Graduation season is almost upon us. It’s been over a decade since I’ve been the graduate and I’ve got way more than a decade until my children will be the graduate, but I’ve been to my share of graduation parties over the years.
First, what makes a great graduation party? The graduate! Next to the graduate though, the food is often a focus of the party. Which is great – a graduation Open House is like a chance for the graduate’s family to welcome and thank the important people in the student’s life.
Like a wedding’s rehearsal dinner, there’s no right way to host a party. You can invite as few or as many people as you’d like. You can have the entire meal catered. Or you can provide all the food. You can have it right in your backyard or you rent out a reception hall. You can request white tie attire or you can invite your guests to play on the slip-n-slide in your backyard. You can have your own party or you can get together with a few other graduates for a big ol’ bash!
Now, I’m not a party planner, but I do know some good recipes you may want to consider, in case you’re making the food yourself. Some of these ideas are time-intensive (in hopes of saving you money!) and some of these cost more time than money. Some of these are easy if you’re having a smaller crowd and some are really great if you have a large crowd!
Grill hamburgers & hotdogs – This will be on the more expensive end and you’ll need someone (or a couple of people) to man the grill(s), but it can lend itself to a really nice family-friendly atmosphere.
Fried Chicken – This is on the easy side if you’re not the one frying the chicken! Buy lots of pieces and keep warm in a roaster pan or in the oven.
Sloppy Joes – Definitely easy to make. You can use a store-bought sauce or make your own. For a big crowd, borrow a roasting pan or two to keep warm or use several crockpots.
Loose Meat Sandwiches (Maid-Rite) – A sister to Sloppy Joes, but not as ‘tangy’. Still delicious and appeals to many. Make early in the day and use a roasting pan or several crockpots to keep warm. You can even make them ahead of time, freeze them and re-heat.
Pulled Pork Sandwiches – Another recipe that you can make ahead of time and keep warm for the party. Set out different sauces like barbecue sauce or buffalo sauce, so people can top their own.
Ham & Swiss Pinwheels – These are great because they’re tasty when not piping hot. They make for a smaller snack, which would be ideal for a mid-afternoon party.
Pepperoni Roll – Just like the pinwheels above, these are great at room temperature and quick to pull together.
French Bread Pizza – These are great for a smaller crowd as a lower cost to pizzas.
Nacho/Taco Bar – This is an easy idea for a bigger crowd! Make a bunch of taco meat (including chicken), lay out bowls of chips and toppings and it almost takes care of itself!
Baked Potato Buffet – Another great idea for a crowd. You can make lots of potatoes in the oven (or even a slow cooker), keep them warm in a roasting pan and lay out all kinds of toppings – chopped deli meat, chili, cheese, veggies, sour cream, salsa, you name it!
Spaghetti Bar – This is one of my favorites. Just boil a couple types of noodles (something fun like bow tie or rotini!), set out a couple of slow cookers of different sauce types (alfredo and a marinara sauce) and let people get their Italian on!
Of course, depending on what you serve, you’ll want some side dishes. These are some good options – ranging from store bought to homemade!
Tortilla Roll Ups
Bow Tie Pasta Salad
And almost every party has some desserts! In fact, you can hold a dessert-only graduation party and serve a variety of tasty treats!
Raspberry Swirl Cake
Apple Cinnamon Chex Mix
Cake Mix Cookies – Use food color to match your graduate’s color!
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cookie Bars – Use M&M in the colors of the graduate’s school!
Peanut Butter Cup Bars
Salted Nut Roll Bars
Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
Root Beer Floats
Rocky Road Fudge
Jayme is a wife to 1 and a mother to three little boys (soon to be 4 this summer!). She coupons, but isn’t super extreme about it. She price matches and loves it! While she likes to cook, she’s in the stage of life where simple is usually better! She never knows how many hands she’ll have free at dinner time! You can find her at No Regrets Living.