Tips on Finding the Perfect Catering Service

Party TableYour next big event is coming up, be it a wedding, business meeting or any other special event- and you want to make sure to pick the perfect caterer this time around. After all, nothing can ruin an event quicker than having food that looks and tastes bad. That’s why we’ve put together these helpful tips on how to choose the perfect caterer- because there may be a lot riding on your next event.

Think carefully about what your needs are– While most caterers can handle a wide variety of events, some may be a better fit for you, as many tend to specialize in particular types of service. For instance, do you want your guests to serve themselves or would you prefer the caterer provide the service. Be as specific as possible when vetting potential caterers. Also think hard about what type of food you want to be served, as this will likely limit your options. For instance, if you want barbecue at your next event, you’ll likely be better served by a caterer that specializes in barbecue, instead of asking someone who doesn’t do barbecue very often to do it.

Ask about tasting their food– If you haven’t worked with a particular caterer before, don’t be afraid to ask for samples of their food. Any serious caterer will be delighted to cook up samples for you, and if they aren’t, this may be a red flag.

Make sure they have insurance– Ask about insurance upfront. Every caterer I’ve ever worked with has had insurance, and most see it as a prerequisite to opening a catering business. If the caterer in question doesn’t have it- RUN for the hills! You don’t want to be legally liable for an accident your caterer had during your event.

Responsiveness/Customer Service– In the food industry, we tend to try to kill potential clients with kindness- and your caterer should be no different. If they aren’t responsive to your initial questions, that is likely to be par for the course if you choose that particular caterer.  A potential caterer should be excited to work with you and ask as many questions as they can to learn about your needs for the event. This is a sign of a good caterer.

Check out their website– Although not a necessity to being a good caterer, a good website is a sign of sound business practices- and if they don’t have a website in this day and age, you should be questioning if they’re a legitimate caterer or not.

Ask for references from previous clients– Your caterer should be able to provide a list of happy customers that they’ve worked with in the past.  One catering service in Richmond, VA I’ve worked with were happy to provide me with an extensive list of happy customers I could call- they even showed me photo galleries from events similar to what I was proposing. Now that’s a sign of a good caterer!


Finding a great caterer can be difficult, but with persistence and knowledge of what questions should be asked, you should be well on your way. After reading this post, I hope you’ll be better prepared to find the perfect catering service for your next big event!

8 Fun Preschool Lunch Ideas

Every morning before I take my son to his day care center in Estero FL, I pack him a nutritious, diverse lunch. But after making his lunch day after day, I started getting worried that maybe he was getting tired of eating similar foods each day. I began brainstorming a number of different ways to “jazz up” his lunch box and then compiled them into a list that I think many other moms and dad will find helpful. So if you’re tired of making boring sandwiches and packing plain pretzels for your child, here are eight ideas to make your little one the star of preschool lunchtime.

1. Roll and Slicelunch rollups

Ditch the bread, and bring out the tortillas. Spread a tortilla with a thin layer of mustard/mayonnaise mix, then add some leftover chicken breast and lettuce. Roll the tortilla up tight, then slice it into rounds.

Add variety to this idea:

– Switch you toppings. PB&J roll-ups, anyone?
– Add a colorful toothpick to help hold each round.
– Add halved cherry tomatoes for color and flavor.

2. Bring on the Hummus

Hummus — a spread made of of ground chickpeas flavored with garlic and olive oil — adds a delicious dose of nutrients to your preschooler’s lunch. While you can buy it at most stores, hummus is extremely easy to make from scratch, especially if you use canned chickpeas.

Pack the hummus in a container with a tight-fitting lid, and send along things for your child to dip.

Ideas include:

– Carrot sticks
– Crackers
– Rice cake slices
– Pita chips

3. Mix Your Own Trail Mixtrail mix

The night before, bring out containers of raisins, chocolate chips, pumpkin seeds, popcorn, and dry cereal. Ask your preschooler to combine her favorite ingredients to make a one-of-a-kind trail mix.

You could also add:

– Goldfish crackers
– Dried fruit
– Shredded coconut
– Nuts (be sure to check if there are any allergen restrictions at your child’s preschool!)

4. Make it Shapely

Young children start learning about shapes in preschool. Bring the subject to life by adding a shaped theme to your child’s lunch box.

