Friday Night Bar Mitzvah Dinner for 40 People | Menu, Recipes, Paper Good Tips & More

{Oh how I wish I’d thought to take pictures of the food before Shabbat started – alas, my words will have to suffice!}

Today I am continuing my personal Bar Mitzvah on a Budget series by digging deep into my spreadsheets to share with you the details of our hosting 40 people for Shabbat dinner at my son’s recent Bar Mitzvah.

We had about 30 out of town guests join us for my son’s Bar Mitzvah, along with a few local family members. Combined with my family of 5, we were at about 40 for dinner. (In the end, I actually think 38 were seated at dinner, although we were planning for – and cooking for – 40.)

We really “kicked off” my son’s Shabbat Bar Mitzvah on Friday night; he led Kabalat Shabbat and Maariv at our shul – and I really wanted to give him a say in the menu of this celebratory meal. At the same time, we had two vegetarian and one gluten-free guest, so I wanted to keep them in mind with the menu as well.

And my other requirement for the menu was that it be comprised mostly of food that could be cooked in advance and frozen. I really didn’t want to be cooking the week of the Bar Mitzvah. I assumed I’d have enough to do otherwise – and as anyone who has made a big simcha knows, that assumption was definitely right!

In order to keep myself sane with all the cooking, I started really early – the week after Pesach ended – and made one dish per week in large quantities, which I froze. By doing it this way, I never had any stress with the food prep – and I’m very glad for that!

With some compromise and lots of early prep work, I was eventually able to come up with a menu that checked all the boxes — and accomplish my goal of zero cooking the week of the Bar Mitzvah. Huzzah!

Here is what I served…

Challah: I made two large round challot, for my son to make hamotzi over, and then I made about 80 mini challah rolls to put out on each table. The round challot would have been plenty, as I still have about 60 challah rolls left in my freezer (and that’s with serving them at seudah shlishit, too!).

Total cost: Approximately $10, but we have so much left-over that it’s really more like $5!

Wine: We had three bottles of red wine already at home, plus I bought a case of Bartenura at Costco. I way overbought – as we only drank 3.5 total bottles on Friday night!

Total cost for the case: $120, but I’m only allotting $40 to the Bar Mitzvah budget.

First Course: I had a hard time deciding what to serve for the appetizer. After much debate, we agreed on potato bourekas, topped with a mushroom sauce, along with Moroccan carrot salad and purple cabbage salad. These items were all purchased from a local caterer. (If you’re in Cleveland and want a recommendation, hit me up!)

I didn’t want to serve a hot soup – I felt that it would take too long to get 40 bowls of hot soup out to our guests. My son is not a fan of gefilte fish and I ruled out salmon because I thought that was going to be too costly for the number of guests we had. I finally brainstormed the bourekas idea, which my son approved, and then we went with a more Israeli-style salad course to balance things out.

The bourekas were a hit with both adults and children. With 19 kids at our meal, I wanted to be sure that the little ones in particular had a more substantive starter, since I figured a lot of them would slip off to play and miss the main course.

The salads were also excellent, but I could have ordered much less. We really only needed enough for the 20 adults, as very few children ate them.

Cost: $125 for 40 people (could easily have saved $50 by ordering less quantities of salads)

Second course: On Thursday, I prepped all the ingredients for a hearty salad, so that I could just throw everything together in 2 minutes on Friday night. I washed and checked all the lettuce, and then made individual baggies of chopped peppers, sun dried tomatoes, English cucumbers, artichoke hearts, roasted chick peas and sunflower seeds. I made a simple Balsamic  vinaigrette. I brought the salad to the table as I was plating all the dishes for the Main Course, which was served buffet style.

Cost: ~ $10 for 40 people

Main Course

While the bourekas and salad were brought to the tables (we had to very large tables – one for adults, the other for kids), the main course and the dessert course were both served buffet-style.

Brisket – We bought about 18 lbs of brikset from the KC Kosher Coop and close friends offered to smoke it for us (he’s a master smoker!). It was incredible. We had more than enough, so we will definitely be enjoying the leftovers for a few more weeks.

