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Kids' party food ideas on a budget

No one wants a kid's party to be anything but a blast, so we've put together this helpful guide to kids party food ideas on a budget. 

Kids’ birthday parties are often full of laughter and play. They can be a great time for parents and kids alike, but they can also be stressful and expensive sometimes.

No one wants a kid’s party to be anything but a blast, so we’ve put together this helpful guide to kids party food ideas on a budget. With these tips, you’ll be able to eat well and pay less, while focusing on having a great time during your loved ones’ special moments.
Then, we’ve got a great list of kids’ party food ideas on a budget to inspire you and a print-and-go shopping list.

Kids’ party planning tips 

How many guests should you invite?

The guestlist is always a challenging thing for a kid’s birthday party. You don’t want to limit the list too much of course, because you want your child to have all their friends present. But at the same time, more mouths to feed means more money spent.

On top of food, you’ll often have to buy more disposable plates, party hats and treats.

To determine how many guests to invite, it’s a good idea to start with a full list and make cuts as you develop your budget more clearly. Fewer guests can also mean more, or better quality, food for each person, rather than spreading the catering thin.

Top-down photo with bright pink and blue party wares for a kid’s birthday party.

How much food do you need?

One of the great things about catering for kids, is that they often don’t eat nearly as much as adults. This means you can keep food planning pretty simple. For each type of food you plan to serve, you can probably safely assume each child will eat one serving of each. So, one small handful of grapes is probably enough for one child.

Apply this same idea to each food you plan to serve and multiply by the number of guests to determine what you’ll need. Add two or three extra servings of each food, just in case one child doesn’t like something or is especially hungry.

You might also like to consider whether you’re inviting parents to stay. Some parents may prefer to stick around so they can be available for their kid. In this case, it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve some tea or coffee in the pantry and some light snacks for adults.

If you’re catering to a lot of children, healthy homemade pizzas are an easy way to cater with confidence. Say you’re feeding 30 kids, most children will eat two slices of pizza. For pizzas cut into eight slices, that means you’ll need roughly eight pizzas to feed everyone.

What kind of food is suitable for a kids party?

Often kids’ parties are full of sugary junk food. It’s okay to serve up some sugary food in moderation — after all, it’s a special day.

However, you want to be sure there’s a balance of treats and substantial food. For every sweet treat you serve, try adding two servings of fruit or vegetables to the menu. Brightly coloured seasonal produce can be just as exciting to kids, and will give them the energy they need to keep partying.

Below, we’ve listed some simple finger foods you can throw together for your kid’s party food menu. In addition to the recipes below, some popular kids’ party platter nibbles include:

  • Fairy bread.
  • Fruit kebabs.
  • Veggie sticks and hummus.
  • Sausage rolls.
  • Cocktail sausages.
  • Ice cream.

Kids of different age groups may be interested in different types of food, so it’s important to take that into consideration. For a 3-year-old’s birthday party, you probably don’t want any foods that are especially hard or difficult to eat, and it may pay to be aware of possible choking hazards.

Meanwhile for a 10-year-old, you can certainly include some more sophisticated food, but the usual party staples will keep most kids entertained into their teens. Older kids may very well be happy with a slow cooked meal, which is easy to prepare in advance and cheap to make in bulk.

For more ideas about slow cooked meals, head on over to our slow cooker recipes.

A top-down photo of fairy bread cut diagonally with a butter knife between the pieces.

Can I get catering for my kids’ party?

Of course, if you’re too busy to plan or cook for your kids’ birthday party, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The team at PAK‘nSAVE have your back.

We have a great range of entertaining platters available from select PAK‘nSAVE stores throughout the country. Our platters take all the work out of catering, so you can kick back and enjoy your child’s birthday. While a platter might cost a little extra, it takes all the guesswork out of budgeting.

Our kids party platters include:

  • Kids Fruit Kebabs: Sweet seasonal fruit kebabs served with gooey chocolate sauce and crunchy banana chips.
  • Kids Party Time: A little bit of everything, with Kiwi-favourite fairy bread, cut seasonal fruit and an assortment of sweet and savoury finger foods.
  • Kids Savoury Nibbles: A kids party platter that simply cannot go wrong. An assortment of club sandwiches, sausage rolls, cocktail sausages and more.

To find out if catering is available at your local store, head on over to our store finder page and select your store for more information.

In addition to kids party platters, your PAK’nSAVE bakery can help you surprise your little one with a personalised birthday cake. Head into your nearest PAK’nSAVE and chat to the team at the bakery counter about cake for your kid’s special day.

5 tips for saving on kids party food

1. Choose the right time

A sneaky way to get around huge catering costs for your kids’ party is to plan around meal times. By setting the party between lunch and dinner, you can reasonably expect that kids’ will have already eaten. There’s no need to worry about saving money on meat, because you won’t need to serve any.

