At Little Ones Party Hire, we are passionate about helping parents plan their celebrations to be a little more eco-friendly. And unfortunately, food waste is a large portion of the party waste created. Did you know that Australia is the fourth-worst food waster in the world! According to the Rabobank Food Waste Report, in 2019 alone, Australia threw away $10.1 billion worth of food. That is one-10th of the food bought by Australians winds up in the trash. That costs the average household more than $1000 a year and food waste at every celebration contributes to that.
If we have a look at why we end up with party food waste at our birthday celebrations, the easiest explanation would be, FOUC, or the fear of under-catering. And don’t be fooled, the fear is REAL and can is felt by even the most experienced party planners. But it is also the quickest way to end up with an overwhelming number of leftovers.
So, lets tackle the food waste at our next party with a few ideas:
1. Create a Birthday Party Menu
Avoid the mid-shop panic by planning a great party menu. Take the time and the opportunity to plan themed party food. Keep it simple! I am a HUGE fan of easy to put together party food. And be realistic with the amount of food the party guests will eat. Party kids don’t spend most of their time at the food table, the are too busy running around enjoying the party games. Planning a birthday celebration that is not held over a regular mealtime will also help simplify the menu.
If you have to cater for several dietary requirements, try to pick a few items that everyone can enjoy rather than offering a lot of different options. Fruit platters are my go to for dealing with allergies and dietary requirements.
Consider the number of perishable foods you need, could they be replaced with items that can be stored in your cupboard if not eaten, for an occasion in the future? Could they be frozen? Frozen berries are great for smoothies 😊 and limit dips and cheeses that spoil quickly when left out.
2. Kids Party Drinks
Now I have never been a fan of purchasing individual drink bottles or juice boxes for a party. They cause so much unnecessary waste. A drink dispenser or a few jugs and reusables cups are my favourite. If you limit your drink options to two or three jugs and only open a new bottle of juice once the drinks jug is empty, you can reduce the number of bottles opened. We include drink jugs in all our Party Crate options and also have drink dispensers available for hire.
If you do choose to go for pop tops, try choosing ones that you can add to your purple bin. At least you know they will be recycled properly, and you will earn you 10 cents per bottle returned. Just consider that if you want to add them to your purple bin, you will not be able to add a themed party label. One more reason to forgo the pop tops and stick to jugs and reusable party cups.
3. Consider the quantity of party food
When planning party food for kids, image you are packing a school lunchbox to help you work out how much food each child will eat. You don’t need to display the party food this way, but it gives you a great indication of how much food you should purchase.
Also consider that as your party guest list increases, the quantity of food per guest gets slightly smaller. Just don’t let that be a reason to increase your guest list. Simple and smaller is always less stressful.
4. Accept that health food probably won’t be eaten at the party
When planning a kids birthday party, especially for the younger kids, avoid purchasing too many carrot sticks. Parties are a rare opportunity for kids to hit the party table without parent supervision, and they are not going to pile plates high with cucumber sandwiches and broccoli sticks.
Being realistic about what most party kids will eat will help reduce waste, and probably leave you with a lot less salad to eat after the party!
5. Write a kids party shopping list
Every week I diligently write up my meal plan and shopping list for the family before I make my way out to the shops. This guarantees we save money and food waste by not over purchasing. There is nothing more expensive than panic buying at a grocery store, except maybe an unplanned shop to Kmart without the family or those tempting middle aisles at Aldi.
6. Consider a birthday cake kit
We love making birthday cakes in this house. It is one of my favourite memories from childhood and one that I am trying to share. I even planned some cake baking special time with my baby cousins as their birthday present instead of purchasing them a toy they didn’t necessarily need. Time is always a highly valued gift.
When planning and making some of these fancy and interesting cakes, we land up investing in all sorts of gel food colourings and unique fondant cutters. If you don’t have a lot of the items in your baking draw already it may be worth purchasing a cake kit. Cake kits include everything you need to make a particular cake and in most cases already have the fondant and icing coloured, so you don’t need to worry about getting the shade correct. Cakes 2 the Rescue is a great Australian owned company that specialise in helping families make beautiful birthday cakes.
7. At the kids birthday party
Avoid putting all the food on the party table at once. I usually have a few snack packets and pre prepared party food in Tupperware waiting for an empty bowl or platter. Waiting for an empty drinks jug before you open a new juice also helps prevents being left with multiple half-filled containers.
Prepare your bins, a separate bin for recycling and compostable item is an absolute bonus if you can at a party and will reduce the party waste significantly.
7. Have a plan for any party leftovers
Sometimes you are left some delicious party food, never mind how well you planned. Let’s just blame the brilliant party entertainment you organised. If you are hosting your kid’s birthday party at a park or a local hall, consider taking some Tupperware or containers with you so you can store any uneaten party food.
If you are planning on sharing some of the party leftovers, purchase some affordable Tupperware that you can gift to your guests at the end of the birthday party.
Remember your freezer, you will be surprised how many things can be frozen, even left-over birthday cake! BBC Good Food website has a great guide to which foods can be frozen and how to freeze them safely: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/top-tips-freezing-food
You may be able to gift any unopened item to your local food bank or charity. The items they accept differ, so it is worth getting in touch with them to determine what they can accept.