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Party food on a budget

Party food on a budget

Are you busy and want some ideas for budget party food? As a working mum who also ran a party venue for three years, I would like to share some of what I learnt over the last 15 years of doing parties! Often you can make cost effective party food by using a little creativity and it needn't take too much time either.

Many of these tips also apply to adult parties!

How many guests I should invite:

Budget party | save money on partyYou will obviously need more party food for more guests. Something to consider when inviting your guests, is that plates, cups and napkins often come in sets, usually of 8 or 12, so when 13 guests are coming to the party this may mean another set of plates and cups. In saying this I've always found it useful having a few paper plates available to send "a plate" to school when they need to "bring a plate", so hold on to any spares.

How much food do I need?

Having run a party venue, I soon learnt to master the art of "just enough food". If your party is a buffet style or guests serve themselves, you will need a little more food than if it is served. This is based on kids or even adults placing more food on their plates than they can eat, especially when the party food looks so delicious! 

At our party venue, the entertainer would served the food to the children. Food was given names based on the theme of the party. We encouraged manners especially at Princess Parties and Tea Parties. The birthday child was always served first. This gave children a chance to eat one item at a time. We catered for one item per child with spares available should they be needed.

The menu was usually made up of two sweet and three savoury items or vise versa, plus a fruit based item and drink. Boys tended to like more savoury items. 

Popular budget conscious party food:

Fairy Bread

Fairy breadOur most popular and reasonably inexpensive party food was Fairy Bread! See our Fairy bread blog, with recipes and ideas to theme to your party. If you theme it to the party, it goes down a treat! Great for both Boys and Girls parties.

Mini fish and chips

Mini fish and chipsAs a busy mum, I would see my local fish and chip shop before the party, to ask if they could make mini fish (they usually need advanced warning to do this). I would place and order for fish and chips for the time needed. I would call to remind them on the party day and send someone to pick them up. I would serve them in noodle boxes or or scalloped edged boxes lines with luncheon paper. I would add a sticker or picture to the front of the box related to the theme. I found this was a fun and reasonably inexpensive way to feed older children and adults.

Chocolate crackles

Quick, easy and inexpensive! Chocolate crackles can be made in dainty cupcake papers and decorated with sprinkles. For easter I have added some small easter eggs to make them into nests. 

Easter nestsRecipe:

Makes 12 mini cupcake size (multiply if you need more)

  • 125g Kremelta
  • 2 c Rice bubbles
  • 3/4 c icing sugar
  • 1/2 c desiccated coconut
  • 2 T cocoa
  • Sprinkles or lollies to decorate


  1. Melt Kremelta over low heat
  2. Add rice bubbles, icing sugar, desiccated coconut and cocoa and mix
  3. Add spoonfuls to the cupcake papers
  4. Decorate as desired
  5. Refrigerate unit set, approximately 20 minutes. 


Fruit Kebabs or fruit on a stick

fruit based party foodIf you use seasonal fruit, fruit kebabs can be an inexpensive option. Try adding different fruits onto a stick so they are colourful and attractive to eat. Another option is to cut out shaped pieces of fruit with a cookie cutter and adding them to a stick. Try using a star cookie cutter to cut a star of watermelon for a fairy wand at a fairy party. I recall one kid at a party saying "it's just like a lolliop"!

Fruit or Cake Fondue

Chocolate fondue party foodThis is a popular food with both kids and adults. Again seasonal fruits are the cheapest options and you could add a few marshmallows for fun. You can hire our chocolate fountain or use a bowl of melted chocolate (it can be thinned with canola oil) and a bowl of yogurt as dips (you only need buy one punnet). If you don't want the fruit or want to "spice it up", try adding biscuits, cake and marshmallows are a dipping option. This option takes minimal preparation time.

Marshmallow slice or Chocolate-fudge brownies

Marshmallow sliceAt the supermarket bakery counter, you can often find large slices available for sale. Rather then spending hours baking, I would purchase a couple of good looking ones and cut them into dainty pieces. If you present these well, they can look like you made them yourself. I have also been known to add sprinkles to the top of a store bought marshmallow slice or icing sugar to brownies, so it looked even more delicious.

Chippies and Popcorn

popcorn party foodFreshly popped popcorn was more popular than chippies at our venue. We didn't add butter or any anything, as this food is great for kids with all sorts of allergies. Consider serving in our cardboard popcorn containers to save time cleaning up.

Sausage Rolls

sausage rolls party foodYou can purchase these in rolls from the supermarket to cook. You usually don't need the whole packet, so freeze the rest and you can use them for multiple parties. If you add a little milk or egg to the top before baking the pastry will brown nicely. 

Shaped Sandwiches

shaped sandwiches food on a budgetA simple heart shaped jam sandwich was popular at Princess Parties. Boys love the Marmite or Vegemite filled Dinosaur shaped sandwiches. If you are making fairybread as well you can use the same loaf of bread, saving on cost and wastage. See our range of cookie cutters to theme your sandwiches.


lollies for the partyKids loves lollies at a party! If you want to limit the sugar intake or reduce the amount you need to buy, there are a few options. Firstly you can serve them and let the kids know they can have 3 or 4 lollies each. The other option is to prepackage them for each child. You can be creative with this and it adds a little fun for the kids. You could use mini cupcake papers or small cellophane bags tided with ribbon.

Drink options

Party drink optionsIf you own a beverage dispenser, you can make a inexpensive fruit punch using non-branded fizzy drinks and sachet drinks. You could also sever this in a jug. 
If you want to serve fizzy drink, consider purchasing the non-branded option and adding your own themed label to the bottle e.g. Green fizzy = dinosaur juice! Kids love it when it seems more special than usual.
Always offer water as an option as there are quite a few people that just want water. If it's a Christmas party you can add a sign "Melted Snowman" for fun.


I hope that you have found these hints and tips for party food on a budget helpful. We hope you have an enjoyable party! See our range of treat cartons that can help with theming your party.


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