Last month, we went to our neighborhood block party and met a bunch of new families with young children like us. When we first moved into our home six years ago, there were really no young kinds around, but fortunately that’s really started to change in just the few years since we’ve become parents.

At the neighborhood party, a group of us decided that we wanted to start more regular meet ups for those of us with kids so our children would have lots of friends within walking distance as they get older (and so will we!).

We’ve made friends with a number of our neighbors, and there is something extra awesome about just walking down the street to meet up with someone instead of having to take transportation into account. Bonus, if you forgot something, you can just run home for a quick minute!

So I set up our first “parents and kids” neighborhood get together last night at our house to take advantage of the last of the summer weather and our giant sandbox. Our house isn’t exactly huge but our front yard is plenty big for a gathering, so I figured I would host the first night when we wouldn’t have to worry about cramming everyone inside.

More than enough room in our outdoor “living room”

Since I knew I would be cooking for 6-10 adults and a handful of kiddos, I wanted to cook a dinner that I knew most people would enjoy but also wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. I settled on an adaptation of this Cajun red beans and rice recipe. It’s been one of my favorite crock pot meals for years now and one that can easily be scaled up for a larger group.

My sous chef hard at work

Cajun Red Beans and Rice (adapted for 12):

  • 1lb package of dried red beans $1.62
  • 1 can kidney beans $0.89 (or don’t be like me and plan ahead and buy more dried beans)
  • 3 small sweet onions $1.00 bulk (or FREE from the garden)
  • 1 large red bell pepper $2.00
  • 5 small bell peppers $2.50 (or FREE from a coworker’s garden)
  • 32oz organic chicken broth $1.99
  • 5 garlic cloves $0.10 (or FREE from the garden)
  • 3 TBSP* $0.05 Cajun seasoning (I use this recipe)
  • 2lbs hot italian sausage $4.99
  • 1 TBSP olive oil $0.05
  • 8 cups of water
  • 4 cups rice (uncooked) $0.99

*I use a locally smoked paprika and solar evaporated sea salt, which I really think adds extra flavor. I also usually add more than 3 TBSP and go heavier on the red pepper flakes and cayenne, but since I was feeding more people than just our family, I wanted to make sure I didn’t make it too spicy.

Soak the dried beans the night before (I put them straight in the crock pot so I have one less dish to clean). The next morning, add in chopped onions, bell peppers, garlic, chicken broth, and water and cook in crock pot on high for 6 hours.

I then cook up the sausage in the evening about 2 hours before dinner, though you could do this the night before and just add them in closer to the end. I cook the sausage separately in a bit of olive oil so that there isn’t a ton of extra fat in the meal, but it also works well enough to just drop them straight in the crock pot first thing in the morning with the rest of the ingredients. Once the sausage is mostly cooked through, cut up into small pieces and add to the crock pot.

About an hour before eating, add the Cajun seasoning. For whatever reason, the seasoning seems to get diluted the longer it’s in the crock pot, so I find I can use less of it if I put it in near the end. Now cook your rice in a separate pot. When the rice is done, serve red beans and sausage on top of the rice.

We ended up having 8 adults and 6 kids for dinner (4 of the kids were old enough to eat food) and this meal made PLENTY for all of us. I did request that the other families bring something to share, so we had cornbread and veggies and hummus dip to supplement the meal. Even without those adds, though, this would have been more than enough for all of us to have a satisfying meal. There ended up even being enough leftovers for four more generous servings, so I got to have this meal again for lunch today.

Total cost for 16 servings:  $12.58 (or $16.18 if I bought all ingredients from the store).

While I know there are plenty of recipes out there that work out to less than $0.79/serving, it’s a quick and easy way to feed a large group of people without worrying about the cost of the dinner. You could also make it cheaper by leaving out the meat (blasphemy in my house!) or adding in more vegetables. I usually include celery but I didn’t have any and didn’t want to make an extra trip to the store. I love this meal and it’s never any kind of sacrifice to eat it again for lunch the next day 🙂

We pulled out our folding table (that was still covered in dirt from our camping trip two weeks ago) and set up the food buffet style. Everyone served themselves and the adults sat around in folding chairs while the kiddos alternated between eating on our large, foldable picnic blanket and playing in the sandbox and other toys in the front yard.

We all sat around and talked until it started to get dark and cold and the kiddos needed to head off to bed. Everyone packed up their strollers and headed home down the street. Since no one had more than a five minute trip home, we were able to extend the evening until the very end.

Just make sure you have enough shovels for everyone

I had a ton of dishes to do last night since we don’t buy paper plates, but it was worth it to feed everyone and get to know our neighbors a little bit better. While our hosting days are probably limited until the spring, we plan on house hopping to the other ones down the street for monthly gatherings through the fall and winter.

Aftermath the next day

If we get lucky and have another good snowfall this winter though, our street is the place to be for sledding, and we have plans of setting up a hot cocoa table at the top of the hill, taking note from our older neighbors who used to set up a bonfire over the storm drain and have a bar for the adults to keep warm while the kids played in the snow.

Second birthday snow day

17 thoughts on “How To Throw A Block Party For Under $20

  1. the red beans and rice look so good! I so am going to make this recipe. Thanks for the tip about the cajun seasoning. That’s great to score 1st gathering to take advantage of the weather. And that really neat you all can get together. So doesn’t happen in my area. I don’t even know the names of any of my neighbors.

    1. It’s taken time to get to know our neighbors but now that we’ve been here over 6 years we know quite a few. Seems like it takes 2-4 years before you really start getting to know people for whatever reason. And it’s amazing how quick and easy spice mixes are and so much cheaper than the premade kind!

  2. As long as you aren’t opposed to the entire concept of paper plates (just the buying of them), try asking in your local Buy Nothing group. A lot of people have plates, cups, and silverware left with certain themes or from packs of 500 that they just want to get rid of. As long as you don’t care if they match/make sense, they’d likely end up in a landfill anyway. At least they’d be used first, and you’d save some dish washing which saves water and soap. I have a giant pile with some pink, some blue, some princess, and some just old white and boring. I use for our frugal buy-nothing-mustachian-pool-parties. For smaller get togethers or game nights, we always use normal dishes.

  3. Wow, you really proved that entertaining does NOT have to be expensive! And I love red beans and rice – great ideas!

    1. Yeah, entertaining can be one of the most frugal activities out there! And so much fun.

  4. I am impressed that you made 16 servings of food for that price! I want to try some of the creative ideas here.

    1. There’s a reason why “beans and rice” is the term used for super thrifty grocery budgets 😉

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