10 Ways to Save on your Party Food Budget

ways to save on party catering

It is a wonderful privilege to celebrate the special moments in life. Hosting a party for your family and friends is the perfect way to do just that. And whilst parties are a whole lot of fun and an exciting way to celebrate our life, they can be a real strain on the hip pocket.

In particular, party catering is usually one of the biggest expenses when hosting a party. Party food is often a big concern for party hosts - who tend to stress over what to feed their hungry friends and family, especially if they are catering for a large group.

Remember that nobody is going to expect a-la-carte, so to simplify things, if you’ve got something savoury, something sweet, possibly some fruit, and a birthday cake, then you’re all sorted.

Don't fret just yet! There are ways to save on your party food, and in this article we will show you how.

1. DIY

The simplest tip to saving money on party food, is to make it all yourself. Yes, it sounds like a lot of work, and it some cases it is, but it will save you a bucket load of cash. And if you can make everything completely from scratch, you'll get the most bang for your buck.

2. Plan Ahead

If you begin to plan your party food early enough, you can keep the costs low by purchasing your ingredients whenever they come on sale. Planning your menu early will also help you to spend less when you're shopping for your party, by avoiding impulse purchases. 

By choosing meals and/or snacks that you can prepare early and freeze ahead of time, you can also save yourself from any last-minute panic. 

By planning and preparing food ahead of time, you can have your freezer, fridge and pantry full of food ready to go. Most party food can be made a couple of days, sometimes several weeks, in advance.

cheap party food ideas

3. Event Time

You can save money on your party catering, by hosting your party at a certain time. By holding the celebration in-between meal times, you can avoid serving a full meal, and serving snacks only, which are much cheaper.

If you plan to serve snacks and cake only, hold your party two hours before or one hour after traditional meal times, so your guests won't arrive or go home hungry. After lunch or before dinner can be a good time to party, when guests don't expect a full meal. Perhaps plan your party to run between 2pm and 5pm.

If you do actually wish to serve a meal, your best option may be a luncheon. A lunchtime meal will most likely be less costly than a dinnertime meal. Lunch can consist of simple sandwiches or sausage rolls, which are fairly inexpensive. 

Another consideration? People tend to eat and drink more at night than in the day, which may impact on your party timing.

how to save money on party food

4. Dine on the Cheap

If you choose to serve dinner at your party, you can save your hard-earned dollars by cooking your own simple meals, and choosing recipes that can be made in bulk. These are best served in a buffet setting. Some examples include:

Pasta Bar (consisting of several different sauces/dressings)
Taco Bar
Baked potatoes/Chips/Wedges with several topppings
Potato bake
Rice Salads

You will spend less on meals by choosing simple recipes with few ingredients. 

5. Bake the Cake

The best way to save on the party cake is to bake and decorate it yourself. It doesn't have to be a big deal; simply decorate as best as you can given your budget and time allowance. Your local supermarket should stock everything you require for a lovely DIY cake. If a full-size cake is too challenging for you, consider baking and decorating cupcakes instead. 

When baking your own cake, you can bake it ahead of time and freeze it un-iced. Simply allow the cake to cool, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place it flat in the freezer. You can stack cakes in the freezer in this way, individually wrapped. When you are ready to decorate, remove from the freezer and decorate it while it defrosts. 

Don't want to bake the cake yourself? Your next best option is to purchase a cake from your local supermarket. Some of these are really delicious and nicely decorated too. They're also much cheaper than a custom-made bakery cake. 

If you really want a professionally-decorated cake, opt for a smaller one to save on costs and supplement it with homemade or supermarket cakes or cupcakes. 

how to do cheap party food

6. Lose the Loot

When hosting a kids' party, a big expense can be the loot or lolly bags. Even if you add only a couple of lollies and a cheap toy in each bag, these cost adds up. 

You can save money in this area by omitting the traditional loot bags and create a rare memento instead. Have the kids create something at the party that they can take home with them, print out colouring pages or placemats as favours, or take a photo of each child for them to keep.

7. Ask for and Accept Help

If family members or friends are able to help with the cake, or bringing a dish or two, by all means receive the assistance! The help will not only lighten your catering budget, but it will help to lift some of the responsibility off your shoulders.

how to DIY party catering on a budget

8. Mini Makes

If party guests are served finger foods such as sandwiches, pastries and burgers in a regular size, they will tend to become full very quickly. But, they usually continue to eat and end up just eating for the sake of it (purely because the food is there!) This results in wasted food and a waste of your hard-earned cash.

By serving food in bite size, guests will be less likely to over indulge, so you won't need to serve quite as much food, thus saving you money. 

9. More Equals Less

By serving a variety of food options, your guests will be more prone to trying a bit of everything. Hence, they will likely eat less of each variety and be happier with smaller portions. When your guests eat less, you will save money.

10. BYO

Alcohol can be a party budget killer. Most party guests will not mind at all if they are asked to bring their own alcoholic drinks, and by not providing any alcohol, you can save a packet as party host.

If you feel too stingy by not serving any alcohol, consider providing just a bare minimum of low-cost beer and wine, and ask guests to bring their own spirits, cocktails and other mixed drinks. 

We hope that these tips will help you to save some dollars on your party food! Let us know how you go with it by leaving a comment below.

Happy Partying and Money Saving!

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