It’s Family Reunion season! This is truly my favorite time of year. Getting together with the ENTIRE family is always fun and exciting, but planning the meals can be very stressful. We are here to make it easy for you with The Ultimate Family Reunion Meal Planning Guide!
I have created a list of our favorite family reunion food ideas with some handy tips included. The key to a successful family reunion is all in the planning and getting as much as humanly possible done BEFORE the reunion begins. Whether you have a family of 10 or a family of 100, you should be able to find at least a meal or two that will work for you! Cooking for a large group doesn’t HAVE to be (and shouldn’t be) crazy stressful– you can do it!
Family Reunion Meal Planning Tips
Before we get started on the family reunion recipes here are some helpful tips to get you started:
Divide Up the Meals/Responsibilities.
There are endless ways to divvy up meals and responsibilities. Many times, if you are at a reunion with multiple families, the most convenient way to divide thing up it to have each family take a day (or a meal). That family should be in charge of not only the meal but also for clean-up for that meal. Make expectations clear as soon as possible so there is no confusion. Also, let each other know what you are making for your meals so there are no repeats. Feel free to share how your family shares meal responsibilities at reunions (no really, I would like to know)!
Know what will be available to you.
How much kitchen space will you be working with? Are dishes provided? What about pots/pans/and cooking utensils? Is there a dishwasher? Is there enough cupboard/pantry space for everyone’s stuff? Will they be large enough for the amount of food you are wanting to cook? These are all things you will definitely want to know before you get there. Try to get a detailed run-down of what will be available to you before you even book your accommodations. Many rental places will even provide a detailed inventory if you ask!
Prepare meat (or even entire meals) ahead of time.
As I mentioned earlier– when preparing food for a large group, you will want to prepare as much as you can ahead of time. Ground beef, shredded beef, and shredded chicken (or even pork) are SUPER easy to do ahead of time. You can get these things all pre-prepared days (or weeks) ahead of time and freeze them until your reunion starts.
Keep Refrigerated Ingredients at a Minimum.
By this I mean don’t plan meals that will require a lot of ingredients to be refrigerated until the day of your meal. If you are sharing one large cabin with the entire family, chances are there won’t be a whole lot of refrigerator space. Be mindful of what others in the family will be preparing and have an idea of how much fridge space everyone will need. The less you can refrigerate the better.
Buy in Bulk.
This one is kind of obvious but I’m not talking “bulk” according to normal grocery store standards. Try to find a restaurant supply or food service store that has those BIG ol’ cans of stuff (Chili, Nacho Cheese.. etc..). The place we have here in Boise is called “Cash & Carry” and they are a dream come true for planning meals for large groups. If you don’t have a restaurant supply store near you, Costco or Sam’s Club will probably have what you need, too.
Consider Food Allergies.
Don’t make things awkward come mealtime for a family member with food allergies. Be prepared! Call the person ahead of time to let them know what you are making and ask them how they would like to be accommodated. It really isn’t that hard to accommodate for allergies now-a-days. I guarantee your thoughtfulness will be appreciated!
Cut Down on Dishes Any Way You Can.
I know this isn’t the most “environmentally friendly” advice but cleaning 50 people’s dishes at a reunion when you are wanting to spend time with family is never fun. Opt for paper or plastic goods and have trash bags readily available to encourage everyone to throw their stuff away when they are done. To cut down on excess, bring plastic cups and have everyone write their name on their own cup and have them re-use that same cup all week. That way you aren’t unnecessarily using up hundreds of cups and wondering whose cup is whose. You can also cut down on dishes by preparing as much as you can ahead of time (see #3).
Family Reunion Meal Ideas
Now that you have read all of my Family Reunion Meal Planning Tips, here are some recipes that are perfect for reunions or large groups. I have included tips with most of the recipes on how to make it for a crowd of 20 adults– you can use that as a baseline to decide how to alter the recipes to your group size.
These breakfast recipes are perfect for family reunions. Depending on which recipe you would like to do, you can prepare your breakfast days ahead of time, the night before, or whip it up quickly the morning of. To help all of these breakfasts go further, include fruit and/or toast (or some kind of carb) in addition to the meal below.
