This fall, the days will be spent sitting in the stands cheering on my son from the stands as he plays football.
What most people don't see is the amount of work that goes into feeding these football players behind the scenes for camps, opening week, back to back games, homecoming or end of season games.
It's been a BIG change from drama and choir where they don't eat much.
If you get to be in charge of meals to feed football players (or other large crowds), we suggest some of these tips for feeding up to 100 hungry football players very inexpensively.
- Sign up Genius: If your football budget doesn't allow for you to front the entire bill for meals or catering and you need other parents to pitch in help, food or utensils Sign Up Genius is great for sending a link to parents so you know what your budget may still need to provide.
- Theme Nights: Theme nights are always fun and are inexpensive. "Breakfast Night" or "Spaghetti Bar"are great themes and make it fun for players to have something different to eat each night.
- Drinks: Providing individual bottled sports, water or soda drinks for the players can be expensive! Consider flavored water like water with lemons in it or making sports drinks from mixes in larger quantities.
- Plan for seconds. And thirds. Pizza night was insane. Each boy ate about 4+ pieces. Plan for the boys to NOT be dainty about coming back for seconds and even thirds.
- Food allergies! This is always hard to know but plan ahead for any food allergies. Any of the meals listed below are easy to place out some allergy friendly choices for.
- Sneak in the good sides: I noticed a lot of the football players didn't eat so healthy. We offered salad, watermelon and other fruit and veggie sides and there was always plenty left. So we always provided it--and it's important--but many of the meals below also allow for you to sneak in the good stuff like tomatoes, lettuce, etc. without them knowing!
- Avoid sandwich bars and other meals that will have lot's of leftovers. I noticed meals like sandwich bars were difficult meals to prep because everyone likes different toppings, different sandwich meat and things and we often had way too many leftovers! We had half eaten large Costco and Sam's Club sized jars of pickles, ketchup, and mayo left over. At one meal we probably left $100 in food toppings sitting on the table afterward. make meals where there won't be a lot of leftovers that you couldn't take home and eat yourself or that leave a lot of plastic or other waste behind.
Meals to Feed Football Players:
- Spaghetti Bar: A Spaghetti Bar is a simple and easy to meal to make. Simply make large batches of spaghetti noodles, then place out different sauces. You can do a homemade fettucini and chicken sauce, pesto and chicken or a traditional meat sauce. You can even omit the meat if you want (but we recommend it). Have the players top their spaghetti with parmesan cheese, tomatoes or basil. ALLERGY NOTES: For those with gluten allergies, place out and label gluten free pasta. We love Banza gluten free pasta for it's high protein content and great taste! Note any nut allergies if using pesto sauce by making a sign for players. Label the fettucini sauce for those with dairy allergies. SUGGESTED SIDES: Salad, green beans, broccoli
- Breakfast Casserole Bar: Casseroles are great for feeding large crowds of hungry teenagers. You can often have different types of casseroles sitting out for them to choose from and enjoy. We love our crockpot breakfast casserole (it's easy to prep in the morning and have ready by practice), overnight creme brulee casserole, cheesy breakfast casserole (Damn Delicious), biscuit egg casserole (Lil Luna), croissant breakfast sandwich casserole (Just a Pinch), spicy mexican casserole (Tablespoon), and sausage and gravy casserole (Can't Stay Out of the Kitchen) ALLERGY NOTES: If anyone has allergies, try to provide a casserole that they can enjoy. (You can ask their parents to bring and label one or have a parent volunteer make one if they would like). When labeling casseroles, ask parents (if bringing) to also list if there is gluten, dairy, nuts, peanuts or coconut in their casserole so those with allergies can determine which cassserole they can eat. SUGGESTED SIDES: Fruit
- Taco Bar: Taco bars are always simple and easy to make for a large crowd and the toppings are relatively inexpensive. Place out hard and soft taco shells so the group has a choice. You can also go with traditional ground beef and taco seasoning or try our slow cooker ranch taco meat that is mild and delicious! We suggest a variety of different toppings like tomatoes, cilantro, cheese, black beans, salsa, rice, lettuce, and more! ALLERGY NOTES: Provide corn or gluten free tortillas for those with gluten allergies. Label and keep separate from the meat anything with dairy for those with dairy allergies. See notes for making dairy free ranch taco meat if needed. Label any salad dressings that may contain dairy or gluten. SUGGESTED SIDES: Corn salad or green salad