Here are some ideas for three shapes to get you started:


– Slice a sandwich into triangles.
– Cut cheddar cheese into triangle slices.
– Pack triangle-shaped tortilla chips.


– Include square saltine crackers.
– Cut cheddar cheese into squares.
– Use a knife and trip a loaf of banana bread into a cube, then slice into squares.


– Slice a hard-boiled egg length-wise for oval-shaped pieces.
– Pack a baggie full of grapes.
– Pack oval-shaped crackers.

5. Focus on Colorcolorful lunch

Eating the rainbow is a great way to make your preschooler’s lunch more colorful and nutritious. You can add fruits, vegetables, or other colorful foods. How many different colors can you fit in your child’s lunchbox?

Tip: to encourage eating more veggies, consider packing a small container of Ranch dip or other dip for you child to enjoy with the vegetables.


– Strawberries
– Raspberries
– Tomatoes
– Strawberry Jell-O


– Orange slices
– Baby carrots
– Sliced orange pepper


– Banana
– Sliced yellow pepper
– Cheddar cheese


– Snap peas
– Broccoli florets
Green smoothie (pack in a thermos to keep cold)


– Blueberries
– Diced bleu cheese


– Grapes
– Cole slaw with purple cabbage

6. Letter of the Week

Does your preschool teach a curriculum that focuses on learning a different letter each week? If so, ask the teacher for a copy of the schedule, and plan to help your preschooler learn their letters at lunchtime.

For A week, you could send in apples, apple leather, avocado slices, and apple sauce. For B week, you could pack berries, biscuits, bread, and bananas. Here are a few other random letters to help you organize your alphabet lunchbox!

F Week: Fish (tuna salad), figs (or fig newtons), fruit, and fish crackers.

K Week: Kiwi, kefir, ketchup (to dip mini hot dogs in), Kashi cereal, and a Kit-Kat bar for a treat.

P Week: Pizza, pretzels, peaches, plums, pears, or potato salad.

W Week: Watermelon, waffles, walnuts, wheat bread.

7. “Stabbers”pretzel sticks and cheese

Okay, maybe the name sounds a bit violent, but my 3-year-old son has decided that this is his preferred way of eating. Pack small squares of soft cheese (like mozzarella and cheddar). Then, pack a baggie full of pretzel sticks. Your little one can take a pretzel, stab a piece of cheese, and enjoy! (Trust me — they love this!!)

They can also “stab”:

– Berries
– Pieces of chicken or ham
– Pears or peaches

8. Don’t Forget the Leftovers

Simple to pack, leftovers make a great lunch. If your preschool doesn’t have a way to heat up lunches, you can either send food that is good cold, or invest in a thermal container designed to keep hot food hot. Be careful to ensure that the food isn’t hot enough to burn!

Here are some fun leftover ideas:

– Pasta salad
– Pizza
– Hot dogs
– Soup
– Tacos
– Chicken nuggets and french fries

How do you make your preschooler’s lunch special? What foods are a favorite in your preschooler’s lunch box?

Throwing a Retirement Party

retirement party themeWhen my grandfather announced that he was finally going to retire at the age of 82, we almost didn’t believe him. This man has been a professor at the university in our town for the past 20 years, and before that, he worked in his law firm for over 30 years. His retirement was long overdue, but at this point, my siblings and I weren’t sure if he was ever going to be ready to leave the workforce altogether. We knew his “official” retirement would have to be a big deal. So of course, to celebrate this major achievement, we decided to do what we do best – throw a party!

Now, throwing a retirement party isn’t exactly like having a birthday party for your friend. With a retirement party, you have a number of ideas to work with since there’s more of a theme. At the same time, because this is such a turning point in a person’s life, it’s even more important to make sure that the retiree has a good time and enjoys all the effort that’s put into the party’s planning and organization. If you’re putting together a retirement party for someone you love, here’s are some examples of what I did for my grandfather. Hopefully this will give you some ideas to get started – and let me know if you have any other ideas!

