After planning the date and the guest list, most likely the next big area of attention for most party planners is the menu and how much food you’ll need for the event. If you’re anything like me, your biggest concern is that you won’t run out of food before the party is over, sending your guests running to the late night convenience store on their way home because they’re starving. It’s happened to Joe and I – not that we’ve run out of food, but that we were sent home hungry after a party. It happened early in our marriage, which is probably why I’m extra careful when I stock up on my party food supplies.
On the other hand, and isn’t there always the other side of every consideration?, you don’t want to buy so much that even the leftovers won’t be eaten by your family before they spoil. How do you balance both of these concerns as you prepare you menu and grocery shopping list?
There are several factors you’re going to consider as you make your plans which will include: the length of your party; the type of food you’ll be serving; the composition of men, women and children in your group; the richness of the food you plan to serve; the time of your party. For example, an after-dinner dessert party requires much less food than an all-afternoon pool party.
Luckily there are a number of general guidelines you can follow when planning your menu and recipes. Begin by following these rough guidelines as you write down your initial thoughts. Keep reviewing them for several days before you finalize your plans, and make adjustments as needed.
- Always round up your estimates, don’t round them down which would be a sure way to be caught short on something.
- Can you guess which food selections will be most popular? If so, serve more of them than the general portion guidelines suggest. For example, cold shrimp are always popular, so don’t skimp on your portions.
- The more choices you offer, the smaller your calculation of individual portion size should be. If there are fewer choices on a buffet, reverse that and calculate a larger portion per guest.
- Add “bulk” items to your menu. For a sit-down dinner have plenty of bread to fill in any hungry spots. If it’s a cocktail party you should stock up on filler items like nuts, olives, crackers and pretzels in addition to any prepared appetizers. Those items will last several weeks or longer in your pantry if they aren’t used at your party.
Portion Size Per Person
- 6 bites when preceeding a meal.
- 4 – 6 bites per hour when hors d’oeuvres are the meal.
- The longer your party and the larger your guest list, the greater the number of selections you should offer.
The Main Meal
- Poultry, meat or fish – 6 ounces when you have one main dish, 8 ounces when you offer two or more main courses.
- 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.