You’ll still want to provide some healthy snacks and cake, but there will be less pressure to provide a full, well-balanced plate for each child.

2. Make kids’ plates in advance

Rather than using kids party platters or relying on kids grazing through the party, set a specific time for eating. This will help you manage the food, but also ensure that kids are eating in a polite manner and not over-stuffing themselves on snacks.

Make plates for each kid, with one serving of each type of food you’ve made. This way, every child gets the same amount of food and you have more control over what they eat.\

 A shot of dinosaur figurines wearing party hats arranged around a slice of cake.

3. Make seasonal fruit snacks

It’s no secret that fruit is inexpensive when it’s in season. Not only is it healthy and affordable, it’s delicious and sweet, so lots of kids love it.

Instead of filling your basket with expensive lollies, choose seasonal fruit instead. It satisfies that sweet craving while being better for the little ones and cheaper.

If there’s not a lot in season when you need it, don’t be afraid of turning to frozen or canned produce as well.

4. Ask parents to bring a plate

One idea is to ask kids’ parents to bring a plate to share. This is quite common for adult dinner parties, but less so for kids’ birthdays.

Don’t worry about appearing cheap to the other parents — they know how expensive parties can be too. Set a theme for the food to help parents and kids alike get excited and creative. For example, you could host a pizza party and ask everyone to bring their own toppings.

Or, host a picnic party and ask everyone to bring a plate of their favourite picnic food. The options are endless!

5. Cut out the sugary treats

We’ve mentioned replacing sweets with fruit, but sugar is almost omnipresent at kids’ parties. One way or another, you end up with lollies for snacking, as part of the meal, in the drinks, and then even in the take-home party bags.

Rather than filling party bags with treats, why not scrap party bags altogether? Kids can each take home a slice of cake, and then there’s less rubbish for you and for the other parents.

For drinks, don’t provide fizzy drinks. Even sugar free ones can have a lot of caffeine that isn’t great for your kids. Go for low-sugar fruit juice or flavoured milk as a fun party option. Always make sure that there’s plenty of water available — and try putting slices of fruit in the water to make it more exciting for kids.

9 kids’ party food ideas on a budget

When preparing for a kid’s birthday, you need party food that is easy to make, affordable and appealing to kids. At the bottom of this article, you’ll find a birthday party shopping list that outlines how much your kids’ party should cost and everything you need to buy to make the recipes below.

1. Caterpillar club sandwiches

Looking for kids’ party sandwich ideas? These club sandwiches are super easy for kids to eat, and can be presented as a colourful caterpillar to put a smile on the little ones’ faces. This recipe is for an egg, tomato, ham and cheese sandwich, but you can use any ingredients that you have on hand or that fit into your budget.

Go to the caterpillar club sandwiches recipe.

2. Cheese straws

These cheese straws are a hit with both kids and adults. They can be easily made with pantry staples, and are super low cost.

If you’re feeding lots of kids, cheese straws can be easily made in bulk on a tight budget.

Read the cheese straws recipe.

3. Sweet and sticky chicken nibbles

These chicken nibbles are the perfect finger food. They’re easy to make in bulk and kids will love them. Just make sure there are plenty of napkins around to wipe sticky fingers clean!

Read the sweet and sticky chicken nibbles recipe.

4. Kettle corn

Lots of kids already know and love popcorn! At the movies, popcorn is covered in butter and salt, and it’s not very healthy. But you can make super cheap, easy and healthy popcorn at home in no time.

Learn how to make kettle corn at home.

5. Mini pizzas

These mini pizzas are filling and delicious! With onion, mushroom and ham, there’s lots of good, healthy things on there, but all that cheese and BBQ sauce still makes it feel like a treat.

Check out our mini pizzas recipe.

6. Mini bacon and egg pies

Pies without pastry! Easy as. These mini bacon and egg pies come together in no time at all, and by using wraps as pastry you don’t have to worry about any finicky baking.

See our recipe for mini bacon and egg pies.

7. Peanut boost balls

These sweet little bites use no extra sugar — just the natural sweetness of dates. Of course, be sure to check with all the parents if any kids are allergic to peanuts. If nuts are off the table, try replacing them with sunflower seeds instead.

Get the recipe for peanut boost balls.

8. Pita chips

These pita chips are a great alternative to potato chips at a kid’s birthday party. Because they’re baked and not fried, they’re lower in fat and a bit healthier for the little ones.

Check out our recipe for pita chips.

9. Sparkling juice

Cut out fizzy drinks by offering exciting bubbly water with juice. This super simple recipe for sparkling juice is so easy and affordable. Simply mix sparkling water with a cordial of your choice, or a low-sugar fruit juice.

Go to the recipe for sparkling juice.