The Theme

Retirement itself is a pretty good occasion for a party, but it can be made even more exciting to celebrate it with a theme-based party. When my grandfather would have a difficult time at work, he’d always “look forward to retiring on an island one day.” Though he’s staying in the neighborhood, I thought it would be a fun idea to have everyone come to the party wearing tropical-themed clothes. Think: Hawaiian shirts with shorts and flip flops, grass skirts, and leis. As we decided to have the party at his home, we decorated the party areas with inflatable palm trees, beach balls, and even had a couple friends bring in their surfboards! It was a great time, and everyone loved our little makeshift tiki bar.

The Foodtropical food

Okay, so I admit that my favorite part of attending parties is the food. And maybe I’m a little biased, but I really think that catering is the way to go. Many catering services (like us!) offer great party platters with finger foods, or more elaborate spreads as well. At Simple Eats, we work with our customers to fit their needs and provide a reasonably-priced customized catering package. So for my grandfather’s retirement, we stayed true to the island theme and had a spread of delicious tropical foods. While we didn’t have the whole roasted pig that’s standard to luaus, we had pulled pork sliders instead! I even made this pineapple chutney for the sandwiches which was to die for. I might have to make these a staple menu item at Simple Eats! Anyway, at the end of the day, there were much fewer messes to clean up and everyone left with stuffed bellies.

The People

When you’re throwing a party for someone else, it can be really easy to only invite people that you know, instead of researching people who your loved one would like to see. So of course it was easy to invite all of the family, but then I made sure to get in touch with some of his coworkers and colleagues to find out who exactly he would want to be there. I ended up inviting a whole gang of his coworkers, as well as some coworkers from his old firm. I knew this reunion would give him a little “blast from the past”! And of course, I made sure to invite his in-home caregiver Cindy from Seniors Helping Seniors of Rowlett, TX. While my grandfather has been fit to go to work, he’s found it a little taxing to keep up with all of the household chores and cooking on top of it. I knew he’d love to see Cindy at the party, and it was great to see her while not “on the clock.”

Overall, the party was a fantastic time and everyone had a lot of fun. A retirement party, engagement party, or other celebration of a major event can seem overwhelming at first. But with the right amount of planning, while remembering to “keep it simple,” everything will turn out right!

How to Choose the Right Wedding Caterer

catering2Your wedding day is one of the most special days of your life. It signifies the beginning of a life together with the one you love, and celebrates the concepts of family and love. You want this day to be one that you will never forget; a day free of any trouble or misfortune. But when you invest a great deal of money into both the ceremony in the reception, calling upon numerous vendors to help support your event, there’s a lot that can go wrong. And with food being the most expensive element of your reception, you want to be sure that your caterer is professional and can follow through with the job – imagine the event if the caterer ran out of food after only half of the guests had been served.

It goes without saying that finding a quality catering company involves a significant amount of research, searching online for what vendors are out there, looking through reviews, and getting recommendations from friends and family members who have had experience. You want to ensure that all your bases are covered, so that when the big day comes, you don’t run into any complications. When you’re looking for a company to provide food service at your wedding, be sure to consider the following:

  • Don’t wait until the last minute. Unfortunately, the last minute can mean up to 12-18 months before your wedding date. For example, this Long Island catering service books up months in advance due to their popularity. As soon as you set the date, you should start looking for a vendor to cater your wedding.
  • Make a short list of prospective caterers, based on their prices, cuisine and anything else that may be important to you. Schedule interviews and tastings with each caterer. They should be able to provide you with a sample menu, and let you know the itemized cost or flat rate of their service.
  • Other than food, what else will the caterer provide at the reception? Will they provide linens, silverware, and salt-and-pepper shakers? Be sure to ask, so you don’t end up spending money that you don’t need to, or so you aren’t left without forks and knives.
  • Understand that your wedding may not be the only wedding that the company is catering that weekend, or even that day. If you’re concerned that your caterer may be too busy and not able to give your reception sufficient attention, you may wish to seek a larger catering service.
  • Ask for references. The caterer should be able to provide you with the phone numbers of a couple of their clients that had a similar number of guests and/or a similar menu.

A wedding is an extremely expensive – and important – event, so you want to make sure that all your time and money is going a long way. People may not necessarily remember exactly what the minister said during the ceremony, but they will absolutely remember the wedding that they attended that had the most delicious food. When you’re planning your wedding, make sure that your catering company is as committed to your event as you are to your future spouse.