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How to Calculate the Amount of Food You Need for a Party

author image Kay Ireland
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.
How to Calculate the Amount of Food You Need for a Party
A buffet table with platters of finger foods at a party. Photo Credit: uygaar/iStock/Getty Images

When planning a party, you certainly don't want to run out of food for your guests to eat, and leftovers may go to waste. Calculating exactly how much food you need per person can help you get a handle on the amount of food you ought to prepare, and how much you need for drinks and liquor. With the help of courteous guests who remember to RSVP, you'll be able to plan your party accordingly so that you have enough food to go around.

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Step 1

Count the people that are coming to the party. Hopefully the party-goers sent back their RSVP cards. If you haven't received a response, a quick phone call to see if they plan on coming is an appropriate way to gauge the amount of people you'll have at the party. Having a firm number helps you to plan better; just make sure to add enough food for a couple extra.

Step 2

Plan your menu, and decide if you'll only be serving appetizers or a full meal. If you're only serving appetizers, you'll want to plan more per person because they are typically less filling. With a full dinner, you'll be able to serve a moderate amount for each course without worrying about guests going hungry.

Step 3

Account for at least five appetizers and hors d'oeuvre per person per hour, and plan food accordingly. After the first two hours, notes that most guests will only eat three per hour. Make sure that you have plenty to circulate the room, and keep some warming to fill up the trays as the hors d'oeuvre are consumed.

Step 4

Purchase the correct amounts of a full meal for each person. recommends six ounces per person for a main meat entree, four ounces of a pasta main entree, and two ounces per side dish per person.

Step 5

Plan desserts and beverages carefully. When it comes to dessert, one slice of cake or one scoop of ice cream is enough per person. Plan for three cookies per person if they are part of your dessert menu. For drinks, plan one gallon for every ten people if non-alcoholic, and make sure to stock at least one bottle of each popular alcohol, like rum, scotch, gin and vodka, a bottle of wine for every three people and plenty of mixers like club soda and limes, says "Real Simple" magazine.

Step 6

Buy enough food to account for at least five extra people, in case of unexpected guests. Stock disposable containers on hand so that you can send extra food home with the guests.

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