- Omelets in a Bag: This is one is ALWAYS a crowd favorite. Get a bunch of plastic baggies and have everyone make their OWN breakfast! Depending on how many people you are feeding, you may want to make sure you have access to a very large stock pot so you can fit lots and lots of bag omelets in at one time. Have each family member write their name on their bag with a permanent marker so everyone will be able to tell theirs apart from everyone else. Have all the ingredients ready ahead or time (cheese shressed, ham chopped.. etc..) to make things even easier.
- Strawberries & Cream French Toast: This one is SUPER easy to prepare the night before and doesn’t require a whole lot of ingredients. Plan for each serving to be one full French toast. You can usually fit 7-8 French toasts in each 9×13 pan so plan on bringing about three 9×13 dishes if you are wanting to serve 20 people. You should be able to fit ALL of the pans in one standard-sized oven at one time (you may just need to increase cooking time a little bit).
- Breakfast Freezer Sandwiches: This is my very favorite make-ahead breakfast because you can make it several WEEKS ahead if you would like! This recipe is for “turkey sausage” freezer sandwiches but if you want to switch out the turkey sausage for regular sausage patties, feel free to do so! It might actually make things even quicker when trying to pre-prepare. This recipe makes 24 breakfast sandwiches so you don’t need to change a thing when making for 20 people!
- Peaches and Cream Cinnamon Rolls: These can be made a night ahead or if you would like, you can make them up completely (without frosting) and freeze them days before. You can re-heat them in the oven for a few minutes before serving. You can pre-make the frosting to put over the top as well! If you want to make a night or two before (to make them more fresh), prepare as usual but cover and refrigerate before rising the last time. Allow to rise an hour or two before cooking before putting in the oven to bake. Each pan makes about 12 rolls so you will want to make 2 pans to feed 20 people.
- California Breakfast Casserole: This is a great one to prepare the night before, as well. This tends to serve about 10-12 people per pan. To make this for 20 people, you will want to make at least 2 pans. This one takes a while to bake (up to an hour) so keep that in mind when preparing for hungry family members (you may want to wake up a little early to pop them in the oven).
Wraps and large sandwiches that you can prepare and slice are the way to go for family reunion lunches. Making individual sandwiches take WAY too long and require too many people in the kitchen. You want something quick that your hungry family members can grab and go so you can get on with your family reunion activities.
- Ham & Pineapple Wraps: These can be made earlier in the day and be stored in an air-tight container or bag for later. You can cut them into pinwheels or serve by slicing in half. These are especially great if you are planning to do a family lunch at the park or lake. An easy, on-the-go lunch for your busy family reunion schedule! Makes 8-10 (depending on the size of wrap you use) wraps so you will want to double or 1.5x this recipe for a group of 20.
- Turkey Over Italy Sandwich: This recipe calls for the sandwich to be served on Foccacia bread but when I make this for a family reunion or crowd I will make it on French bread (the big loaf you can find fresh daily at the grocery store). This one is definitely a crowd-pleaser because the flavor is fantastic! It is also a great one to prepare ahead of time (minus the condiments/vinegar) and take with you on a picnic. Just wrap it in plastic wrap and slice it when you get to your destination. Plan on doing about 1 Lb. of deli turkey per sandwich and toppings as you see fit (we like to pile the toppings on). To feed 20 with this recipe you will want to quadruple the recipe (so 4 French Bread loaves).
- Fresh Tomato Basil Pasta: This is another great make-ahead recipe. I like to prepare this the night before and toss it with spaghetti noodles then put in bags and refrigerate. I like this pasta served best COLD or at room temperature. If you pull it out the next day and it seems a little dry, just toss it with a little more olive oil and vinegar and you will be set. I usually do 1 Lb. of spaghetti per recipe so if you are wanting to serve 20 as a main dish, I would suggest quadrupling the recipe.
- Chicken Salad Sandwiches: Earlier I had mentioned to not make individual sandwiches, this is the exception because you can make up the chicken salad mix and put the mixture on each sandwich and boom, you’re done. If you are using large croissants, I suggest HALF of a sandwich being a serving (a whole sandwich would be HUGE) but it is up to you. This recipe makes 6-8 sandwiches if making into a croissant sandwich or wrap so I suggest tripling or quadrupling this recipe if feeding 20, depending on how big of eaters you have.
