So, your little one (or not-so-little one) is having a birthday party and you're in charge of the mammoth task that is feeding 30 kids or more... gulp. Breathe, don't stress, we've got you covered.
If there is one thing guaranteed to raise the stress levels in any parent, it is organising a kid's birthday party. But, you can take the edge off by ordering kid's party food from a range of supermarkets instead of making your own. It's certainly a far more preferable option than spending all day buttering sandwiches and chopping up veggies, only for them to go uneaten (funny how the same can't be said of cheesy Wotsits and Party Rings, isn't it?).
To help ease the pain, we have rounded up the best kids' party food ranges from various supermarkets, and rated them for you in terms of quality, selection, and value for money, as well as how and where to order. From sandwich platters and sausage rolls to the best birthday cakes for kids, we've got it covered, so you'll have more time to book venues, organise party games and, ideally, have a nice cup of tea and a sit-down (our fingers are crossed for you).
"Thinking about what to make for a kid's birthday party can be daunting especially when you've got lots of kids to cater for and adults, and don't even mention dietary requirements; be it veggie, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, the list goes on," says Food Editor Jessica Dady. "It's certainly a minefield and sometimes, especially if you've got a good bit of budget to work with, you can choose the easy option and get someone else to sort the food out for you – aka your trusty old supermarket."
Most supermarkets offer party food to order. "This tends to be a separate section on their website to your usual weekly grocery shopping, and it's a great choice if you're stumped for kid's party food ideas, you don't fancy making your own or you don't have time to shoot to the shops before the big day," says Jessica. "You can choose from various sandwiches, buffet food favourites like sausage rolls, cupcakes, etc., and fruit platters. My go-to supermarkets for the perfect party food spread include Waitrose, M&S, and Sainsbury's – all have a great variety to choose from and foods specifically for kids' parties too."
Where to buy kid's party food
- Waitrose: Think cupcakes, fruit platters, personalised birthday cakes, and more
- M&S: Classic sandwich and wrap platters, showstopping birthday cakes and sushi
- Morrisons: Grazing boards, giant cookies, pastries, doughnuts... the list goes on
- Sainsbury's: Pizza, sushi, cupcakes, vegetarian options and so much more
Best kid's party food to order
Where? Order online for either collection in-store or home delivery.
When? It depends on what your choices are, but ordering over a week ahead would be a good idea – if you include one of their personalised birthday cakes, Waitrose requires 8 days' notice. Sandwich platters need to be ordered at least 4 days ahead, and deli items, such as potato salad and coleslaw, need 5 days. Book a delivery or collection slot on the morning of the party, as the sandwiches will be prepared to be eaten the same day.
What? Sandwich platters, fruit kebabs, salad bowls, sausage rolls, cupcakes, and custom-made birthday cakes.
Waitrose has always been the most pleasing of supermarkets to shop in, and their online party food service is no exception. All together in one tidy children's party food section, you can have an order sorted in minutes. They have varied sandwich platters including veggie versions and a selection of meat wraps, and platters of both sausage rolls and cheese and onion rolls, plus fruit kebabs on platters and a berry medley.
Their custom-made birthday cakes range from loaded chocolate drip cake (£32) to personalised age cakes for £35. This is Waitrose, so it's never going to be the cheapest option and you need to spend at least £40 for free delivery (probably not difficult when a sandwich platter is £19), though there is no minimum spend for collection.
Where? Order online from the 'food to order' section of Sainsbury's website and collect in-store or book a delivery.
When? If ordering a custom-made cake, you'll need to do so 7 days before the party. Sandwiches need to be ordered 4 days ahead and sushi platters 5 days before collection. Pick up or book a delivery for the morning of the party, particularly if you are ordering sushi or sandwich platters
What? An excellent selection of sushi, a wide range of sandwich platters, made-to-order quiches, salads and pizzas, dips, canape selections, and a range of birthday cakes.
The party section of Sainsbury's website features plenty for kids, including an appealing selection of sandwich platters and a fruit finger selection that serves 14 people for a very reasonable £9.50. The range here is particularly great for slightly older kids with more discernible tastes – they will love the rainbow-coloured chilli noodle salad, the pasta, spinach, and pine nut salad, and the sushi platters, made in-store by Sushi Gourmet including selections of gyozas and a spicy option.
