Throwing a birthday party for your child, but feel overwhelmed when it comes to feeding everyone? You might be thinking what are we going to eat? How much should I make? What should I buy? How much is this going to cost? These are all valid questions that can stress a person out when thinking about how to plan a birthday party menu. Believe me I have been there!
The first time I threw a birthday party for my little guy I spent so much time making sure everything was perfect. I was a frazzled mess as guest were arriving because I didn’t have all the food ready. Things had taken me longer to prepare than I had thought they would. There were some utensil items I had not thought of that people would need for their beverages. Overall there was too much food, some of it people hardly touched. However, I ran out of the simplest things like chips. For someone who calls herself a planner I felt far from it!
All you want to do is throw the perfect party to celebrate your special child turning a year older. In addition, you want your guests to have a great time and eat great food and drinks. The food and drink can end up being one of the most important parts of the party. Learn from my mistakes and follow these tips below to plan a birthday party menu your guests will love!
Start to Plan the Birthday Party Menu Early
One way to avoid some stress when planning a birthday party menu is to start thinking about it early. I have found that starting the planning process early has saved me tons of time and money. Furthermore, it puts me in a good place mentally as the party is approaching. I usually start thinking about the party menu 2-3 months in advance.
Reasons to Plan Menu Early:
- Able to consider many options and ideas
- Have time to shop around for deals
- Save money by waiting to get food/drink items on sale
- Get honorary birthday person excited about the party menu
- Time to get extra things together
- Relieve procrastination stress
Things to Consider When Planning the Party Menu
When you start to think about and plan your party food and drink here are some things to consider:
- What is the theme of your party? Do you want your food and drink items to go along with your theme? Maybe some but not others? Personally, I do not stress about making all the food to go with my theme. I would rather serve our favorite foods.
- Think about how many people will be coming to your party. A ballpark figure is ok as no way of knowing your exact numbers this far out.
- Does the guest of honor have any favorite food items or drinks that they would like to have? It can be fun to share their favorites with others on their special day.
- Think about the guests that are coming. If there will be lots of kids you should have some kid friendly foods and drinks. I am one that likes to please my guests so if a few of them have a favorite food items I make I might make them if it works. Also, if I know that several of my guests drink a certain kind of beverage I will make sure to have that kind. It is good to have a variety of food and drink so there is something for everyone.
- What time of day is your party? Will you have a lot of time beforehand to food prep or will you have to do more cold foods and have them ready in the fridge, use crock pots, etc. I suggest not having a lot of foods that require a lot of prep right at the end (when the party is about to start). Also, it is difficult to have lots of foods that need to bake in the oven at the same time, require a lot of stirring, checking on, etc. The final minutes before a party starts is stressful enough and you don’t need any extra stress because of your food menu choices.
- What plates, napkins, cutlery, and cups will you use? I like to eliminate as much mess and clean up afterwards as possible so I use all disposable items. I always check my supply leftover from a previous event to see if I need to get more. Then I ask myself if I want any of these items to match my theme. If you are having cake or a dessert some smaller plates will be needed as well in addition to 2 forks for each person. I always like to get a large high quality plate as want a sturdy plate if I am having anything juicy or watery.
Making Birthday Party Menu Decisions
When you are compiling the party menu break out your list into 3 sections.
Definite Menu Items
Make a list of items you know you want to serve for sure. You can begin to shop for these items in advance when they are on sale (if they are non perishable of course).
Potential Menu Items
Next, make a list of menu items that you might be serving. An item could be on the maybe list because you are waiting to see how many guests are coming for how much food you need. Another reason could be a guest maybe bringing this item, but you are not sure if they are coming or not. As the party gets closer the potential menu items can get crossed off or added to a different part of the menu list.
Menu Items Others Will Bring
Finally, think about what you want others to bring if they ask. To all my family parties we each bring a food item to help the host. Usually we ask them what they would like for us to bring. So I make a list of things I want people to bring if we have a favorite item they make. Then I make a list of things that I want to have on the menu that others can bring. Be sure to include a variety as guests have all types of skills and time when it comes to food preparation. This way I am ready to answer when they ask.
Tasks to Complete Once the Birthday Party Menu is Set
Once you have your menu set and your numbers are close to finalization there are other items to complete to plan a birthday party menu. Work on the following tasks to ensure your menu is ready for party day!
Place Any Orders
Call and order anything you are having a store, restaurant or baker make for you. Before you call have the following details ready:
- When you want the item ready
- Ask about the cost of the item and options
- When you will come pick up the item
- Ask if you need to return anything back to them
- Have an estimated number of guests ready in case they ask. (Estimate high as would rather have leftovers than not enough)
Shop For Ingredients
Continue to shop for your ingredients, food, and drink. I write out a list of every single ingredient I need to make each item. Then I cross off what I have so I know exactly what I need to shop for as things go on sale. I also try to avoid any last minute shopping trips.
Prepare to Serve the Food and Drinks
Think about how you are going to serve your food. What dishes and utensils will you use? Where will you serve your food and drinks? If you are having a crock pot it needs to have an outlet nearby. To keep drinks cold you will probably need a cooler with ice. If you are having drinks where they will need ice in their drink you will need an ice bucket and tongs. Any bottled beverages should have a bottle opener nearby. Also, think in advance about any special utensils you may need for someone.
Make Signs For Menu Items
I like to make signs so people know where things can be found. I make signs for my coolers telling them what is in each cooler (soda, water, beer, etc). In addition, I make signs to label the garbage and recycling. Also, an option is to have food tags by each item telling what it is. These tags can go along with a theme and be fun to do.
Make Detailed Lists
A week before the party I make a detailed list of everything to do for food and drink prep. I try to do as much in advance as possible. I list what things to do 4 days before, 2 days before, the day before, and what I can’t do until the day of which is usually a lot of the food prep. For example, a cheese, sausage and cracker tray – you can cut up the cheese and sausage before the day of just not put it on the tray. With a taco dip you can cut the tomato and olives before the day of just not put it together. I also like to make the taco base the day before and refrigerate it overnight.
Every detail goes on the list so I don’t forget anything. Also, I like to cross things off:) On the day of the party I pick a time I want to eat and work backwards for when I need to put things in the oven or turn on crock pots and have all the items out and ready to serve.
Final Thoughts on How to Plan a Birthday Party Menu
Planing the perfect birthday party menu can be easy if you break it down into steps. First, starting thinking about your menu early and getting ideas. Second, consider your party theme, number and type of guests, the birthday person, and day/time of party when planning your party menu.Third, actually write out your party menu and include definite items, potential items and items others can bring. Lastly, take care of any tasks for your menu items now that you have your menu set like placing food/drink orders, shopping for ingredients, and making signs. Follow these steps and have your guests raving about your excellent birthday party menu!