- Chicken Caesar Wraps: I love these wraps for family reunions because you can cook and dice the chicken ahead of time (refrigerate after dicing) and when it comes time to serve, you toss everything in a big bowl, scoop it, and wrap it. Lunch will be ready in 5 minutes. This recipe is for a small batch so you will want to 8-10x the recipe… which is really easy to do.
The family reunion meal that seems to give everyone the most anxiety is DINNER. After a long day of activities and fun, there is a lot of pressure to make a delicious dinner that everyone will love! Here are our favorite dinner ideas for a large group:
- Tacos in a Bag (aka Walking Tacos): These are perfect for a large group or family reunion.. and the best thing about it (well, two things actually) is 1. Everyone can make their own to their liking 2. NO clean-up! Not even plates or bowls! You use the bag as your “dish” and you are only dirtying a fork (and if you use plastic forks, even better)! These are always a HUGE hit, even with the kids. Prepare all the “toppings” and even the beef ahead of time to make things even easier! 1 lb. of beef in this recipe will serve 6, so if making for 20 people aim for about 3-4x what the recipe calls for.
- Cajun Grilled Foil Packets: This is another great one if you are looking for easy clean-up. Prepare what you can ahead of time and have everyone create their own foil packet. This works great for a “camping” reunion or a cabin with a fire pit. Keep in mind, these may take a while to cook through so have everyone start making their packets about an hour before you are wanting to eat. Have each person write their name with a permanent marker on their packets so they can find their own packet easily when it comes off the fire. You will want to 5x this recipe to serve 20 people.
- Mexican Shredded Beef: This is one we had this all the time growing up. Every family reunion. Always. Our mom would cook up the meat a day or two ahead of time and freeze it and then thaw and heat the day of the meal. We would just need to bring the shredded beef, toppings, and tortilla shells and we were set. SO EASY (and oh man these taste so good after a hard day of playing with the fam)! You can read more about it on the actual recipe. If making for 20 people, you will want to triple the recipe.
- Mom’s Cheater Chili: This chili is awesome when making for a big crowd. You can easily use the huge restaurant-sized cans in place of the smaller cans (just switch out straight across). If using the large cans, you will probably want to use 5-7 Lbs. of ground beef and about 4-5 onions. This will actually serve 30-40 people so if you are aiming for 20 people, 3-4x the original recipe. You can make this ahead of time and freeze in freezer bags or just cook the meat and onions ahead of time and leave everything else in the cans– totally up to you depending on how you want to transport it all if making ahead.
- Cafe Rio Salads: This is one that MANY people have used our recipe for to feed a large crowd (see the comments section of this recipe and you will see what I am talking about) and I am getting e-mails all the time on how to double and triple it. So let me break it down for you right here and right now. For a group of 20 you will want to 4x the sweet pork (make things easy on yourself and make and shred the pork ahead of time– it freezes great), 3-4x the rice, 5x the beans, 2-3x the dressing and get the same number of tortillas as people eating. Plan on about 2 c. of lettuce per salad (so about 40 c. if you are making for 20 people). I would say get 3 Costco-sized bags of the chopped Romaine and you should be fine.
More Recipes for a Crowd
Here are some more recipes that are easy to prepare for a large crowd. They are also pictured in the “Dinner” collage above.
- Homemade Sloppy Joes: Prepare meat ahead of time and freeze! Super easy family reunion meal. 2 1/2 times this recipe to make 20 servings.
- Meatball Stroganoff: Make your life easy and buy some pre-made meatballs in bulk. Prepare the sauce a day or two ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to use! 3x this recipe for 20 people.
- Pasta Sausage Bake: You can completely make this ahead of time and freeze in disposable foil pans. Thaw and keep the lid on and bake (checking after the specified time on the recipe and cooking longer if needed to heat through) — 3x for 20 people.
- Crock Pot Lasagna: 2x for 20 people – a great “same day” meal. Prep hours ahead and have dinner cooking while you play!
- Hawaiian Haystacks: Prep all the “toppings” ahead of time. You can even cook the rice early and keep in disposable foil pans, refrigerate, and heat in the oven, keeping the lid on, when needed. 4x for 20 people. See our post on How to Cook Rice for a Crowd (Easy Oven Method).
Some family reunion dinners (or lunches) you may just want to cook burgers and hot dogs or something quick on the grill, which is great! Some families like doing meals like this “potluck” style– so if you are looking for a side dish, pasta salad, or something to go well with your “grill” dinner, here are some great recipes that will feed a crowd:
Side Dish Recipes
Please note: For ALL of these Side Dish recipes below, if it is the ONLY side dish being served you will want to double the recipe. If there will be several sides, you will want to make the recipe as-is and it should easily feed 20 people.
