The Party Stash
Throwing a successful party or celebration starts with preparation.By keeping it simple, you will help yourself avoid burn-out. By having a basic "party stash" you won't be caught off guard by special occasions and will have less to purchase for a celebration.
When Ali turned one, I went all out and bought Elmo party decor like crazy. She loved Elmo and it was my first birthday party ever for my first kid. Instead of using the plates and hats up in the days following the party, I saved them in my party stash bag. I wiped the tablecloth down and it was as good as new (we didn't have toddlers at this point!) I had at least half of all of the plates, cups, hats, napkins, etc. leftover. So, it was a great thing that Jeremiah liked Elmo too because guess what he got for his first birthday party? And the great thing was, his party was free!
One time I found cute baby shower plates on clearance for pocket change. I didn't end up using them for a year or more, but when it came time to plan a friend's baby shower, I had them ready! Having supplies on hand is especially important when you live 30 miles from the nearest Walmart and Dollar Tree.
How to Acquire a Party Stash
1. Collect festive tablecloths--I have 3 basic ones I love:
White--perfect for a fancier dinner, spring brunch, tea with ladies, etc.
Red--great for Christmas parties, Valentine's festivities, January birthdays, etc.
This summer I would like to find a summery floral tablecloth and a Thanksgiving/Autumn-colored tablecloth to add to my collection
For kid's parties I usually use a plastic disposable one from the Dollar Tree
Look at yard sales, thrift stores, end-of-season sales and clearances, request for birthday gifts, or ask your Grandma or Mom if they have any just sitting around that they wouldn't mind donating to you
2. Save remnant supplies from birthday parties--instead of using the extra plates and cups up in the days after a party, stash them in a party stash bag in the pantry. Use them for future parties or for tucking into a box with dinner for a new mom when you deliver a meal, or for a fancy touch when a friend comes over for tea.
3. Stock up when you see a sale! Especially for things that can be used for various occasions. If you see fancy white napkins in the Walmart clearance aisle for 50 cents, nab them! White napkins will work for just about any party. See peach or pink plates? These could work for a spring brunch, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, a girl's birthday party, a baby shower, a friend's birthday, a summer barbecue, etc. Good places to look for party supply clearances:
Dollar Stores, especially end-of-season sales where everything is half off
Walmart or Target clearance aisles
Yard Sales--it's amazing how many brand-new, unopened things can be found at yard sales
*Unless you have a specific theme in mind for someone, stick with general party colors when stocking up ahead of time. Solid colors, neutrals, general kid themes (like balloons, bright colors, alphabet, etc.) or non-gender specific baby shower plates, etc. Buying spiderman plates may be wise if your son becomes a spiderman maniac someday, but if he doesn't, it was a waste, even if it was on sale. Don't buy loads of decorations that you'll never use, cheapy little party favors that parents will just throw away immediately, or items that will only make your party more complicated for you.*
4. Invest in quality dishes that aid in hospitality. When I was hoping to switch my dishes over to Corelle a year and a half ago, I was thrilled to see the white set on 50% markdowns after Christmas. White may be kind of blah to some people, but for me, it was the perfect color for a variety of parties and occasions! By changing the tablecloth, the placemats, the cups, or the dining area, I can totally alter the theme of the meal, in spite of using the same white plates. They are so versatile! I love them for everyday use and for fancier meals with company!
If you entertain a lot, look for functional kitchen pieces that can be used for dinner parties or celebrations. I love finding pottery bowls, large baskets for breads/rolls/tortillas, or wooden salad bowls at yard sales.