No event can be successful without offering some delicious food to guests. But can you provide excellent catering if you are on a budget? Of course, you can, with a bit of creativity.

Less expensive doesn’t have to mean less tasty or less fun! From deli sandwiches to cold cut buffets, breakfast burritos, and veggie platters, there are plenty of budget-friendly catering ideas out there to suit any occasion, whether it’s a private or corporate event.

Need some inspiration for your next event on a budget? Here are our top catering tips to get you started:

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1. Set Up a Self-Service Buffet

Seated dinners tend to be expensive as they come with fancy meal options and wait staff. This setup is more suitable for formal occasions and is not among the most creative catering ideas either!

If you’re going for a casual event and want your guests to mingle freely, skip the sit-down meal and set up a food bar or buffet with easy-to-eat snacks. This could include sandwiches, cream cheese bagels, or fruit and vegetable platters. If you want to offer desserts, choose something that’s not too messy, such as muffins, éclairs, or cookies. The idea is to let guests choose the food they want and move around with their plates freely—while you save on service costs!

2. Get Creative with Food

Being on a budget doesn’t mean you have to offer bland or uninteresting food. Au contraire! When you don’t have too much money to spend, that’s when you can get really creative. A popcorn bar? Cheap but fun and unexpected. How about a donut wall, a grazing table, or a coffee station? If you’re planning a casual event, you can’t go wrong with such fun catering ideas. So don’t be afraid to pick cheaper food options; if you give some thought to the presentation, your guests will be awed by your creativity.

3. Choose From a Variety of Menu Options

Holiday cooking at home is inevitably limited; small kitchens don’t have enough space to prepare a wide variety of food. While serving traditional holiday classics to your guests is usually a safe bet, if you want to please everyone, you must also consider individual preferences. How about spicing things up this year with catering for holiday parties? Not only will you have various menu items to choose from, but menu planning will also be more fun when you’re not the one cooking!

4. Choose Smaller Plates

Giving guests smaller plates is a simple trick to reduce food waste at events. Of course, we don’t mean you have to starve them all night just to save a few bucks. But the risk with large plates is that guests can overfill them, overestimating their hunger, often leading to food waste. Plus, walking around with a pile of food is awkward if there’s no seating available. Small plates ensure that everyone gets the amount of food they can actually eat, so there is less chance of leftovers. (Be sure to order enough food though, because some guests will refill their plates a couple of times!)

5. Change the Time of the Event

You can also save money by choosing the time of the event wisely. Main meal times, dinners, and lunches (especially if they include sit-down meals and service) are more expensive than breakfast, for example. Avoid the extra costs and opt for a casual breakfast with pastries, coffee, and fresh fruit, or move the event to the afternoon and offer sandwiches with some light desserts. As long as you provide delicious food, no one will complain about your unusual food catering ideas or the timing!

6. Go Vegetarian

Quality meat is expensive, so an easy way to reduce catering costs is by offering more vegetarian options or skipping meat altogether. Nowadays, it’s easy to find tasty plant-based food that everyone can enjoy, regardless of their dietary preferences. Hummus platters with raw veggies? Great idea! Grilled veggie wraps? Oh yes! Just be sure to add some bagels with cream cheese and some decadent desserts for anyone who doesn’t want to give up on dairy just yet.

7. Offer Cheap Food Options

If you’re on a tight budget, ordering cheap catering is the easiest way to save money. Cheap catering food ideas include rice or pasta-based dishes, hot dogs, burritos, tacos, cookies, and muffins, which are loved by everyone and are often more affordable than sophisticated seafood or meat dishes. Another advantage of ordering cheaper food is that you can fill a table and have a feast, offering guests a wide variety of choices. However, if you decide to pick cheaper food options, don’t order anything too simple, as this will take away from the special atmosphere of the event. To be on the safe side, add something unexpected to the menu: set up a taco station, or surprise your guests with rich and creamy desserts.

8. Order Catering from Your Local Restaurant

Teaming up with a local restaurant may eliminate some of the delivery costs and make it easier to plan the menu. Before ordering catering, you can just call or stop by your favorite restaurant to ask about their event catering service and discuss your plans in detail. Be sure to tell them about your catering ideas and ask for advice on their food options. After all, they’re pros, so they will be able to come up with something perfect for your event. Planning the menu with the help of your restaurant will also reduce costs because you won’t end up ordering the wrong food in the wrong quantities.

The Best Budget Friendly Catering Near Me

No matter the type of event, catering doesn’t have to be expensive! Good catering is about making your friends, family, or coworkers feel good while sharing special moments over a good meal. Inexpensive catering ideas like finger food, veggie meals, and self-service buffets can work, especially if the presentation is creative. So don’t be afraid to pick cheaper food options; they may even help create a warm, casual atmosphere and an event that everyone will remember.

If you’re looking for budget-friendly catering services in Newbury Park, look no further than Pickles Deli . Our catering menu includes various tasty options: sandwiches, cold cuts, burritos, wraps, as well as veggies and fruits—with us, you’ll find the perfect food to elevate your event, even if you’re on a budget.

Need more catering ideas? Have a look at our catering menu online , stop by our restaurant or call us at 805-480-4800 and let us cook for your perfect event!