satisfying options without breaking the bank.

Delicious BBQ Options

BBQ is an excellent cost-effective and casual way to cater events, bringing a lively atmosphere and customizable options with delicious grilled items like burgers, hot dogs, bbq chicken, and grilled cheese.

Fruity cocktails, white sangrias, and local beers make perfect beverages for a wedding reception. Appetizers, veggie trays, high quality vegetables, plant-based proteins, veggie skewers, and lemonades with fresh fruit make the perfect additions to your catering menu.

Mexican food and barbecue restaurants are fantastic cheap catering ideas for wedding catering. Grilled items like burgers, hot dogs, and other summer favorites are great affordable options for catering events. BBQ provides a fun atmosphere and allows guests to choose their preferred grilled items, making it a popular choice for casual events and family gatherings.

Budget-Friendly Ethnic Cuisine

Budget-friendly ethnic cuisine options like Mexican, Indian, Thai, or Chinese dishes can provide a unique and affordable catering experience for your event. Chicken and vegetarian dishes are great cost-effective options when considering how much food per person to serve at a catering event.

A taco bar with delicious ground beef, succulent shredded chicken, flavorful refried beans, crunchy chips, zesty salsa, and a variety of toppings is an excellent choice for an affordable wedding budget. Going vegetarian is another fantastic way to save money and provide a complete meal for your guests.

Offering a variety of ethnic cuisine dishes allows you to cater to diverse tastes and preferences while staying within budget. These options not only provide an exciting dining experience, but also allow you to showcase your creativity and cultural appreciation.

Make Your Event Stand Out with Food Trucks

Food trucks offer a variety of street foods and are a cost-effective, creative, and mobile option for catering events, providing a unique and fun experience for guests. The typical starting fee for hiring a food truck for catering around $500, which is a great value and can help manage catering costs.

Explore the opportunity to reduce the menu to only a few items rather than the full list to help reduce the cost of hiring a food truck. A food truck can serve a menu of amazing food, such as tacos, ice cream, hot dogs, burgers, and potato salad.

The mobility and convenience of food trucks make them an excellent choice for outdoor events and venues with limited space. Not only will your guests be impressed with the novelty of a food truck, but they’ll also appreciate the delicious food that’s served up fresh and hot.

By using a mobile local restaurant, you’re sure to get scrumptious classic comfort food while potentially cutting your bill in half. Support a local catering setup by using food trucks and watch yourself save money when using these cheap catering ideas.

Family-Style Meals on a Budget

Sharing large platters of yummy food like roasted chicken or lasagna is a great way to bond with family and friends. This creates an interactive dining experience while saving money on catering. Family-style meals offer an engaging dining experience while being cost-effective for catering.

Caterers can set up the room and offer serving tips upon delivery. Then your team can take over for self-serve. This is one of the cheap catering ideas to reduce labor costs and catering prices.

Hamburgers, hotdogs, pizza, quiche, barbecue, taco bars, and pasta are all great classic comfort food options for generous servings. It also comes in handy when considering how much food per person to serve at an event.

Family-style meals encourage guests to share and interact with one another, making them a perfect option for events that prioritize socializing and bonding. Plus, you can forego wait staff and the large expense that may come with it! Perfect for a more relaxed event or meal.

Potluck: A Collaborative Approach to Catering

Potlucks are an affordable and engaging catering option where guests contribute their own dishes to share. This can provide wonderfully fun dishes you may have never tried before, closely entwined to each person’s own life history and culture. Having a few different people bring their favorite meals or sides in a crockpot is sure to be a delicious hit while also not breaking your bank.

Potlucks are both an economical catering option and affordable, yet engaging catering option that is very budget-friendly. Everyone is contributing!

The collaborative nature of a potluck allows guests to showcase their culinary talents. It also provides a diverse range of dishes for everyone to enjoy. While potlucks may require a bit more coordination and communication, the end result is a unique and memorable dining experience. This option allows guests to connect over their shared love of food.

Brunch: An Affordable and Versatile Option

Any type of event can be creatively transformed into a delightful brunch, including a wedding reception. Brunch catering is an exciting catering option that offers a delicious variety of breakfast and lunch items.

Some of the most delightful brunch catering ideas include buffet style pancakes, waffles, fresh berries, grapefruits, bananas, colorful fruit trays, delectable tea cakes, yogurt bars, and scrumptious pastries. That’s not even the half of it!

Your picky eaters are sure to enjoy this versatile options. Use different food stations, mixing between breakfast foods and lunch foods, and keep everyone happy. Brunch is a flexible catering option that provides breakfast and lunch items, is customizable to your wedding menu preferences, and encourages friendly conversation among guests.

By having a relaxed atmosphere and the versatility of brunch, guests can enjoy a variety of dishes that cater to their individual tastes and preferences while also being cheap catering options. Make it buffet style for the ultimate versatile catering option and utilize budget friendly ingredients!

Sweet and Inexpensive Dessert Ideas

Serve a variety of sweet treats such as cookies, cakes, and fruit cups as an affordable, easy-to-handle, and versatile dessert option for any event. Desserts are a great economical choice, and can be easily prepared in large quantities to serve a large number of people, costing less money while being just as yummy.

Offering more variety of desserts can help save money by encouraging people to enjoy smaller bites and be just as satisfied, helping you determine how much food to serve per person.