There is a good selection of choices for anyone with dietary needs and preferences, including a gluten-free sandwich platter and 'shroomdog hot dogs for vegans.
Where? Order at M&S online
When? Personalised birthday cakes need to be ordered a week in advance, but, if you're pushed for time, non-personalised cakes only need 5 days. Sushi platters need 4 days' notice, and 3 days for sandwiches. Collect or arrange delivery on the day of the party if you're ordering savoury platters. For cakes and sweet treats, it could be the day before. Free delivery when you spend £60.
What? Sandwiches, wraps, sushi platters, and a fabulous selection of birthday cakes.
M&S doesn't have a dedicated section of their online party food ordering for kids, but there's plenty to appeal to them on the general party food site (and they also sell Prosecco, which you might be needing by the end of the party day…). There's a classic collection of 30 sandwiches for £22, or a mix of veggie sandwiches and wraps for £16.50, plus a classic sushi platter of kid-friendly salmon and prawn maki and cucumber rolls, also for £22.
The cakes are the star of the show – from a personalised safari cake with hand-crafted fondant animals for a slightly eye-watering £80 to an under-the-sea mermaid cake for £60. And lest we forget the original caterpillar, Colin. He can be personalised for £45 or comes in a gift bag with Colin candles and fruit jelly sweets for a more palatable £25.
Downsides? It falls a little short on the savoury options of other supermarket sites, and there are no fruit platters or cupcakes, (though they can of course be ordered through Ocado or bought in-store while you pick up your order). The best bet for special cakes, not the best for an all-in-one party shop (nor the cheapest, but it is M&S, so that is to be expected).
Where? Order online and collect in your local store
When? All food has to be ordered 3 days ahead of the party and collected in store on the day.
What? Giant cookies, doughnuts, birthday cakes, cupcakes, sandwich platters, pizzas, pastries and grazing boards
An excellent one-stop shop for all your party food needs. Again, it isn't a kid's specific site, but there are absolutely stacks on there to appeal to the small folk, from mini Scotch eggs to cocktail sausages, as well as grazing boxes packed with pies, meat skewers, cheeses, and cured meats. There's also a great choice of sandwich platters for very reasonable prices (the kid's one is £8 for 20 pieces), a range of dips and potato salads, bargain pizzas (starting at just £3.50), and plenty of sweet treats. Sharing cookies and doughnuts feature heavily, there are jam and cream scone platters for £7 and chocolate sponge sharing platters for £9.50.
The only downside is that delivery isn't an option so you need a nearby store for collection, but the upside is that Morrisons is by far the best value for money, and the kids will be delighted with the sweet offerings – which are the most fun and, as far as they're concerned, don't need to be as fancy as certain other shop's offerings anyway. A winner all round.
Top tips for planning kids party food
1. Set a budget
It's very easy to casually spend too much throwing endless crisps, biscuits, and cakes into a trolley/virtual basket, so it's a good idea to give yourself a maximum spend ahead of your party shop. Ask yourself what is more important – time or money.
If you're trying to do things as cheaply as possible, it will, of course, be vastly cheaper to buy yourself a loaf of bread, a block of cheese, and some ham to make your own sandwiches than it will be to pay someone else to do it. But it will also be time-consuming and potentially stressful, particularly if you are also trying to organise party bags, games, and entertainers and managing the logistics through yet another parent's WhatsApp group.
2. Ask about allergies
This is where that (yes, yet another) WhatsApp group comes in handy – always check in with the parents as to whether their kids have allergies, intolerances, and other dietary needs. Whether it's a nut allergy, a wheat or dairy intolerance, or a pork-free or vegan diet, for example, you'll need to tailor your kid's party food accordingly.
Be mindful of the cake ingredients too. It's usually best to avoid nuts altogether and provide at least some meat-free sandwiches, to cover all the bases. Though we've never met a kid with a crisp allergy…
3. Make it bite sized
Finger foods are always going to be the best bet for young kids, so mini sandwiches, sausage rolls, sliced grapes and tomatoes, cucumber and carrot batons, and, yes, biscuits, cupcakes, and crisps are winners all the way.
