How Much Food Do I Need for My Party?

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As winter slowly turns to spring, and spring to summer, we feel more inclined to get together with family and friends to enjoy the beautiful weather. While partying with loved ones is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening, the overwhelming tasks of developing a menu and trying to figure out how much food to make are often left to a soon to be stressed out host or hostess. Even though leftovers can be great the next day, no one wants to be left with two weeks’ worth of potato salad after such a gathering.

Caprese salad skewers on the buffet at a recent event.  A full tray in front, replaces the nearly empty one in the back - they were a hit!

Thankfully, I have a few simple rules that will help you estimate how much food your guests will devour at your next party. I will be honest and state up front that there is no scientific method to figuring this out, as each party is different. Take a look at the suggestions below keeping certain factors in mind, such as: age of the guests, gender of the guests, length of party, etc.

Wine or Beer

  • 1 – 2 glasses of wine or beer, per guest, per hour before the meal.  After the meal, figure 1 glass of wine or beer per guest, per hour.

Meat, Fish, Poultry

  • 1/3 – 1/2 pound per person, unless serving multiple meats. If so, figure 1/2 – 2/3 pound total per person.
Pork and Ricotta Meatballs ready for breading..

Pork and Ricotta Meatballs ready for breading..


  • Salad: 1 cup per person as a side dish.
  • Other vegetables: 1/4 – 1/2 cup per person.


Savor the season all year long, by freezing fresh herbs, like the basil used in these Caprese Salad Skewers to use in soups, stews, sauces and more all winter long!

If you are serving just appetizers and drinks at your party:

  • 5 pieces per person for the first hour and then 2 – 3 pieces per person for each additional hour.

If you having appetizers before a meal:

  • Single type of appetizer: 3 – 4 pieces per person. With multiple appetizers: 5 – 7 total pieces person.  The theory with appetizers being the more you often, the more guests will graze.


  • Mashed or creamy potato dishes: 1/2 cup, per person.

Rice/ Grains

  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup per person.


  • 1 pound will feed 4 – 6 people. If you have meat or veggies in the sauce that pound will stretch a bit further.

Perfect Pasta


  • Creamy pudding, mousses, or fruit: 1/2 cup per person.
  • Ice cream: 1/2 – 3/4 cup per person.
  • Pies, cakes, brownies: one slice / portion per guest.
  • Cookies: 3 – 5 cookies person, depending on cookie size and if serving with any other desserts.  If cookies are the main dessert and medium size, go with 3 – 5 per person.  If cookies are served alongside another dessert item, such as cake or pie, figure 2 – 3 per person.

Remember, this guide is just that – a guide. All parties are different and you may need to stray slightly from this information. However, these estimates will help you when planning your next party.

If I’ve missed anything or you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Fit Chef Chicago proudly offers menu planning and food preparation services. If one of your summer parties needs the assistance of a professional chef at reasonable rates, we would be glad to help. Email for estimates!

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