Include a veggie tray for a nutritious touch for the healthy eaters at a dessert party. Desserts add the perfect finish to a well-prepared meal. They can also be the perfect topic for conversation during dinner.

These meals can be customized to suit personal dietary needs, such as those who follow a gluten-free or vegan diet. With a wide range of sweet treats to choose from, your guests will be sure to have a memorable and fun experience.

Soup and Salad Stations: Healthy and Cost-Effective

Serve soups, stews, and salads as a main dish or side as an excellent, budget-friendly, and easily-customizable cheap catering idea. Baked potato bars, soup bars, and pasta bars – all sure to be a hit at a wedding reception.

Plated meals are the most luxurious serving style for weddings and can be very expensive. Buffet style meals are a cheap catering alternative to feed a large number of people and they give your guests the freedom to choose their preferred dishes. Thus, helping you manage your wedding budget! Keep it fun while keeping costs low.

Soups and salads provide a healthy alternative to heavier main courses. These food options are a great way to create a meal for a wide range of tastes and preferences. With a variety of soups, stews, and salads available, your guests can enjoy a delicious and satisfying meal that’s both cost-effective and nutritious.

Use this catering idea at your next event! Don’t forget to create a guest list. When knowing how many people will be at your event, you can better plan your menu and your budget.

Appetizer Spreads for All Tastes

Appetizer spreads are a cheap, versatile, and easy-to-handle option to serve small bite-sized dishes to guests before the main course. Usually at less cost than other dishes, appetizer spreads can be prepared in large quantities, and can be tailored to meet dietary restrictions or preferences.

Finger foods like sliders, mini quiches, or spinach puffs are great cheap catering ideas for appetizers that won’t break the bank. You can also consider vegetables platters with dips or cheese and cracker trays, classic appetizers that are sure to be a hit with your guests.

Serving appetizers and hors d’oeuvres at a wedding reception is a wonderful way to help the couple save their bank as well as provide a variety of delicious options for guests to enjoy. With an array of appetizers available, your guests can sample different flavors and find their favorites. Make your next event a truly memorable experience for all different tastes.

Take a look at our 4 Mouth-Watering Appetizers for your Next Catering Event to get your creative juices flowing! Create the perfect menu by checking out food ideas for event catering.


In conclusion, hosting a memorable event doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag. By exploring these 10 budget-friendly catering ideas, you can provide a delicious and satisfying experience for your guests without breaking the bank. From finger foods to food trucks, and potlucks to dessert bars, there’s an affordable catering option for every occasion and taste.

Remember, the key to hosting a successful event lies in creativity, adaptability, and, of course, delicious food. So why not step out of the box and experiment with these effective money-saving catering options? Your guests will appreciate the unique experience, and your wallet will thank you too.

Frequently Asked Questions

What food is cheapest to cater?

Catering doesn’t have to be expensive; some great affordable options include chips and salsa, vegetable trays, pulled pork sandwiches, and mac and cheese.

There are plenty of tasty, yet cheap food ideas that your guests will love!

How do you feed 100 guests on a budget?

To feed 100 guests on a budget, consider options like a baked potato bar, BBQ, BYOMeat BBQ, veggie and dip platter, crackers, cheese, and beef jerky platters, muffins, s’mores, fruit salad, and more!

This makes it possible to have an affordable, yet mouthwatering party without compromising on flavor or quality. Take a look at our 5 Essential Tips for Organizing Large Events!

Here at CMJJ Gourmet, we sell all products by bulk. Check out our Mini Dessert Cups and ourPlastic Mason Jars for more ideas on serving dishes without breaking the bank. By using our products, your event catering ideas can come to life at a better price.

Need to-go trays? Look no further than our very own Disposable Trays with Lids.

How do you cater for a party of 50?

With a few simple steps, you can successfully plan a party for 50 people! Set the date, pick a venue, develop a budget and arrange catering three weeks prior.

Send out invitations to your guests and let the celebrations begin! Here at CMJJ Gourmet, we have our Retail Product Line with smaller quantities for smaller event catering. Check it out here!

How can family-style meals help save money on catering?

Family-style meals create an engaging dining experience while saving money on catering costs by encouraging sharing large platters of food.

Sharing platters of food allows for a variety of dishes to be sampled, and encourages conversation and socialization among guests. It also allows for a more relaxed atmosphere, as guests can take their time to enjoy their meal.

What are the advantages of potluck catering?

Potluck catering is an economical and engaging way to host a gathering, allowing guests to contribute their own dishes while staying within budget.

It is a great way to bring people together and create a memorable event. Guests can bring their favorite dishes, and everyone can enjoy a variety of flavors. Plus, it’s a great way to save money on catering!

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  • Dacia Flowers

    Dacia Flowers is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) with a major in Cultural Anthropology. Since graduating in 2019, she has expanded her expertise and applied her anthropological background in the practical domain. As the Administration Manager at CMJJ Gourmet since August 2022, Dacia handles crucial day-to-day operations, ensuring the warehouse's optimal functionality, timely delivery of orders, and managing invoices. Her commitment to excellence and in-depth understanding of organizational dynamics stem not just from her academic prowess but also her personal passion. Beyond her professional responsibilities, Dacia has a keen interest in reading, loves to travel, and stays active through regular exercise.

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