- Mexican Rice Bar: This is such a simple and easy meal and tastes like something you would find at Taco Bell which the players will LOVE! Simply make some plain or mexican rice in your rice cooker, and then have the boys serve up the rice into bowls and top with taco seasoned meat (we suggest ground beef, shredded chicken, or shredded pork). Have toppings like cilantro, black beans and tomatoes out for the players to top their rice and meat with. Then have the boys finish off by drizzling a natural cheese sauce over the top. Stir it all together and it's a Taco Bell original! (Except better for you!) ALLERGY NOTES: If you opt to use boxed mexican rice mixes, make sure that you label any mexican rice mixes that contain gluten in them so those with gluten allergies do not eat it. Keep the cheese sauce separate from the other toppings for those with dairy allergies. SUGGESTED SIDES: Green salad, grilled corn on the cob
- Meaty Sandwich Bar: Forget the cold cuts, we are talking some real meat! You can easily buy some rolls at Costco or Sam's Club to feed everyone, (or make some homemade ones or storebought premade rise and bake ones) then put out different meats like sloppy joes, BBQ pulled pork or BBQ pulled chicken, and/or chicken salad. ALLERGY NOTES: Provide gluten free rolls or have player bring from home if needing gluten free. Label sauces that might contain allergy containing ingredients (Stubb's is our choice for BBQ because it's all natural, contains no corn syrup and is gluten free!) SUGGESTED SIDES: Cheese slices, watermelon, chips
- Hawaiian Haystacks: This is the ultimate easy meal! Make a chicken and roux pase, make some rice and then throw out toppings like pineapple, mandarin oranges, green onions, sliced almonds, shredded cheese, sweet and sour sauce and more to top. ALLERGY NOTES: Make sure the chicken/roux mixture is clearly marked if it is gluten free/dairy free or has gluten and dairy. We've made the recipe link above using gluten and dairy free ingredients and it works just fine. Try to label any toppings with gluten, dairy or nuts. SUGGESTED SIDES: We've named many above. our suggestion would be to only include 5-7 toppings to keep costs down.
- Chili Bar: This is a great meal for those cooler fall nights. Make large pots of chili in the slow cooker or on the stove, then provide toppings like cornbread pieces, cheese, tortilla strips and green onion. ALLERGY NOTES: The biggest allergies are gluten and dairy on this one. Just note if there are any chili's with those ingredients. There are several really good gluten/dairy free cornbread mixes on the market that can easily be found at local grocers. Label any toppings that might contain gluten or dairy or other allergy ingredients. SUGGESTED SIDES: The toppings are the sides in this one! Cornbread pieces, cheese, tortilla strips and green onion are all great side suggestions.
- Breakfast Sandwich Bar: This beautiful breakfast sandwich bar is hearty enough for a large group of hungry players! Place out bagels and english muffins, make a few large pans of these oven baked scrambled eggs, (you can sub dairy free ingredients in this recipe and it works fine) and place out some toppings. ALLERGY NOTES: If someone has an egg allergy, you can provide sausage patties or bacon in place of the egg. Label any toppings with allergy containing ingredients. SUGGESTED SIDES: In addition to eggs, if budget allows you can provide some sausage or bacon for everyone. Other sides include sliced avocados, salsa, cheese, tomatoes, and cream cheese if desired.
- Pot Pie Bar: This is another nice one to make during the colder fall night games. Pot pies are hearty, filling and taste great. We suggest this allergy friendly pot pie, chicken pot pie (Girl Who Ate Everything), beef pot pie (The Spruce Eats), or try one of these 35 different pot pie recipes (The Decorated Cookie). ALLERGY NOTES: Include an allergy friendly pot pie for those with allergies SUGGESTED SIDES: You don't really need to include sides with this one because there are vegetables baked right inside! Sneaky. 🙂
- Mashed Potato Bar: A spin off of the traditional baked potato bar, we like this because the players can pile their mashed potatoes inside their bowls and fill with toppings. The mess of tin foil everywhere is kept minimal and there is much less prep work for those preparing the mashed potatoes. Note: We use Yukon Gold potatoes when we make mashed potatoes so we don't have to peel potato skins, etc. We just cook the potatoes then throw them in our mixer and prep the mashed potatoes. ALLERGY NOTES: Make sure to label any toppings with any of the top 8 allergies. you can make a dairy free version by substituting dairy free ingredients. SUGGESTED SIDES: Serve with watermelon slices. For toppings we suggest butter, bacon bits, cheese, chili, chives and more!
Are there any other large crowd meals you suggest? Leave a comment!
22 Easy Meals for Large Groups: PTO Today --we love the serving calculators!
Meals for Crowds: CD Kitchen--We loved the ability to change each recipe to the amount of people we would be feeding
Themed Meal Planning Ideas List: Home Cooked Happy--we love this as a starting point for ideas!