- Chopped Broccoli Salad: This salad is quick to whip up and can be made up to a day ahead of time. If this is the ONLY side dish being served you will actually want to triple this recipe.
- Mom’s Home-style Potato Salad: This is made at every. single. family BBQ that we do because it is ALWAYS in demand and it ALWAYS gets polished. When making for a family reunion, this can easily be made a day or two ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to serve (if it seems too dry when it comes time to serve, just add a splash of milk).
- Pizza Pasta Salad: This is another great one that you can make ahead of time and that everyone will LOVE!
- Chopped Cabbage Salad (aka Pai Mai): Cook up the chicken for this a day or so ahead of time and prepare the rest easily the day of!
- Traditional Macaroni Salad: You can also make this a day or two early and refrigerate until ready to serve (it actually tastes BEST if you do)!
At our family reunions, we usually include a “snack” that someone will be in charge of each day. Something for the kiddos to munch on mid-day when they get “snacky”. Here are some great ideas for some easy family reunion snacks that ALL ages will love!
- 5-Minute Creamy Corn Dip: This can literally be thrown together in 5 minutes so if you want to make it last-minute, that is totally fine. This will also taste great if made a day ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to use. If making for 20 people and you are just throwing it out on the table for people to snack on, you will want to double the recipe.
- Easy Fruit Dip: This is a great snack (along with accompanying fruit) for family reunions. We like to make this up ahead of time and serve as a mid-morning snack for the kids (adults love it too). Triple this recipe if serving 20 (and get LOTS of fruit)!
- 5-Minute Microwave Rice Krispie Treats: This one only takes 3 ingredients.. so it is a GREAT snack to make. Yet another one you can make ahead of time or if you don’t feel like making them and trying to store them until the family reunion, just make it once you get there. It doesn’t take long at all so you won’t be spending too much time away from family. Double this recipe for 24 servings.
- 5-Minute Slushies: Ok, this one is just FUN (we have a quick 30-second video to show you how to make them). It is great for kids AND adults. Especially on those HOT days! The kids will have fun making their own and you don’t even have to dirty cups if you don’t want to. You can eat them right out of the bag with a spoon! Have several different flavors available and let everyone choose their favorite! To make 20, have about 1 gallon of juice.
- Almond Joy Chex Mix: This is a great snack to make a day or two ahead (and oh man, is it TASTY)! Double the recipe for 20 servings.
Whether you are looking for family reunion desserts or desserts for a large group– we have EXACTLY what you are looking for.
- Crock Pot Peach Crisp: This is one of my favorite desserts (especially when served with ice cream). So TASTY! A few hours ahead of time just dump everything in the slow cooker and you are DONE! For 20 servings, double this recipe.
- Patriotic Poke Cake: If you are having a family reunion over the Fourth of July, this is definitely the dessert you will want to make. It is so festive! You can get away with making 20 SMALL servings but if you have dessert lovers, you will want to double this recipe!
- Slow Cooker Molten Chocolate and Caramel Cake: If there are chocolate lovers at your family reunion, you will get major points if you make this rich and chocolate-y dessert. If serving 20, you will want to double this recipe (unless everyone just wants a tiny bit… which I promise people will want more than just a little scoop). Serve with vanilla ice cream and you won’t be sorry!
- Raspberry Lemon Cake: This is another light and refreshing dessert that everyone will love. It is SO easy and can be made a day in advance. Double this recipe if serving 20.
- Four Layer Banana Pudding: This dessert is RICH. So rich, in fact, that you won’t have to double the recipe — just make it as it is and you will be able to serve 20. Make things easier on yourself by making a day or two ahead of time!
Share YOUR Family Reunion Meal Ideas!
So there you have it! The ULTIMATE Family Reunion Meal Planning Guide. Please feel free to share your OWN suggestions on how YOU plan for YOUR family reunions. We would love to hear your ideas! Also, feel free to also write comments below if you have any questions, we, or other readers, will do our best to help you out.
Feel free to SHARE this list with friends and family. Good luck with your upcoming reunion and have FUN (without the stress of planning reunion meals)!