Budget friendly party menus

Oct 8, 2009 at 6:43 p.m. ET

Parents have been known to go overboard when it comes to supplying food for parties.

Mother cutting homemade birthday cake

By planning ahead, making some items at home, shopping sales and using coupons you can limit spending on this aspect of your child's birthday.

Party timing

First, you must decide if you are going to feed the kids a full meal. If you'd rather not, plan your party in the safe zone: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Be clear on your invitation as to what you will be serving so other parents know. Include a note like "cakes and snacks will be served."

At the store

A budget conscious party plan starts at the market. Make sure you have a clear idea of what you plan to serve and what you need. This helps avoid making unnecessary or impulse buys. Buy in bulk all of the items you will be using most, such as drinks, snacks and paper goods.


If you are planning on doing a whole party spread based on finger foods, there are plenty of snacks you can prepare on a budget. Here are some great low cost snacks:

  • Popcorn
  • Fruit kabobs (grapes, strawberries)
  • Cream cheese filled crescent rolls
  • Apples with peanut butter or caramel dip
  • Vegetables cut into snack size pieces
  • Edamame
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Breadsticks
  • Grapes
  • English muffin pizzas
  • Pigs in a blanket
  • Dried fruit
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Chicken nuggets
  • French fries or sweet potatoes
  • Hamburger sliders
  • Turkey or ham and cheese roll ups
  • Bacon wrapped plums dipped in soy sauce

Hit the bar

Alcohol-free, of course. A fun way to serve up the main dish and encourage the kids to choose what they like is to set up some sort of toppings bar. Think baked potatoes, hot dogs, pasta, tacos and pizza. The kids will enjoy choosing their own toppings, and you will enjoy a lower bill at the end of the party!


If you have the time, consider making your own cake. The web has hundreds of easy to prepare recipes for even a beginning chef. Utilize the myriad of cake pans available to bring your party theme to life.


While you might be able to swap out generic foods for the high-end kind, you may not like the response you get when you do this with drinks. Children especially are very picky when it comes to what kids of juices they drink, so try to find 100% juice, or stick with small, pint sized bottles of water. Punch is always fun and can be prepared without a huge expense.

By paying careful attention to your budget while planning your party, you can enjoy the party without worrying about expenses.

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