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Help! Cold buffet for 60+ folk

(41 Posts)
MrsHass Tue 31-Jul-18 22:56:08

I stupidly, stupidly offered to do a buffet for a joint 60th/85th birthday party, taking place in a small function hall.
I have no access to the kitchen there at all - not even use of fridge.
It’s anticipated there’ll be about 60 people there (all adults) but I’d much rather over cater than under cater.
I will have to prepare the buffet in the very small kitchen of my very small flat.
I don’t have much freezer or fridge space - 2 drawer freezer and small fridge (which will already have my family crap in it). I’m thinking I need to prepare the buffet at home on the day then transport to venue. Party starts at 7:30. What time to “open” the buffet and how can I be sure it’s not going to be awful!?

I’m going to cut and paste the notes I’ve written on my phone about possibilities - please tell me what you think and what your suggestions are. I’m not a ‘capable’ cook at all, but can get by.
In house caterers too costly and nowhere close to deliver food in - plus, I feel I can’t do that since I was the bloody big mouth that insisted I’d do the buffet! So I can’t backtrack now!

Please have a look at my list and tell me what you think...

Party food

Mix of sandwiches/bagels/wraps - tuna, onion, sweetcorn/egg mayo cress/ham salad/cheese salad - rocket, tomatoes, red onions to garnish platters

Big bowls of pasta -
- Green pesto, red onion, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts
- Tomato, red onion, chicken, mushrooms
Parmesan optional to garnish
- Tray of macaroni cheese with leeks and tomatoes?

Big bowls of salad -
- Green salad, cucumber, red onion, peppers, tomatoes, boiled eggs with a dressing
- Green salad, red onion, olives, feta cheese with a dressing
- Coleslaw
- Potato salad

Few quiches - meat and veg mixture
Cold meat platter and cheeses, chutneys, pickles, crackers, pate
Chicken platter - plain, bbq, hot and spicy mix of drumsticks, wings and thighs. Some lemon and garlic chicken?
Tortillas, breadsticks, carrot sticks, celery sticks, pepper, humus and dips
Sausage rolls

Platters of individual cakes
Platters of fruit - grapes, strawberries, pineapple, melon, apple, mango

On each table bowls with sweets and crisps/nuts

Table confetti
Disposable plates, bowls, cutlery
Disposable cups to put the cutlery in on buffet table
Serving tongs/spoons
Disposable platters and trays
Tin foil/cling film
Disposable tupperware dishes/tubs for giving out leftovers
Big plastic bowls for the pastas and salads
Plastic dishes for the sweets/crisps on table
Cool bags/ice packs

What would you exclude/add? How can I keep the food cool and present it nicely? And how much of it will I need for 60 odd people?

Thanks 🙏

OP’s posts: |
D0do Tue 31-Jul-18 22:59:26

That's a challenge! Can you say roughly where you are in case anyone can offer fridge and freezer space? Notes sound good.

bloated1977 Tue 31-Jul-18 23:03:56

Unfortunately I can't see how it can be done without fridge/freezer space. Do you have any family or friends who could store food for you?

starryeyedsnowgirl Tue 31-Jul-18 23:04:15

The notes sound great. Just wanted to add (if this is a big stress and you really don't have space to prepare) that many of the things you listed are available at Costco. I'm not too sure of price as I have done it myself, but I've been to two parties recently which had had sandwiches/ rolls / sushi all premade, melon/ pineapple platters, mini desserts and pasta/ cous cups all made up. This came on the black plastic serving platters that you get.

I have also been to a lovely 60th which was catered by the family who all bought a couple of things each which was lovely. It might save you some work if you could ask others to bring a dish each.

Blondie1984 Tue 31-Jul-18 23:11:02

Would you be able to borrow some fridge/freezer space from a neighbour or friend? Might also be worth getting some cool boxes

It sounds like it would be worth trying to make it as simple as possible so personally i would probably do away with the sandwiches - bulky to store, fiddly to prepare etc and probably wouldn't bother with the mac & cheese

LockedOutOfMN Tue 31-Jul-18 23:12:02

Your notes sound perfect.

