High school graduations will happen even when the economy is down. Always a monumental event, high school graduations deserve a celebration. It’s possible to host a party for your high school graduate without breaking the bank with the menu.
The key to a budget-friendly graduation party is not going overboard on the food and beverages. The social aspects of graduation have changed since my own in 1983. Classmates tend to want to visit each other’s parties to celebrate. I have friends who will visit as many as a dozen graduation parties.
I wish I would have realized this when I made enough food to feed two armies for my daughter’s high school graduation party. I’ve learned since then and have followed these tips when I’ve catered parties for friends.
Budget Friendly Graduation Food: Don’t Overdo It!
It isn’t necessary to provide a full meal at a graduation party. Many guests will just be dropping by to offer their congratulations during a short visit.
A simple meat and cheese tray with buns, some fresh veggies and dip, a pasta salad and the obligatory graduation cake will provide enough food for guests to snack on.
It also isn’t necessary to stock a full bar or fill a watering trough with soda. Some iced tea and maybe a punch will quench almost anyone’s thirst.
Budget Friendly Graduation Food: Do Most of the Work Yourself!
The price of meat, cheese and vegetables can almost double when you order a tray from the local deli or grocery store. It’s too easy to buy pre-sliced deli meat and cheese, and then arrange it on your own platter. Instead of extra-large sandwich buns, buy the mini sized buns.
I use this online guide from GFS Marketplace as a portion guide. The suggestion of 12 ounces deli meat is a little high when planning mini-sized sandwiches. I recommend 6 ounces deli meat plus 2 ounces sliced cheese per person invited, plus 1.5 mini buns.
If you can’t find the time to arrange meat and cheese plus make a homemade pasta salad, no one will complain if you buy a few pounds from the deli. Plan to serve 4-ounce portions per guest.
A quick word about veggie trays: It may seem easier to buy pre-cut vegetables, but please take the time to clean them if you do. There aren’t many things worse than a graduation party remembered because of food poisoning due to unwashed vegetables. When making a veggie tray, you don’t need to offer a wide variety of exotic items. Stick with simple, easy to clean and cut favorites.
Budget Friendly Graduation Food: The Cake!
Unless you are a whiz in the kitchen or have a cake decorator in the family, order your cake from a professional or the local grocery store bakery department. By the time you buy the cake mixes, the pans, the graduation cap and the canned icing, you could have almost the same amount of money and time invested in a cake you pick up.
Most grocery chains offer a full-size sheet cake that feeds about 50 people for around $50. Yes, most of these cakes are produced in a factory and come into your store frozen. Yes, it’s true you can’t pronounce most of the ingredients on the icing labels. However, it IS a cake for a special occasion.
One other reminder about graduation cakes: When you spend $50 for a graduation cake, please don’t expect Duff or his Charm City Cakes crew to be doing the decorating.
For budget-friendly graduation party beverages, I have some recipes and links here.