How Much Food is Enough?
For many people, one of the
toughest challenges when planning a party is trying
to decide how much food they will need to serve. I'd
love to say that there is a fool-proof formula to
solve this dilemma but, in the end, the answer to
this question involves more art than science.
Many factors come into play when you make your plans
including the length of your party, the type of food
you'll be serving, the composition of men, women and
children in your group, as well as the richness of
the food you plan to serve. The time of your party
is also very important. An after-dinner cocktail
party requires much less food than an all-afternoon
Fortunately, there are a number of general
principles you can follow when planning your menu
and recipes. Begin by following these "rules of
thumb" and write down your initial thoughts. Then
look at the big picture several times over a period
of a few days to make adjustments to your plan.
Always round up your estimates, don't round them
Anticipate which food selections
will be most popular and serve more of them than the
general portion guidelines suggest. For example,
shellfish appetizers are always popular, so serve as
much as your budget allows.
The more choices you offer, the
smaller your calculation of individual portion size
That said, you can assume your
guests will taste everything on a buffet, but the
tastes will be small. However, overall consumption
per individual will be greater than if there were
Add "bulk" items to your menu.
For a sit-down dinner have plenty of bread to fill
in any hungry spots. When hosting a cocktail party,
nuts, olives, pretzels, etc. provide a little extra
security that you'll have enough for all but
requires no extra work.
Here are basic guidelines for
individual serving sizes of various foods. Multiply
these estimates by your number of guests and, once
again, always round up your estimates.
Portion Size Per Person
6 bites when preceeding a meal.
4 - 6 bites per hour when hors d'oeuvres are the
The longer your party and the larger your guest
list, the greater the number of selections you
The Main Meal
Poultry, meat or fish - 6 ounces when you have one
main dish, 8 ounces when you offer two or more main
Rice, grains - 1.5 ounces as a side dish, 2 ounces
in a main dish such as risotto.
Potatoes - 5 ounces
Vegetables - 4 ounces
Beans - 2 ounces as a side dish
Pasta - 2 ounces for a side dish, 3 ounces for a
first course, 4 ounces for a main dish
Green Salad - 1 ounce undressed weight
1 slice cake, tart or pastry
4 ounces creamy dessert such as pudding or mousse
5 ounces ice cream
When serving two of the above, reduce each by a
little less than half.
A Few Other Menu Planning Tips
Don't repeat a main ingredient.
For example, don't serve a shrimp appetizer and
shrimp main dish.
Consider the colors of the food
that will be served together and make sure there is
Offer both hot and cold foods on
Mix textures such as a crisp
potato galette served with a soft vegetable puree as
Source: About.com - Donna Pilato