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Keep Your Pantry School-Party-Ready

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When it comes to school celebrations, even the most diligent parents are occasionally caught off-calendar. By thinking about the various elements that go into putting on a school party, there's always bound to be something on sale you can stock up on. Here are some ideas to get you thinking about how to be prepared for any school event.

Snacks
Check with your child's teacher and study up on school and classroom handbooks before bringing goodies to a school function. When they go on sale, snap up healthy, nonperishable snacks (sans trans fats and high fructose corn syrup) sold in bulk. Look for wheat or graham crackers, individual servings of raisins, granola bars, and small water bottles, all of which will keep well in your pantry for last-minute use.

Baking Supplies
Buy extra cake mix and paper cupcake liners when they go on sale. Check craft stores for cake decorating and serving supplies such as cupcake carriers and plastic cake-serving knives. Purchase extra holiday-themed sprinkles and cupcake toppers for last-minute baking or to garnish store-bought goodies.

Servingware
Disposable is often best to avoid loss or damage to delicate items. Keep durable paper platters and plastic place mats on hand for easy serving and cleanup. Watch for sales on paper products and stock up on paper plates and napkins in your child's school colors. Quart-sized plastic baggies are handy for bringing extra treats home. One box will often accommodate more than one party, and teachers always appreciate extra plastic bags.

Decorations
When seasons change, party supply stores often place decorations on sale. Look for plates, napkins, balloons, and streamers in your school's colors. Also pick up paper or plastic tablecloths in school colors or featuring holiday themes. Snap up seasonal and holiday wall and window decorations that will work in the classroom; your teacher will appreciate the contribution.

Music
Keep up with kid-friendly tunes and make ready-to-go custom playlists for your MP3 player. Speaker sets and bases for MP3 players are both affordable and portable. To ensure your tunes are classroom-friendly, Common Sense Media offers music reviews of new releases -- including movie soundtracks -- sorted by age.

Art Supplies
Kids love crafts and activities tied to the theme of their school party. Look for economy-sized packages of washable markers, crayons, sidewalk chalk, or paint for instant party play. Purchase construction paper sold in bulk at warehouse clubs, and pick up poster and foam core board on sale for making party-themed posters.

Favors and Rewards
End-of-year sales offer great opportunities to load up on school-spirit wear to give as party favors and prizes for classroom games. Back-to-school and holiday sales often feature pencils, notebooks, erasers, and art supplies -- all of which make great party favors -- so look for sale tables and stock up.

Cleaning Supplies
Buy baby wipes, quick-clean-up wipes, and paper towels in bulk for quick and easy party cleanups. Look for unscented and hypoallergenic items whenever possible.


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