20 July 2007
You may be a gourmet cook and love to cook but my advice would be to keep the party food simple. Many a time I have spent worrying and slaving over recipe books up till midnight but when the day comes, only half of it is eaten.
You should have some party food but food is a lower priority for the kids than playing games, friends getting together and simply having fun. Teenagers are an exception, as teenage boys especially seem to have a voracious appetite so make PLENTY of it.
Remember a lot of kids are fussy eaters, even if your child is not, so err on the side of caution. Concentrate on child friendly and fun party foods. Let your standards slip for once, but do bear in mind that too much sugary foods and drinks can cause very hyperactive children.
Tips for perfect party food planning:
* Plan ahead
The time of day for the party will influence the type of party food that you may want to provide. If you are going for mid morning or mid afternoon, snacks will be fine. Think about how much you and the kids would normally eat around that time of day. Plan how many kids are coming and allow 3–4 different savoury plus 2-3 sweet party food choices as well as the cake. Don't forget that some kids have ALLERGIES especially to nuts, but in general their parents should inform you of this before hand.
Prepare as much party food as you can in advance. Make use of your freezer if you have one, as you really won't want to be doing much cooking on the day. Leave yourself time to be having fun with the kids.
* What party food should you have? Discuss with your child what party food she/he would like and allow treats to make the day feel special. If you are having a theme party this may well dictate the sort of food that you might choose. Finger foods, especially for the under 7's, are much more child friendly and practical than a child balancing a plate of food on their laps. Younger kids are also likely to eat more if they can come and go to the food table.
* Allow 2-3 drinks per child although that will change according to the weather and how boisterous the activities are. Make sure that disposable cups aren't too flimsy, as with little kids paper cups tend to get a bit soggy round the lip and thin plastic ones tend to get crushed by little hands. The same applies to paper plates. I always write names on each cup and plate (or stick pictures on) to save mixing them up as the kids always forget which one is theirs. Party Food Boxes are a great and fun alternative and are much easier for the younger kids to use.
* To bake or not to bake
Ask yourself how much time you have, how good are your cooking skills and what is your budget. I tend to do a mixture of both shop bought and homemade party food. I must admit that shop bought party food often works out cheaper if you buy the shops own brand and in bulk and obviously saves a huge amount of time and energy. Buy foodstuffs that have a long shelf life or are freezable so then there is less wastage. Or you could do a mix such as buying a packet biscuit/cake mix and decorating the goodies yourself. Your child will love to help I'm sure!
* Where you are going to set up the party food table and where do you want the kids to eat?
Remember, if it's a buffet the guests will need somewhere to sit. We often lay down a big mat which all the kids sit on and have a sort of indoor picnic if it's too wet/cold to be outdoors.
* Will some of the parents be staying for the party? I don't usually cater specially for the adults but if you have the time it's nice sometimes to prepare one party food item that is more adult appropriate although adults still like crisps and popcorn!
* At the end of the party you won't feel like cooking for the family so make sure that you have something ready cooked in the freezer.