Jul 19 2018
Lauren Hamer
3 Minutes to read

Admit it: you’ve blown a budget or two feeding the office. We understand. Keeping the costs of office meals low is no easy feat. According to CNBC, some companies churn through $10 to $15 a day—per employee—on meals and snacks alone. Rest assured. You don’t need a huge budget to order delicious catering for your office. Here are eight cheap catering ideas that won’t compromise on taste—or your budget.

1. Serve breakfast, any time

It’s no secret that morning menus are cheap. So if fueling your team at a reasonable price is your goal, consider serving breakfast or brunch for a traditional lunch. Just ramp up your traditional bagel and juice bar to satisfy bigger appetites. Serve breakfast proteins like ham, bacon, and sausage in hearty casseroles, breakfast burritos, or frittatas. Fruit trays, sour cream cakes, yogurt bars, and pastries help round out the meal. These fun, cheap, catering ideas that will charm your coworkers—we promise.

Cheap catering ideas for when budget is king.

2. Arrange buffets over boxed lunches

When it comes to cost, buffets win out over boxed lunches every time. (The price per person is almost always lower.) Not only do buffets encourage guests to mingle, but these cheap catering options provide eaters with more variety, too. It’s the perfect solution if food allergies or dietary restrictions crop up when you’re trying to serve a large or diverse crowd of eaters. It’s worth noting, however, that boxed lunches work better for small gatherings where food waste is a concern (i.e., fewer than ten people). Have picky eaters place their own order to minimize waste—and stay on budget.

3. Opt for less expensive cuts of meat

Say “yes” to paella, but “no” to top-dollar filet mignon. Less expensive cuts of meat, like chicken, help keep costs low. Supplement entrées with vegetables, stews, and curries, or build an all-vegetarian menu for your colleagues, instead. Veggie-centric dishes are cheap catering options that save money and address dietary concerns in one fell swoop.

4. Choose cost-efficient cuisines

Some foods are more expensive than others. So if you need ideas for cheap catering options, build a menu around cost-efficient cuisines. Mexican, Indian, Thai, and Chinese foods won’t break the bank—and they can be stretched to feed a crowd. Steer clear of Japanese, French, and Italian dishes, which usually cost more per meal, according to the study.

Cheap catering ideas for when budget is king.

5. Remember time is money

Not every event has to be an all-out dining extravaganza. Consider cheap catering ideas that emphasize fun over food, like a two-hour time slot for an after-work happy hour instead of a four-hour dinner celebration. People love hors d’oeuvres, while controlling the duration of your event can reduce costs significantly. And let’s face it: finger foods are fun. Chances are people will gladly fill up on delicious apps and leave feeling just as wined and dined as they would by a dinner course.

6. Behave at the bar

If you plan to serve alcohol at your next catering event, these cheap catering ideas for cocktails will keep your bar tab in check. Create one signature cocktail, like a vodka sunrise, and offer it along with wine and beer. Since funding a full bar can be pricey, you could also consider scaling back your offerings to beer and wine, in order to keep costs under control.

7. Go casual and forgo staff

It can be tempting to choose a caterer that provides one all-inclusive business package—but that would go against our best advice for cheap catering options. Do you really need the extra cutlery or serving staff? Keep small board meetings casual, in order to reduce labor costs and catering prices. Allow caterers to set up the room and provide serving recommendations upon delivery, then let your team self-serve from there.

8. Understand proper portions

Cheap catering ideas for when budget is king.

One surefire way to bust the budget? Over-order. It’s easy to do, though. Ordering too little is a nightmare, which is why so many office admins tack on more food than they need. Defining proper catering portions is one of the best cheap catering ideas for any order—it helps keep costs in line without sacrificing food quality. Here are some quick guidelines to follow:

  • Proteins like pulled pork or brisket: 4-5 ounces per person
  • Fried chicken or similar dishes: 3 pieces per person
  • Tacos: 2 per person
  • Sushi: 8-10 pieces per person
  • Side dishes: 4 ounces per person

Just remember to consider the type of event, the length of event, and the type of cuisine you’re serving when determining portions. Read more about catering portions here.

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Written by:

Lauren Hamer

Lauren Hamer is a North Carolina based writer and career expert. She’s spent years crafting content for high-profile publications about office management, career, personal finance, and disability in the workplace topics. When she’s not writing, she’s still writing, usually creating killer resumes for job warriors as the Founder of LaunchPoint Resume.

Posted in: Food at WorkSales

Tagged with: Budgeting, Catering, Food Spending, Job Success