A lot of kids love sushi these days too, particularly slightly older kids, who might also enjoy samosas, dips, and sliced quiches and pies.
4. Go for variety
We all know that left to their own devices, most kids will simply eat a pile of cheesy crisps and popcorn topped with chocolate fingers, but it's important to eat the rainbow (and by that, we don't mean all the different coloured Party Rings).
Even if only to avoid the judgemental wrath of other parents, it's best to offer some wholesome snacks amidst the junk – a colourful fruit platter stacked with strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, melon, and grapes will be visually appealing, and the same goes for veggies – yellow peppers, carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes are a vibrant mix. Put out all the savoury food first, leaving the sugar-filled big guns for later.
5. Collect or make the day before
If you're ordering things like fresh fruit and sandwiches or sushi platters, it's best to collect early on the morning of the party (grabbing anything you've forgotten while you're there). But if you're prepping most of it yourself, go the day before so you've got plenty of time to put everything together on the morning of the party.
Make anything you can in advance, particularly cakes. Trust us, you don't want to be in baking chaos just before the big event. Pack everything up well in advance and don't forget all the party accouterments – tablecloths, paper plates, napkins for the cake, candles, a lighter and a knife for cake cutting are all essentials (and hands up who has forgotten at least one of them on more than one occasion?).
What food should I serve at a kid's party?
A good selection of sandwiches, basic cheese, and tomato pizzas, and some meat and veggie sausages will cater for everyone, as well as some hummus and breadsticks, a big pile of vegetable crudites, and a fresh fruit platter, or fruit kebabs.
For older kids, consider sushi, other finger foods like samosas or pakoras, and spring rolls. Crisps, popcorn, and pretzels will always be well received, as well as biscuits, cupcakes, and the birthday cake itself. It's always a good idea to put out the more nutritious offerings first, before bringing in the distracting treats.
What do you put in a kid's party food box?
Something savoury and nutritious, such as a sandwich, wrap, or pizza slice, a packet of crisps or popcorn, and some veggie sticks and fruit. Add a carton of juice, some raisins, and a cupcake and you'll be hitting all the nutritional and treat food sweet spots. Don't forget to consider individual dietary requirements, though.
What is the cheapest food to serve at a kid's party?
Home-made sandwiches and supermarket pizzas are the cheapest food to serve, along with biscuits, crisps, and more affordable fruits such as cucumbers, grapes, and apple slices.
Buy in bulk – using sharing bags of snacks on serving plates, rather than individual portions, will cut down the cost, and make jugs of sugar-free squash rather than forking out for individual cartons.
Making your own cakes will save money – chocolate crispy cakes are a good low-cost (and much-loved) idea, and a simple chocolate cake or Victoria sponge won't break the bank.
Should I include food in kid's party bags to take home?
Aside from a requisite slice of the birthday child's cake, it's really up to you if you would like to include food or not. It's more likely to be appreciated by the kids than the usual plastic tat that gets cast aside and thrown away, creating more waste – but parents might not appreciate a bag full of Haribos and lollipops. It can be a nice idea to buy one gift for each child, such as a book or small toy, but there's no getting around the fact that they all get very excited about a good old-fashioned party bag packed with sweets.
If you're new to this birthday party lark, it will be useful to get some tips on 1st birthday party ideas while, if you're a seasoned pro running short of inspiration, how about 13th birthday party ideas, for when the teenage years hit? And, as it's their party, they should help with the preparation, right? Check out our easy baking recipes for kids.
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Lara Kilner is a writer and editor with two decades of experience in national newspapers, magazines, and websites. She writes about food, lifestyle, travel, health and wellness, and entertainment, and regularly interviews celebrities and people with interesting life stories and experiences. Her foodie content has included interviews with Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein, Queer Eye’s food expert Antoni Porowski, the Hairy Bikers, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Raymond Blanc, Andi Oliver, Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, and Nadiya Hussain.
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