How to shop for a party

How to shop for a party

posted in: DIY Party, Party Food, Party Tips | 0

Whether you think party planning is fun or not, it definitely can get overwhelming! You either don’t have the time or the money to do absolutely everything you want to do, but you still want your son to have an awesome birthday party! I have a few tricks that can help you organize your party shopping, whether you are tight on time or money!

Make a list.

Knowing what you need to buy before leaving the house will help keep you on budget and save you time. The most important thing is to have your party planned out before you go shopping so you know exactly what you need to buy. (My one-page party planner will help with this. Click here to get it free.) Once you have your party planned, think through the logistics of putting everything together. Close your eyes and try to visualize what your party space will look like decorated. As you “see” each area of the room, write down the list of things you need to buy. Don’t organize this list yet–just write everything down as it comes to you. We’ll call this your master shopping list.

Some things to think about:

  • party games
  • art activities
  • party favors
  • decorations
  • tableware (plates, napkins, forks, etc)
  • your buffet table
  • your dessert table
  • decorations
  • food you will serve

Once you have your master shopping list, you can start to break it down into categories. I can usually split all my items between three main places: Grocery, Craft Store, and Dollar Store. (Sometimes I have to go to an actual party store. Not usually, though.) My lists might look like this:


Grocery Store


BBQ Sauce

BBQ Chips

Plain Chips

2 Liters: Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite

Bottled Water

Craft Store

Foam Cone

Thick Markers

Primary Colored Cardstock Pack

Superhero Photobooth Props

Dollar Store

White Posterboard

Superhero Stickers

Blue Tablecloth

Red Tablecloth


Your lists will probably be longer than this, so use this as just an example. If you plan way ahead of time, you can carry your list with you each time you go to the grocery and pick up a few dry goods you’ll need for the party each week. That method spreads our your shopping over several weeks or months so it doesn’t hit your budget hard during the party month.

Prioritize your shopping.

Next, you want to prioritize your shopping by what is most important to you (time or money). Let’s say that I need to get popsicle sticks for an activity at my son’s party. I think I can get them at the grocery store, but I know for a fact they are at the dollar tree. If I am prioritizing my time, I will go to the grocery first (because I know that I will get all my groceries and most supplies there, as well) and hopefully will find the popsicle sticks also. If I don’t find them, then I know I can go to the dollar store and quickly pick up that one item. But, if I am prioritizing my budget (instead of time), then I will go to the dollar store first because the popsicle sticks are cheaper there AND I might be able to cross several other items off my list for less money than I would have normally bought at the grocery store. Make sense?

If time is a huge priority for you, shop online! You can order a ton of party supplies on Amazon or Target’s website.

Post-shopping strategy.

If you are party shopping in advance, place all your supplies in one location so things don’t get lost between now and the party. When the time gets closer to the party (I’d suggest about a week away), start moving party items to the location that you will use them. Put all ingredients for recipes in a corner of the kitchen counter, put the food you need to simply open and serve on the buffet table, and put all the decorations in the room they will be used in.

At the end of the day, you know best what you can handle. If you don’t have time to make handmade party favors, don’t do it! Either outsource that to someone else or buy some bubbles and call it a day! If your budget can’t handle a custom cake, it is a-ok to serve homemade cupcakes at your party. Have realistic expectations of what you and your family can handle, plan accordingly, then relax and enjoy the party!

Still haven’t downloaded my one-page party planner yet?!!? OMG.

Go get it NOW!


Shopping for a Party | Sweet Olivia Celebrations


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