When you plan a party, the last thing you want is for your guests to go hungry because you underestimated how much food was needed. There is no one answer to this dilemma because how much food you need is contingent on the length of your party, the type of gathering, the type of food you will be serving, and the number of guests attending.
If you are planning a gathering, here are some general tips on how to estimate how much food you will need to feed your guests:
- Always buy slightly more food than you think you will need.
- Anticipate which food items will be the most popular and prepare larger portions of these.
- The greater selection of food you offer, the less of each dish you will need to make. On the other hand, if you have fewer options, you must provide a large amount of each dish.
- Add “bulk” items to your menu. For instance, provide bread for a sit-down dinner or nuts and olives for a cocktail party. Simple snacks such as these will help keep your guests full without creating a lot of additional work.
Below are guidelines for individual serving sizes. These estimates are per person, so multiply these numbers by the number of guests who will be attending (and do not forget to buy extra).
- Hors D’oeuvres: each guest will usually consume four to six bites per hour.
- Main Course:
- Each guest will consume six ounces of poultry, meat, or fish.
- Each guest will have about 1.5 ounces of rice or grains as a side dish, or 2 ounces when it is served as a main dish, such as risotto.
- Guests will eat five ounces of potatoes.
- Plan to serve four ounces of vegetables.
- Serve two ounces of beans as a side dish.
- For pasta, provide two ounces for a side dish, three ounces for a first course, and four ounces for a main dish.
- When serving a salad, offer one ounce (undressed weight).
- Serve one slice of cake, tart, or pastry.
- Provide four ounces of creamy desserts such as pudding or mousse.
- Give you guests five ounces of ice cream.
With these approximations in mind, your guests will be sure to leave your party with a full and satisfied stomach.