Bookmark this handy tip-sheet for easy calculations for everything from pizza and beer to hors d'oeuvres and dessert.
Remember this post about easy drink calculations? It's definitely worth checking out again, but a quick rule of thumb is to budget for two alcoholic drinks per person during your party's first hour and then a drink per person per hour.
If you're serving appetizers before other food, plan on about 5 hors d'oeuvres per person per hour for the first 2 hours of the party and 3 per person per hour for each additional hour. If you're only serving appetizers, you'll want to up the quantities a bit.
Have two rolls or slices of bread per guest.
Buying a few nice blocks of cheese is better than buying a dozen blocks of flavorless cheese. Unless you are hosting a wine and cheese party (where you would benefit from more variety), plan to buy 2-4 different kinds of cheese (with varying textures and tastes) and account for approximately 2-3 ounces of cheese per person.
Chips, crackers, and other crunchy stuff
Since chips and crackers don't spoil quickly, buy several bags and boxes; it's better to have too much than too little and you can always send unopened (or partially-finished) bags home with guests.
Dessert servings depend on the kind and variety of desserts being served. In general, if you're serving cake, pie, or pastries, allot 1 slice per guest. If you're serving something creamy (ice cream, mousse, parfait, or pudding), plan on about half a cup for each guest. If you're offering a variety of desserts or adding fresh fruit, portion sizes can be a bit smaller, as guests will try multiple items.
Meat, fish, and poultry
For a dinner party, plan on about 5-6 ounces of meat per diner.
When you're buying non-alcoholic drinks (punch, soda, juice), 10 people per gallon is a good rule of thumb.
Plan on about 2.5 slices per person. Of course, if you're serving lots of other stuff you may drop this to about 2 slices per person, and if you're serving nothing but pizza to a football team, you'll want to budget a bit higher.
Starches (pasta, potatoes, or rice)
You'll need about 1/4 pound of starch for each guest at a dinner party. A box of pasta will, therefore, serve 4-6 people, while 3 pounds of potatoes works for about 12 guests.
If you're serving fresh or cooked vegetables, allot about 1/2 cup per person. If you're serving salad, plan on 1 cup per guest. (For 3-minute salads ideas, check out some recipes here.)
A few extra tips:
- When in doubt, it's better to have too much food than not to have enough, so round up. You can always send guests home with leftovers or fill your freezer with extra food.
- If you have many different options (6-10 appetizers, for instance), make the portions smaller than you would if you were only offering a few choices; guests are more likely to try one of everything offered when there are many options.
- Plan for a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian appetizers and account for any guests with dietary restrictions (such as gluten-free diets or allergies), by asking your guests about their needs up front, or providing guests with the basic outline of your dinner menu.
- Keep filler items (like nuts, party mix, olives, etc.) on hand for simple food choices that require no preparation, but will feed lots of guests.