How-To Plan a Summer Party Menu

Hey there, dear reader! How are you this fine weekend? Ready for the next section of our summer party planning?

Today, we talk party food and menu planning!


If you remember from our last summer party planning installment, I heartily advise following a party master plan like the one provided by my checklist:

Having decided on theme, budget, location, and guest list, we can finally address one of my favorite bits about party planning: the food!

Courses or types of food?

Once you know what type of party you’re going to throw, you can settle on the type of meal you’re going to make. Are you throwing a 5 course sitting down meal, or serving several types of food buffet style?  It all depends on where, when, and with whom. (Didn’t I tell you the checklist was a good idea?)

For a chilled garden summer party, I tend to keep the menu simple and buffet style. I make several types of dishes and pile them all on the table so my guests can choose and serve themselves as they wish; garden parties are really more about the social aspect than the formality of a sitting down proper meal.

So what should you serve on a buffet style summer party? Well, I have two types of food I serve.

Savory Dishes

Beside store bought chips and other crunchy things (like pretzels or crackers), I have a clear preference when it comes to savory summer party food: Miniatures.

I dislike using cutlery for outside parties, so I avoid them at all costs. Who wants to balance a plate while trying to cut food? No one, it’s awkward as heck. Thus, miniature food that you can hold with one hand and eat as is.

These were the two miniatures I made for my garden summer party.

mini quiche lorraine

Mini Quiche Lorraine: an easy to make French favorite of mine that is perfect for summer parties without being boring.

mini cheeseburgers

Mini Cheeseburgers: a self indulgent miniature, because I love mini burgers, and this made from scratch recipe is delic (and not as labor intensive as it sounds).


For desserts, I break my no cutlery rules and allow for spoons, because while I could make handheld things like cupcakes and cookies, I prefer light sweets that refresh the end of a meal.

(For ease, I tend to use disposable plastic glasses with removable tops. This way, not only are the desserts portioned and don’t require serving cutlery, but it’s less likely that insects and dust/leaves/random garden things will end up stuck to the tops of my sweets.)

Bavarois or Bavarian Cream: not everyone knows this recipe, but it’s a staple in my house. Jell-O, fruit, condensed milk, egg whites; it’s like eating a fruity cloud. I made blueberry/raspberry Bavarois, but you can make it whatever flavor you wish (so long as you can find matching fruit and Jell-O).


Multi-flavored Jell-O – Using the technique for my rainbow Jell-O, I made shredded multi-flavored gelatin cups (yellow-pineapple, green – tutti fruit, red – strawberry). Jell-O continues to be the easiest summer dessert, and this mix makes it great for a summer party.


You do You

While these were my summer party food choices, the possibilities are endless. It’s really all a matter of personal preference and specific circumstances. The Cookie Rookie has a great list of miniature foods that all look party appropriate, and Real Simple has compiled a list of seriously creative summer desserts.

So think about your party, what will work for you, and what will be wonderfully delicious!


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