Estimating Food for a Party

Whether you are hosting a Dinner Party for 10 or a Graduation Party for 100…you need to know how much food to buy and prepare. Serving your guests is an important part of the party and you want it to go smoothly, not enough food is embarrassing and too much food means leftovers for days.

Here are some basic guidelines that I found on for individual serving sizes of various foods. Multiply these estimates by your number of guests and always round up your estimates, extra food is always best.

How to estimate portion size per person

Hors D’oeuvres

  • 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.

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 variety.
  • Offer both hot and cold foods on a buffet.
  • Mix textures such as a crisp potato galette served with a soft vegetable puree as side dishes.

Photo source

So what about drinks? Should you serve soda in a can or bottle? Lemonade or Juice? And what about alcohol?

If you are hosting a party with less than 24, Real Simple has a calculator to help you determine how many beverages to buy and serve. And Epicurious has great information on serving cocktails!

Still need to some help planning for your party and preparing your home? We have you covered!


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