It's your birthday and it's time to party -- not worry about what food you're going to serve at your party. Make it easier on yourself by planning a menu that easily feeds a crowd of people, but still lets your guests put their personal touch on their food. Plus, inexpensive birthday menus work for all ages and allow kids to have fun putting together their celebratory meal.
Pizza is the ultimate customizable meal, but ordering it can quickly drain your wallet. Instead, have a make-your-own-pizza party for your birthday meal. Purchase premade dough -- much easier than making your own -- and make sure you thaw it well beforehand if it's frozen. Set out bowls of sliced vegetables, such as broccoli and peppers, as well as pepperoni, chicken or ham chunks, and a few shredded cheese varieties. In addition to the regular red sauce, include non-traditional choices like pesto, ranch dressing, even barbecue and peanut sauce. Fire up the oven -- this is an adult-only step -- and let your guests make personal pizzas.
A taco bar offers endless customizable creations. Set out both hard and soft shells, as well as tortilla chips. Precook ground beef with taco seasoning -- cheaper than other cuts of meat -- or grill strips of chicken or shrimp. Prepare all of the regular fixings -- tomatoes, lettuce, chile peppers, queso, shredded cheese, sour cream, chipotle dressing and salsa. Add items like beans or rice for guests to make burritos.
Supplement your main course with a salad. Like pizza and tacos, salads can be customized to guests' preferences. Instead of mixing one large salad, put out a huge bowl of lettuce or spinach and several side bowls of add-ons. These can include various fresh vegetables, cheeses, meats, croutons and nuts. Then put out about a half-dozen bottles of salad dressing to give your guests plenty of choices. Cut down on costs by buying the vegetables in bulk or using thawed frozen vegetables.
No birthday is complete without a delicious dessert. A sheet cake easily serves a large party crowd and can be purchased or baked ahead of time. Or stick with the customizable party theme and offer different kinds of cupcake bases. Set out bowls of frosting -- try chocolate, vanilla and cream cheese -- plus sprinkles, bite-size candy and cherries. Take the same approach with a build-your-own-sundae bar as well. These desserts are less expensive than bakery items; plus, your guests will have fun making their dessert creations.