I am very lucky that my family gets together at least once a month. We celebrate birthdays and play card and board games and of course, we eat. What I have found is that my family loves interactive meals where they can build their own plates just the way they like them. This isn’t really new, I remember Grandma H making dinner each Monday night for all of us and when we would have something like chili she had a little of everything – chili with beans, chili without beans, hot dogs, spaghetti pasta, elbow macaroni, onions, cheese, saltine crackers, oyster crackers, and on and on. Everyone could make their meal just the way they liked.
When I host my family I’ve done make-your-own-pizza, taco bars, and ice cream sundae bars. My mom and dad have done kabob parties a couple of times too. It’s just a fun way to share our time together and everyone is perfectly happy with their meal because they picked out all the details.
Food Bar Tips
- Prep Ahead
Make sure to get all of your prep work done ahead of time. Chop up veggies, marinate things, prebake crusts, etc. This means you get the bulk of the work out of the way and you have time to clean up the mess from that before guests arrive.
- Label Everything
Instead of having to constantly tell people what things are, make up labels or signs for all the ingredients. You can use place card settings easily for this. If you have guests with special diets make sure you mark things as gluten-free, sugar-free, low-fat, salt-free, etc. to help them make the best choices.
- You Need Less Than You Think
Remember that not everyone is going to use all ingredients you put out. You probably will need less of each item than you think. For items that will be most popular add more, but for more unique ingredients a small amount is probably all you need.
- Plan for Cooking (if needed)
If you are doing something like a pizza party plan ahead for cooking. You can cook pizzas in the oven, on the grill, or in pizza ovens. Just remember chances are not everyone’s will fit in all at once most likely. If you have foods like this be sure to have other snacks for guests to much on while they wait for their custom items to cook.
- Include healthier options
While those high calorie and high fat ingredients will most likely be a favorite, be sure to include options that are low in calories and fat as well so that people can make healthier choices. If you want to get super healthy include nutritional info on the labeling of each ingredient even. Plus, use smaller scoops/spoons for those ingredients that are less healthy to help encourage guests to use less of that item.
I’ve asked some of my fellow bloggers to share some of their ideas for food bars and some of my own are included below too. Remember you can make these any way you like, be as simple or as fancy as you want, and have any ingredients that you like.
Milkshake & Float Party via Home Made Interest
Kat threw a party where guests could select to have a milkshake with their favorite flavors and mix-ins blended together or they could opt to make an ice-cream float. I love the multiple options of the main item.
Make Your Own Kabob Party
This is a favorite of my family. Chop up lots of different fruits and veggies plus cut pieces of different meats into bite sized pieces and marinate them in different flavors. Be sure to soak the skewers in advance too. Everyone can thread the foods they want on the skewers and have them grilled to order!
Sundae Brunch Self-Serve Eggo Waffle Bar via Savvy Saving Couple
Love this idea of a waffle bar. You could make it for breakfast or for dessert! Prepare the waffles and have all sorts of fruits, syrups, and toppings for everyone to customize their waffle.
Mac and Cheese Bar by Simply Budgeted
This is a fun idea you could do any day just for your own family. Save up those little leftover bits for a few days, and a few fresh veggies, and then have everyone add their own items to their bowl of Mac and Cheese. Clever!
Dressed Up BLT Bar via Project Domestication
I love this idea and I think you could even add more ingredient options here. There are tons of great BLT recipes online by modern chefs that offer some unique options – take time to investigate and research and consider adding some of those options to your BLT bar too.
Waffle Bar Party via The Shady Lane
I know I already shared another waffle party above, but I loved this one too. What was very cool is that they wrote directly on the tablecloth with the steps! Very clever!
Backyard S’mores Bar via Upstate Ramblings
We all know the classic s’more recipe of graham cracker, roasted marshmallow and chocolate bar but there is no rule that says that is the only thing we can use. Mix and match the cookie portion, candies, and other toppings for a fun treat!
Taco Salad Bar via This Cookin’ Dad
This is something Hubby and I have a lot during the hot summer months, taco salad. This Cookin’ Dad shares his tips on creating a weeknight taco salad bar as well. The best thing about this is that the leftovers are just as good as the original night and perfect for lunches throughout the week too.
Make Ahead Yogurt Breakfast Bar via Cleverly Simple
This is great when you are having guests. Prepare all the different toppings ahead of time and put them in small jars or bowls. When guests wake up they simple put in the plain yogurt and add the toppings of their choice! This would be great for kids for back-to-school as well I think since they could even take their mixture in the car with them to eat on the way to school if you are running late.
Create Your Own Sheet Pan Pasta Bar via Live Simply
This is a great idea for your own immediate family or for company. Roasting all the fresh veggies you have on hand in one roasting pan is super easy and most everyone loves roasted veggies because of the bit of sweetness that comes out during cooking. Boil up some pasta and have some cheeses and other toppings on hand and dinner is served! Another great leftover meal as well.
Popcorn Bar via Thrifty Northwest Mom
I totally adore a popcorn bar for movie night! Pop up the corn (try my healthy microwave popcorn recipe) and then put out all of the spices and seasonings for everyone to customize their own bag of popcorn.
Have you hosted any kind of food bar? What kind was it? Do you have any other food bar ideas to share with us?