Easy Chicken Rolls for Shabbat

Chicken Roll-Ups – I made tray upon tray of this chicken and really over-estimated how much I’d need. We have so many leftovers that I don’t think I have to make Shabbat lunch until after the chagim! I bought three of the big packages of boneless skinless chicken breasts from Costco and it was definitely too much. One would have been enough. I spent over $100 on this dish but 75% of those costs are really going toward feeding my family post-Bar Mitzvah.

Roasted Potatoes – Purchased from a local caterer, as potatoes don’t freeze well.

Grilled Vegetables, served with Cilantro Pesto – The veggies were purchased from a local caterer as well. They were outstanding – and complimented nicely by my cilantro pesto, which I made ahead on Tuesday. (I don’t really have a recipe for this, but threw the following into a Cuisinart: 2 heads of cilantro, 6 cloves of garlic, extra virgin olive oil and a handful of walnuts. It was delicious!)

Baked Orzo – I was nervous about freezing this, but it worked beautifully! Again, I grossly over-estimated how much we would need, so I still have four pans of orzo in my freezer.

Potato Kugel – My dear, dear neighbor made a potato kugel for our dinner. It was the hit of the night. My dad said it reminded him of his grandmother’s – no doubt they have the same recipe!

Cost: ~ $300 for 40 people, with at least half – if not more – of the food left-over (and re-frozen for future meals for my family).

Dessert Course

I decided to serve small, individual desserts, set out on a dessert buffet. We had:

lemon mousse cups

Lemon Meringue Mousse CupsThis recipe from Overtime Cook was easy to make and froze beautifully. (She calls them lemon cheesecake mousse cups, but I thought they tasted just like lemon meringue pie!) I took them out of the freezer about an hour before dessert and topped them with whipped cream. Delicious and very fancy looking!

Mini Peacn Pie Bites – Of everything I made, these were the most patchkied. My family loves pecan pie, so it was worth it – but I was kinda regretting it during the process. I used this recipe, subbing Earth Balance margarine and Rich’s whip. The dough never really came together for me, but it worked okay once I pressed it into the mini muffin tins.

Buckeyes – Peanut Butter Balls Dipped in Chocolate – I used this recipe, subbing out the butter for Earth Balance margarine. I flash froze them, them put them all in a ziploc bag. They defrosted in about an hour and looked great on the buffet.

Fruit platter with strawberries, cherries and grapes (cut into small clusters, so guests could easily grab one or two).

I decided not to serve tea or coffee. It was 10:45 pm by this point and we were all tired!

Cost: $35 for 40 people

Tables & Chairs

Seating 40 people is no easy feat in our home. We are lucky to have our dining room flow right into our living room, so we removed all the furniture (minus our piano and some bookshelves) from the living room and set up the space as a large dining room.

My dining room table can seat 16 — if you don’t mind being extra close. I added our kitchen table at the end to get in a few more chairs. Then I borrowed a number of tables and chairs from a local gamach. I was able to borrow 5 banquet tables (the super sturdy kind – not the kind that fold in half) and 35 chairs. This was more than enough with my 10 folding chairs plus 6 dining room chairs. For my local Cleveland readers: I was super happy with the gamach, so please feel free to hit me up for a recommendation on that!

I pushed two long banquet tables together to seat the kids, and then used a third table for the buffet. Our dining room set has a sideboard, which I used for the dessert buffet. (The additional borrowed tables and chairs were also used for our seudah shlishit, where we had about 80 people.)

Total cost: $18 contribution to the Gamach 

Paper Goods, Serving Pieces & More

I made a master list of all the paper goods I would need throughout the weekend and then set out to find the best prices.

For Friday night, I decided to buy the higher end plates (Masterpiece), cups and silverware (Reflections) from Costco – which had the best prices I could find on all of these items. The cups were on sale in early June, which suited me just fine!

With 40 guests, I ended up buying two sets of plates (each set served 25) and 2 sets of silverware (each set served 40), and had plenty left over.

As for table cloths, I used two overlapping polyester “linen” table cloths for the adult table. They aren’t the fanciest, but I ironed them (first time I’ve ironed a tablecloth in 20 years!) and with the flowers on the table, they looked just fine.