I'd be careful with nuts because of allergies - if they're on tables then the nut dust will get everywhere and that's enough to trigger an allergy attack for some people.

Couscous could be added or used to replace one of the pasta salads, just for variety. (And / or quinoa).

Personally I'd also ditch table confetti.

Blondie1984 Tue 31-Jul-18 23:13:15

Have you been given a budget for all this? And are you expected to provide tea/coffee?

crabb Tue 31-Jul-18 23:21:38

I don’t think it’s feasible to do catering for 60 and keep things cold/hot safely within your constraints, sorry.

Joinourclub Tue 31-Jul-18 23:25:29


Just sandwiches, no wraps or bagels

Only one pasta salad

Only one green salad

French stick type bread to go with cheese and cold meat platter

Scrap chicken platter

Loads of crisps/tortilla chips and dips

Imagine what would you put on your plate?

MrsHass Tue 31-Jul-18 23:30:19

I agree on the table confetti issue!

No budget, as such, but trying to keep costs down - pricing it up - doable around £300?

What would you advise re safety issues? I must admit that I can be quite apathetic but I definitely don’t want anyone ill!
No friends or family I could ask to store things - or, at least, not easily.
If buffet was to be opened at, say, around 830/9, could I prepare late afternoon/early evening and have them at the venue for 7?

OP’s posts: |
AdaColeman Tue 31-Jul-18 23:33:38

Another vote for abandoning sandwiches, they often get left and there isn't much you can then do with them, also they are time consuming to prepare.

Personally, I'd leave out the Mac & cheese, messy to eat and not a very eye catching dish.

Do a good cheese board, maybe with celery and grapes.

I'd ask others to bring contributions, quiches, trifle, cakes etc. As it's family start all theses conversations with, "Everyone loves your delicious......"

I would start the buffet about 8:30 not before, and don't bother with confetti.

AdaColeman Tue 31-Jul-18 23:44:19

Looking again at your list, think of the time to cut up all that fruit! Scrap that, offer just one type of fruit, strawberries & cream perhaps?

Forget all the bread sticks etc, just do French sticks they will go with everything.

AtSea1979 Tue 31-Jul-18 23:50:45

Instead of sandwiches, buy something like the warbies buns (come in 12s but seperate so 24) butter them and plates of cooked meats and cheese and salads.
Pesto pasta
Cous cous
Dips and carrot batons/celery/breadsticks/crisps
Chicken legs
Sausage rolls/pork pies/cocktail sausages etc
A few different quiches

defineme Tue 31-Jul-18 23:58:58

First...clear your family crap out of your fridge for that day...they can have toast and jam or takeaway that day.
2nd cut down any prep: I have just been to a lovely party where it was several silver foil platters(clingfilmed )made up of nicely arranged slices of quiche/rolled up ham slices/ halved boiled eggs/ cucumber slices/cherry tomatoes/ salad leaves. Another platter had poached salmon side with salady bits around and another had cold chicken pieces. Cheese board/ french sticks sliced/ butter/ jar chutney. Bowls of crisps. Birthday cake and fruit platters for pudding. Absolutely no cooking required, all can be bought at supermarket, or even easier..Morrisons sell big trays of readymade sandwiches, massive lovely deli quiches , trays of cold chicken, cheese boards, coldslaw, pasta salad etcfresh fruit cream cakes etc. You could literally buy it all and take straight to venue?

