How to Save Money on Food for a Birthday Party

Wondering how to save money on a birthday party? Food is at the top of the list.

While we’ve covered general ways to save money when hosting a party, food for a birthday party can put quite a dent in your budget. (Depending on the type of cake you get, that alone can cost upwards of $100.) You might need to spend a bit more time in the kitchen in some cases, but not having to break the bank for a one-day event will make the effort worth it.

Make Your Own Food

how to save money on a birthday party
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Instead of shelling out $100 for a cake, why not bake your own? A box of cake mix costs less than $5. Make a few cakes and decorate them yourself with some icing in a bag. Cupcakes are also a huge hit, and plenty of parties have been centered around people decorating their own dessert. Bake the cupcakes and create an icing /topping bar and let your friends have fun.

Whether the birthday party is for a child or an adult, no one can resist a chocolate cake with icing dripping off of it; in fact, there’s almost something nostalgic about getting a birthday cake or cupcakes like mom used to make.

There are also plenty of snacks and foods you can easily make at home. Some party favorites include deviled eggs, pigs in a blanket, baked potatoes, slow-cooked mini-sausages, and even bowls of pasta. Instead of spending $500 on catering and delivery, you can easily feed your guests for under $100.

Buy Chips and Dip

how to save money on a birthday party
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There’s no rule that says your birthday party must have a proper sit down meal. If you’re not a fan of cooking, fill up the food table with chips, dips, slices of deli meat, cheese cubes, and crackers. For health-conscious guests, add a plate or two of cut veggies and fruit. The clean up is easy too since all the food will already be in separate containers. All you need to do is cover them with plastic wrap and put them away when everyone leaves.

Avoid an All-Day Party

If you have an all-day birthday party, you’ll need to feed people more than once. Instead, have a party in between meals, like between 2 pm and 5 pm. This way, you’re not responsible for providing a meal and your guests will be happy to eat finger foods. Having a definitive end to your event also means that you’ll know exactly how much food to buy and when to shut everything down. This trick is especially helpful if there are lots of young kids attending. Parents will know that they still need to feed their kids a proper meal and not leave it up to you, the party host.

Buy in Bulk

So you’ve decided you’re going to make your own food. Instead of heading to the grocery store, purchase your ingredients and supplies at a wholesale store. Buying food in bulk is always cheaper than buying multiple regular-sized bags of the same stuff.

While you’re wandering around these stores, make sure to pick up extra serving supplies that will make serving and cleanup a snap. Put these items on your list or you’re likely to forget.

how to save money on a birthday party
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  • Disposable plates
    • SMART TIP: People will often overfill their plates and throw out the extra food, so buy medium or small plates. People can always go back for seconds, which is preferable to seeing tons of good food being wasted.
  • Disposable cups
    • SMART TIP: Have a couple of markers next to the cups so that people write their name on the cup they grab and use it for the whole party. Otherwise, they will lose it amidst the sea of other cups and keep grabbing new ones with each refill.
  • Cutlery (if needed)
    • SMART TIP: Focus on what you really need. Combo packs include eqial numbers of forks, knives and spoons, which you won’t likely use. Focus on what you know you’ll need for that party.
  • Napkins
  • Paper towels

Remember, you may have extra supplies at the end of the party. No worries! Pack them up and use them for the next event.

Have a Potluck or BYOF Party

how to save money on a birthday party
Photo: iStock

A great way to save money on food is to have a potluck or BYOF (Bring Your Own Food) birthday party. Make this an easy sell to your guests by throwing an international foods birthday party or Iron Chef party. In other words, create a theme that makes sense for everyone to contribute. Ask people to bring a dish that reflects their culture and background or ask them to bring something they’re particularly proud of. Set up taste testing stations and maybe even have contests. At the end of the day, you’re saving money on food and your guests have fun trying each other’s creations. It’s a win-win.


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