I also purchased white paper disposable table cloths for the kids’ and buffet tables. I bought a case of 25, so they worked out to be around $1 per table – a great price. I knew I’d need at least 8 or 9 table cloths for seudah shlishit, so this worked out less than getting them at Target. (I don’t like the plastic ones from the Dollar Tree – although those would have been the cheapest.)

The table cloths, along with a lot of our paper goods for the weekend, came from the Webstaurant Store. I shopped around a lot, and for the items that I needed, they had the best prices and selection. The downside is that they don’t offer free shipping, which is a bummer.

If you only need a few items, it’s probably not worth it to buy from them. Even if the prices are higher locally, with the shipping factored in, you will probably be better off buying in a brick and mortar store. (Side note: I stopped in at an Amazing Savings on a recent trip and noticed that the prices were only slightly higher than what I paid at the Webstaurant Store – if you have that option, I’d recommend just doing that.)

Other disposable items that I purchased for Friday night dinner include:

  • 5-oz wine glasses, also from Webstraunt Store
  • 5-oz mousse cups from a local store (Blum’s)
  • Mini spoons for the mousse cups – Dollar Tree
  • Mini shot glasses for kiddush (and shots) – Dollar Tree
  • Colorful dinner napkins – Target
  • Colorful dessert napkins – Dollar Tree
  • Clear dessert plates – Gordon Food Service (a restaurant supply store that doesn’t require membership)
  • Clear plastic bowls to serve salads during appetizer course – Webstaurant Store
  • Tiny tongs – for the fruit platter, and again on the candy table at his party on Sunday – Webstaurant Store
  • Kleenex Hand Towels – with 40 people coming to dinner (and 80 to seudah shlishit), I thought using regular hand towels for netilat yadiim (and even just in the bathroom) was going to be a ch

I also used my own real (i.e. not paper/plastic) serving pieces, and borrowed a few more from friends, for the buffet.

Total cost: ~ $100 (It’s hard to pinpoint the amount exactly, because a lot of the items were used at other meals, too, so this is an estimate.)

Center Pieces

I borrowed vases from a friend, although I later found out that Dollar Tree sells a very nice cylindrical vase for just $1 each! You can add ribbon with a hot glue gun or double sided tape if you want to dress it up.

Trader Joe’s has the best prices on flowers in my area and you can order them in advance. Although they don’t guarantee colors, I was able to get all white – which is what I was hoping for. I ordered a combination of roses and hydrangeas. Then I filled the vases with these royal blue gel beads before putting in the flowers. (The “colors” for the Bar Mitzvah were royal blue, white and gold.)

Note: If you’ve never used the beads before, put about a tablespoon full of beads into the vase, then fill 2/3rds of the vase with water. It will take about 6 hours for the beads to fully expand.

I had seven vases at dinner and another seven at lunch – and I only used about half the bag of beads. For all of the the fresh cut flowers, I spent $70, including tax, at Trader Joe’s.

Total Cost: $37.50 for dinner

As I mentioned the other day, my total budget for this meal was $700, and I spent every penny I budgeted plus a few more (I went $17 over budget). However, we have so much food left over – my freezer is packed! – that I won’t have to shop for Shabbat meals for at least a month. I’m not changing our total amount spent on this meal, but the reality is, it will definitely save us on groceries over the coming weeks.

Disclosure: I am not an affiliate of the Webstaurant Store. I have no material benefit from you ordering from them (or not!). I’m sharing the links because I found that site to have the best prices and selection for what I needed. There are one or two Amazon links in this post, and – as you know – I am an affiliate of Amazon, which means I do receive a small commission if you choose to purchase from them. Thank you for supporting KOAB in this manner! Learn more in my Disclosure Statement


  1. I have , m’h, 9 months until bar mitzvah. Do you have your entire bar mitzvah series in one file that could be easily sent? I love the issues that I have seen but am concerned that I might have missed some. And L would love to have the whole series together.
    thank you

    • Elana – I’m still writing it – so far I’ve only written. Three posts. I think I have three or four more. Once I finish I will do one post with links to all of them.

  2. Do you have an article where you detailed how you practically heated everything up?

Leave a Comment