percypig Tue 31-Jul-18 23:59:22

As it’s happening in the evening and you’re potentially not opening the buffet till later I don’t think people will come expecting a buffet meal as such. Iwould stick to finger foods (so ditch pasta salad etc) and skip sandwiches, unless the generation of guests means they’ll be appreciated. You could do things on sticks - mozarella ball, olive, sundries tomato, basil, crostini, crackers and cheese, sausage rolls etc. For dessert have things which are cut to serve, eg brownies etc which will take up less room to store and again be easier to eat if people are mingling

waterandlemonjuice Wed 01-Aug-18 00:01:06

I think you need to simplify it, especially given limited prep space

So I would do

Bread rolls, not sandwiches (just open packets at the venue)
Crisps (ditto)
Salad (ditto if you do green, just lettuce and cucumber)
Cherry tomatoes, don't need refrigerating
Cheese board with grapes
Cooked chickens x several - cook night before and refrigerate or get someone else to
Cold sausages and sausage rolls
One type of quiche - vegetarian probably

Then you can add pickles, butter, dressing and paper plates

Agree about one type of cake, one type of fruit.

percypig Wed 01-Aug-18 00:01:55

You could also aim to ‘make’ about half of it yourself and then order the rest from M&S food to order etc and bring it straight there.

AdaColeman Wed 01-Aug-18 00:14:52

Buy ready cooked chicken for your platters.

ScouseQueen Wed 01-Aug-18 00:19:21

If you can manage to budget £300 for this, then I'd look at caterers. I've just paid that amount for a cold buffet for 50, it wasn't even their cheapest menu, and all I have to do is show up and set the food out. Don't put yourself through it. If you're in London I concede it might be different, but it's worth looking.

perhapstomorrow Wed 01-Aug-18 00:20:57

I am doing something very similar this weekend for my dad's 90th. I have same issue as you in that I don't have access to a kitchen at the venue and also have to rely on limited fridge/freezer space. I've the added complication of also ensuring adequate amounts of gluten free and veggie options.

I've decided to do large cheese boards and charcuterie with crackers (including gluten free) and bread. Alongside this I will also have gluten free cocktail sausages, selection of mini quiches (Thanks costco), some chicken appetizers, falafel, dips, criudites, rice salad, Greek salad, coleslaw and a selection of pickles/olives . On the sweeter side I'm doing profiteroles (again Costco for large frozen bags), lemon drizzle squares, gluten free brownies, chocolate dipped meringues and then a big bowl of berries. So far I have spent at least £400 on food and drinks. However, I have no concept of how much food to do so I am starting to panic I may need to do more.

To save on fridge space I will try and store as much as I can in zip lock bags. I also have an hour and a half car journey so everything will be kept on ice for the journey. I am also fortunate to have a camping fridge to help store some food/drinks.

Oh and one other thing. My mum mentioned some older guests may prefer tea and coffee. So I ordered two insulated jugs so I can make them up beforehand.

perhapstomorrow Wed 01-Aug-18 00:27:08

Sorry not sure what happened to my paragraphs. Also, I forgot about one my shops so the figure for food and drink is actually closer to £500!! Eeeek

JustlikeDevon Wed 01-Aug-18 00:34:12

How on earth are you getting it all there?! If it's not far and you have a little team of elves, you can at least have them toing and froing while you finish stuff.
Think about how much of everything people might have. 2 x sandwich triangles plus 1 slice quiche plus 1 chicken piece etc.

bellsbuss Wed 01-Aug-18 00:36:35

For £300 you should be able to get most of it from Costco, sandwich platters are £7 wrap platters are about £11. They have the big bowls of pasta salad , coleslaw, cous cous etc would save you a lot of faff

PickAChew Wed 01-Aug-18 00:41:24

Definitely stick with classic sandwiches. Boil some ham. Then cook anything at all because 60 isn't that old!

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Wed 01-Aug-18 00:58:35

I'm sure I catered a similar size party and budget from Waitrose a couple of years ago!

But if you really must do it yourself: lots of one thing always looks better than tiny bits of one thing, so big tumbling bowls of strawberries will look better and more abundant than fruit platters, for eg. Save some small boxes to build the buffet table up into different levels. See if you can call in big bowls and platters from friends and family (I'm totally a 'volunteerer' myself so would do the cooking or die, but you can ask for dishes!).

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