Amy Clark

A Homemade Kind of Birthday

In a future episode of my segment on WSBT, I am discussing ways to simplify birthday parties and the birthday party process. Like everything, it easy to get caught up in the hype of the celebration and the focus becomes less about the birthday girl/boy and more about the giant bouncy house and enormous goody bags.

This year we opted for a simple homemade celebration for Emily’s 2nd birthday party. At this point, we are able to get away with just family attending. With just over twenty people in our immediate family, having family feels like a giant party without even having to invite any friends over.

Once again, I ran into a dilemma with holiday festivities complicating a birthday celebration. Emily’s birthday is on the nineteenth so I opted to have her birthday on the first, so that her party would not get lost in the mix of holiday get togethers. Unfortunately, Ethan’s Christmas concert fell on the same day at the same exact time, so I had to put together a meal that could be eaten following a Christmas concert.

I had hoped to do brunch, but trying to figure out how I could have everything immediately on the table for consumption was proving to be challenging and then with the time shift (meal following the concert instead of morning time) I thought a lunch would be more appropriate.

This is what our homemade birthday party looks like:

Invitations- I purchased really cute blank cards and envelopes for the invitations. They had sixty cards in the package and I used seven cards out of the box. I had a coupon at Michaels, so I was able to get the package of cards for about $6. I just used my number stamps to stamp the invites with a giant “2” for our party. I did purchase a party stamp that I used for the date/time and they had a sale on the stamps so I was able to get it for approximately $3. I can use this over and over so I did spend a bit for the initial investment, but I plan to use this often. The extra cards in my set will be stamped with the same “2” stamp and we will use these for thank-you notes. Total cost for invites was approximately $4.

Party Decorations- I purchased one bag of pink balloons, one package of white streamer paper, one package of party blowers, and a tiara for the birthday girl. We just used regular plates and cutlery so we saved on the paper products department. Total cost was approximately $3.

Slow Cooker Chicken BBQ- I made this the night before and it cooked all night long. In the morning, I shredded the chicken and then put it back in the slow cooker to cook. The longer this cooks, the more the BBQ flavor comes out. It ended up being perfect for the dinner. This cost approximately $4 to serve twelve people. (Side Note: I had BARELY enough of this for our party because, during the cooking process, my chicken breasts shrunk considerably and I had a lot less meat than I had anticipated. With chili on the menu though, we managed to make this amount work. I had used approximately 3 pounds of chicken. The buns were provided by my in-laws so I did not factor in this cost).

White Chili- I made this the day before and put it in a plastic container in our fridge, after it was done cooking. The chili was thrown back into the slow cooker to be cooking while the concert was going on. I served this with chili toppers like shredded cheese, tortilla chips, and sour cream. This cost approximately $6 to serve twelve people.

Tossed Salad With Balsamic Dressing & Homemade Croutons- I cut all of the lettuce up the night before and tossed it into a plastic bag for the next day. The croutons were made from leftover bread that I had from my Bunco night potluck that I had went to. The dressing was made the day before in a mason jar and I just gave it a shake and poured when we arrived. It made a beautiful salad and cost about $4 to serve twelve people.

Best Birthday Cupcakes- These were made and decorated the day before. I served them on my pretty cake platters. These cost approximately $1.50 for twenty-four cupcakes.

Total Cost for Party- $22.50

I find it very gratifying to see how much I saved by hosting and making my own homemade birthday party. The reason I shared this is because people sometimes say that it is cheaper to just buy everything from their superstore or that you would spend just as much money having someone else host the party, but that might not necessarily be true. There is certainly convenience in buying food that is already made, but there is definitely a cost involved.

Much like Meredith, from Like Merchant Ships, sharing about the cost of making a homemade pumpkin pie versus buying a pie, it is often easy to think that you would spend as much to have a birthday party somewhere else versus the cost of hosting it yourself. When I sat down to write this all out, I realized that there was a great savings by having my own party and I have to say that the food was a lot better than having it somewhere else.

It felt good to have such a fun and loving celebration for our daughter without spending astronomical amounts of money. We still had a beautiful day and I believe she felt just as special as she would have with a fancy celebration. After all, it is all about celebrating who they are and I think we were able to capture that with our homemade and inexpensive birthday party.

Here are a couple of additional recipes that we had used to make our birthday lunch:

Basic Vinaigrette Dressing (Courtesy of How to Cook Everything)

1/4 cup good vinegar, such as sherry, balsamic, red, or white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional, but I did use)
3/4 cu
p extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons minced shallots (optional, but I subbed with a teaspoon of minced garlic)

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

I placed all of these ingredients into a Mason jar and shook the ingredients. Taste to adjust salt and add more oil or vinegar if needed. Add shallots and pepper. This is best made fresh, but it will keep refrigerated for a few days; bring back to room temperature before using.

To make a small amount of Basic Vinaigrette: Combine 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon mustard, 3-4 tablespoons oil, and 1/2 teaspoon minced shallots. Prepare as directed above.

White Chili (Courtesy of

1 onion, chopped (I left this out because we don’t like onions)
3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
2 (4 ounce) cans canned green chile peppers, chopped (we used mild)

1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

ground cayenne pepper to taste

ground white pepper to taste

3 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans (we used Navy beans)

5 cups chicken broth

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

In a large pot over medium heat, combine the onion, garlic and ground turkey and saute for 10 minutes, or until turkey is well browned. Add the chile peppers, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, cayenne pepper to taste and white pepper to taste and saute for 5 more minutes. Add two cans of the beans and the chicken broth to the pot. Take the third can of beans and puree them in a blender or food processor. Add this to the pot along with the cheese. Stir well and simmer for 10 minutes, allowing the cheese to melt.

Published December 03, 2007 by:

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of You can read all about her here.

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