Party Supplies – Shopping Tips for
…and everything else you’ll need!
The price of party supplies and food isn’t getting any cheaper. Avoiding caterers and third party costs is a great start. Now it’s time to find some bargains!
The shopping lists on Party-Recipes-and-Ideas recipe pages should give you a good idea of what foods you’ll need to buy.
You’ll need 10 pounds of ham for your party, some
of it for the Chef Salad. Where should you get it?
Combine all the shopping lists, think about the party supplies you need, and let’s get started:
Buying In Advance. Many foods are seasonal, and most goes on sale at some point. For example, if you’re serving Tuna Sashimi, the tuna steaks are often sold as frozen and can be stored for months. Fresh tuna will discounted as much as 75% in year’s cycle. Buy what you can on sale ahead of time, if you have time.
Buying In Quantity. This can make a difference, sometimes, however we have learned that buying a lot of something does not necessarily mean you’ll get a good deal. For example, you may need 100lbs. of chicken wings, which to the average person seems like a lot of chicken – but to the nice chicken man, that’s just one feather in the flock… you’ll do better to buy wings on sale, and freeze them for when you need them. Buying at the right time from the right vendor always gets better results.
The Corner Grocery Store. Although we’re occasionally pleasantly surprised, nine times out of ten this is not the best place to shop for a good price on party supplies and/or foods. For example, You need 5lbs. of white chocolate for the White Chocolate Smores. Bet ya beer money that your local shop will cost more than Wal-Mart.
Grocery Superstore. Depends on where you are - Shop a Lot in Mayberry is probably smaller than Food 4 Less in L.A… But you can usually do OK on party supplies in larger grocery stores no matter where they are. For example, our Orange Chicken recipe calls for several groceries, like honey, orange marmalade, Frank's hot sauce, vinegar – but nothing in big quantities. Grocery stores give you the variety of sizes and brands, keeping the prices down.
Online Groceries. Amazon.com and several others are selling groceries online. It’s a quick and easy way to price compare and maybe find a bargain or two. Just watch out for the freight costs. We like online shopping because it gives us the opportunity to find that certain something in party supplies – for example, you can have some fun with the chocolates used in the Chocolate Shortbread Fondue - Buy a box of Chocolate Champagne Truffles online and add them to the fondue. Very cool. But you won’t find those truffles at the Piggly Wiggly...
Discount Stores. Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target and more offer a good selection and reasonable prices for most party supplies, especially paper and disposables. Wal-Mart superstore’s grocery division is a great place to shop, especially for deli products, meats and seafood.
Restaurant Supply Houses. Restaurants usually pay more for food, because of portioning, quality control, regulations, and more. However, specility supply houses have foods and gear you won’t find anywhere else. For example, let’s say your Frat wants to do an outdoor Brew and Chew – kegs and BBQ chicken for 500. We’d call our local supply house and get a quote on the birds, because the leg quarters would come individually frozen in 96 count boxes, which are much easier to handle. (Hey, use the Ask-a-Caterer form if you’re planning a gig like this. Those are so fun…!)
Your Friend who has a Restaurant. For supplies, gear, and some good ideas, why not? Read through Cooking Tools to get an idea of what your kitchen might need. Your pal may be able to loan you some things too – why buy if you only need to use something once or twice.
Party Stores. Loaded with party supplies, great ideas, unusual products and lots of things catering to the party market (that’s you!), the stores usually aren’t all that cheap. For example, the disposable paper products described in Party Food Quantities might cost three times as much at a party store as they would at a discount store, shopping club or online. But, the party store probably has just the right shade of blue that you’re looking for, in stock. So it’s up to you; we often shop at party stores and then buy someplace else.
Shopping Clubs. Our favorites. Sam’s, Costco, BJ’s and others provide most of what small restaurants and caterers might need. For example, Sam’s price for the fresh mozzarella cheese used in our Tomato Mozzarella Salad is about half the grocery store price, and it tastes great. Meats, deli, produce, fresh and frozen all seem to be sold the way we like to buy.
Wine and Liquor Shops. Depends on the laws where you live, but hopefully you can deal with a local liquor or wine shop rather than a State-operated store. Usually you’ll get really good advice and ideas, often with the ability to return unopened bottles. For example, the “Cheapest Dinner Party” illustration we give in Menu Planning features a Wine Bar serve to 125 people. It’s much easier to control your costs when you can return unopened bottles.
The best way to control your food costs is to change your menu.
Serve the Stuffed Shrimp next time – nothin’s wrong with chicken.
Ready for some Dinner and Entree recipes?
Get some good ideas on Renting
Questions about Shopping Tips, where to go and what you’ll need? Need an idea for your party? Ask a Caterer is free. We're here to help.
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