If you are hosting a small event, you are likely on a pretty tight budget. People seem to expect decent if not gourmet food at events, but those types of catered foods are pretty expensive. The good news is that you can provide small event food that will impress your attendees without breaking the bank.

Small Event Food for Different Occasions

The first question you have to ask is what type of food is expected for the planned event. Who is the target audience? If your event is a small escape room birthday party, then you might only need to offer a cake and some punch for the participants to enjoy after their escape attempt. On the other hand, if you’re hosting a fundraiser for your organization, you will need to serve something slightly more elegant.

Cake, Cookies and Punch

Dance recitals, martial arts demos, and similar small events that last an hour or two may only require a small snack at the end. You can easily cater these items yourself for a small group. Here are some tips to make it run smoothly:

  • Keep in mind that with cake you will have to cut it, serve it and provide forks. It is expected at birthday parties, but does your event really require a cake? They are also much more expensive than cookies.
  • You can buy cookies in bulk at local wholesale clubs and place them onto pretty trays.
  • If you have a higher budget, splurge on at least a few elegant pastries from a local bakery.
  • Punch is easy. Grab a punch bowl, add a bottle of fruit juice (Hi-C works great) and a 2-liter of ginger ale. If you want to up the wow factor, add some rainbow sherbet to the mix and let it melt. It creates a foamy, frothy and smooth drink that is quite a treat.

Cookies and punch is likely all you need for a small event like this. It is inexpensive and something you can make ahead and sit out and let people serve themselves.

Dinner Event

If you’re hosting a fundraiser or an event that lasts all day and requires an elegant dinner, you may worry about how you will ever afford to pay for it all. Even if you have to cater the event, there are some ways you can keep costs down.

  • Stick with chicken or fish verses beef, because the cost of these meats is much cheaper and thus your cost per head will be cheaper.
  • Serve one or two sides with a bread instead of trying to serve a wide array.
  • Stick to one or two kinds of dessert and keep it simple such as a slice of cake or pie.

By keeping the menu fairly simple, you can keep costs down.

Other Tips to Save Money on Small Event Food

If your budget is so tight you can’t afford a caterer, consider these alternatives:

  • Contact local culinary schools to see if any students might be available to help prepare food for your event.
  • Purchase food in bulk from a local restaurant. Some even offer to send along servers for an additional fee.
  • Buy warmers and make foods ahead that you can serve, such as pasta, barbecue, etc.
  • Enlist the help of family and friends and serve a simple meal such as grilled chicken topped with Monterey jack cheese and a side salad with bright colors.

Choosing the right caterer can make all the difference in staying on budget while still impressing your attendees.