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How to plan an ice cream social on a budget

Thank you Tillamook for sponsoring this post. Grab your friends and family and enjoy some ice cream together!

Ever since I moved to the Bay Area here in California, I couldn’t wait until the summer. When I was on the East Coast, it was far too hot, far too humid, and summer wasn’t pleasant at all. Here, we get mild weather and lots of sunshine for months and months. I just love it! What I appreciate the most about summer in the Bay is that it’s absolutely perfect for getting folks together for backyard fun.

If you’re new to the area, I have to warn you, the morning fog might fool you. By noon, though, our friend the sun is up doing its thing! That’s how it was recently when I planned an Ice Cream Social with some of my friends who were in town for the holiday weekend. Between my girlfriends from church, my work colleagues, and my family, there are always enough people around to put together a fun afternoon.

Sounds great, but what if you’re on a budget? I know a lot of people who don’t entertain because they don’t think they can afford it. Honestly, I’m always on a budget! I’ve just learned how to plan a party with less. Take our ice cream social, for example. I was able to entertain 6 ladies and several children on less than $60! Yup, that includes all of the ice cream, toppings, and decorations!

How to Plan an Ice Cream Social on a Budget!

Make your menu.

The star of our ice cream social was Tillamook ice cream. If you’re going to have a party where ice cream is the star, you have to choose the best brand on the market. I went to Raley’s Supermarket and Tillamook was on sale for just $3.99 a carton! Everybody loves Tillamook because it’s made with super high-quality ingredients. The cream is nice and rich, and comes from cows that aren’t treated with artificial growth hormones. It’s exactly the type of ice cream that can carry a party!

I chose 3 flavors, being intentional about selecting Old Fashioned Vanilla for the folks who like to keep things simple. Caramel Butter Pecan was excellent for the moms at the party who weren’t interested in sprinkles and nuts, and I got the chocolatey Tillamook Mudslide. That was for me. Another classic is the Oregon Strawberry.

When you splurge on the excellent ice cream, it allows you to save on your toppings! Here’s my suggested list for an ice cream social shopping list:

  • Tillamook Ice Cream (at least 3 cartons, including one of Old Fashioned Vanilla)
  • Sprinkles
  • Nuts (check for allergies with your guests)
  • Cookies
  • Chocolate candies
  • Waffle bowls
  • Waffle cones

That’s it. Just keep it simple! Also, with it being summer time, most of these things will be on sale, too!

Plan your activities.

I always have games or activities planned for parties, even if it’s just a little get-together. You never know when the event will need a little burst of energy, so you should always have something in your back pocket to keep the crowd entertained!

For our ice cream social, I brought cornhole for the children to play, and asked the ladies to bring books for a summer book swap. Everyone is trying to take it easy for the next few months, and what better way than with a book! Since I was hosting an ice cream social and not a full lunch, it was a good opportunity to do something with the time that we would have normally spent eating!

Other things you might do at your ice cream social are a book club where you all read the same book and discuss it, play a trivia game, do line dances, or work on a simple art project together.

None of these activities cost much money. In fact, my book swap didn’t cost anything, and I got to come home with a new book!

Manage your own expectations, and that of your guests.

Every time I’ve gone over budget on a party was because I was overthinking. An ice cream social is just that—ice cream and socializing. You don’t have to get chicken or deli sandwiches. Just let your guests know ahead of time that there’s going to be lots of delicious ice cream and toppings to go with it. Plan the party for after lunch and before dinner.

People appreciate knowing what to expect when they come to a social event. They’ll make their own plans to eat ahead of time as long as you let them know. When you manage everyone’s expectations, that helps you save money because you’re not worried about someone coming and being hungry.

Keep the schedule loose.

Even though I had a plan for the day, I still kept things loose. The last thing I wanted to do is stress my friends out at an ice cream social! As they came in, I introduced people who didn’t know each other, led them to the ice cream, and gave them an idea of when the book swap would start. We were all talking and having such a good time that we started things a little later than I planned, but it was all good.

One of my girlfriends came a little later, and it was perfectly fine. I pulled the ice cream and toppings back out for her, and helped her get comfortable. Parties aren’t supposed to be a burden. They should be fun! When you keep the schedule loose and your expectations flexible, you’ll find that everyone will have a great time.

Make sure you get a bowl of ice cream, too!

As I confessed above, I picked out the Tillamook Mudslide flavor because it’s my absolute favorite. There’s no way that I was going to have an ice cream social and not have time to get ice cream myself! Make sure you find the time to sit down and engage with your guests. You worked hard and saved money! You totally deserve it!