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Host a Super Bowl party for 12 for $20

January 21, 2009

Last week I challenged myself to come up with a Super Bowl party menu for 12 people that would cost $20 or less (not counting alcohol). I wanted a menu that I could serve to my friends, and one that didn’t take my whole Sunday to prepare.

And … I did it! My sister says I cheated because I already had basic staples on hand—vanilla, cocoa, sugar etc.—for the brownie frosting. She is correct that if I had to buy these ingredients, I would have gone over my $20 goal; however, I counted just the amount I used of each ingredient.

Here’s the quick, fun and EASY menu I settled on: popcorn with toppings, chili and crackers, carrot and celery sticks, and brownies w/frosting

Popcorn with toppings
Make popcorn the ‘old-fashioned’ way! One 32-ounce bag of popcorn will make about 6 gallons of popped corn. When popping corn, use a 1 to 4 ratio of oil to popcorn in a large heavy pan with a lid and a handle. Examples of 1 to 4 ratios are 2 tablespoons of cooking oil for 8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup popcorn, 1.3 tablespoons oil to 1/3 cup popcorn.

To find out how much popcorn your pan holds, pour dry popcorn into the pan to make a single layer of popcorn, then pour the popcorn back into a measuring cup.
Put the oil in the pan, put in 2-3 kernels and when they sizzle and spin around, add the rest of the popcorn and the lid. Cook, shaking constantly until the popping stops. Remove immediately.
When you cook the corn on top of the stove with oil, salt and other seasonings will stick to the popped corn without additional margarine or butter. Lay out seasoned salt, Parmesan cheese, oregano, curry, garlic salt, etc. and let your guests experiment.  Get the instructions for popping corn and more topping ideas.


1 1/2 pounds ground beef 2 (16-ounce) cans chili beans, drained
3 stalks celery, diced 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained
2 large onions, diced 1 tablespoon ground cumin, optional
2 cloves garlic, minced 2 tablespoons chili powder
1 (29-ounce) can tomato sauce 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 (28-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups water

Brown ground beef, celery, onions and garlic together. Rinse and put in crock pot with rest of ingredients. Cook on low 8 hours. Stir occasionally.

Carrot and celery sticks

  • 2 pounds whole carrots
  • 1 bunch celery

Clean. Cut into strips.

Yum! Prepare brownies according to package directions, and frost with this quick chocolate frosting recipe:

  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt margarine over a low heat. Gradually beat in cocoa, sugar, milk and vanilla, mix well. Spread on brownies.

There it is …  how to throw a party for 12 people for $20! Check out my full Super Bowl party menu, recipes, and costs. Tell us how you would change the menu for your party, or share your ideas for entertaining on a budget.

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Showing 8 comments

  1. I like your menu. You can reduce your cost a little more by using a bag of 15 bean soup mix (beans only) instead of multiple cans of beans.

  2. What a great idea and menu. I struggle with liking to entertain but then it always ends up costing a fortune. I’ve never tried popcorn on the stove but I may give it a shot. Thanks for the tips.

  3. I would skip the celery and crackers and frosting just to have enough money for chips and salsa. Buy the Hot salsa and it will go a long way and I like to crumble the chips in my chili instead of crackers anyway.

  4. Great low cost menu ideas. I never do understand why people serve things like shrimp cocktail at parties, when there are so many other options that are tastier and much lower cost!

    I don’t have a recipe, but last time I had a house warming party, I made little sandwiches with some rolls that I got at Costco- instead of filling them with pricey ingredients, I made a giant frittata (kind of like a baked/broiled omelet- my Cuban husband calls it a torta) with eggs, a bit of milk, a little cheese and lots of veggies (I don’t remember which ones- just sautee up anything that’s colorful and on sale!) I sliced the rolls in half, toasted them, and cut the frittata into small squares to used that as the sandwich filling. When they were cut and arranged on a platter, they looked fancy and tasted great. There were filling, tasty and the best part– cheap! It did take a little time, but it was worth it, as I didn’t need to serve much else!

  5. What a great idea!! I love to much on celery sticks: another great topping is cream cheese and green olives. Mix a small can of drained chopped olives with a package of cream cheese. Top celery sticks. Enjoy!!