Party Food Planning Guide

Party Food Planning,

Party food planning is part art, but mostly science.

Would you like to know how to figure how much food to prepare for your guests?

How much liquor to stock?

How much ice and how many napkins to buy?

Or for that matter, how to adjust a recipe for your crowd? Take a look; you can do this.

On this page: Small party food planning quantities and tips. Or jump to...

Large-Quantity Cooking Charts and Tips

Large Quantity Recipes

Cooking Conversion Charts (Quick Reference Charts)

U.S to Metric Conversions

Food Equivalents and Substitutions

Food Safety Tips


All helpful stuff.

Party Food Planning I:

Party Food Calculator

The question of party food quantities to prepare for your guests is as old as hospitality itself. Party food planning is only a little tricky, though. As you will see, there are several different ways to look at it, but the bare-bones answer is:

     1 Pound Of Food Per Person, Plus Beverages and Dessert

That is the average figure for a full meal. Toggle the more-or-less of it between the linebackers and the little dainties, the snacks and the buffets. Let's break it down into averages for particular kinds of parties and party foods.

Appetizers:  On average, your guests will consume 5 hors d'oeuvres per person per hour for the first 2 hours and 3 per person per hour for each additional hour. So for a 3-hour long party of 10 people, you will need to prepare about 130 appetizers, a little less if the party is to be followed by a meal.

Dips:  Add the total weight of the main ingredients and use the 1 to 1 1/2 pounds per person rule.

Pizza: Our pizza recipes call for 6-ounce portions of dough for an 8-inch pizza, plus toppings. Using the 1 to 1 1/2 pounds per person rule, 3 8-inch pizzas will feed 2 people, on average, perhaps fewer. It is pizza, after all.

Fondue Party Food Quantities

Party Food Planning II:

Beverage Calculator

Include beverages in your party planning.

Coffee:  Most parties call for coffee, a little or a lot. Make it a nice gourmet coffee and figure about 1 cup per guest for a cocktail type party and 3 or more cups per guest where little or no alcohol is served.

The amount of punch or number of cocktails or beers a guest will drink varies. Allow for the length of the party, the strength of the beverage, the day of the week, the rowdiness of the crowd, or lack thereof, and adjust your figure accordingly. The rules-of-thumb are:

Punch:  Figure 10 people to the gallon-- pretty good mileage. That's a conservative estimate, assuming your guests will drink about three 4-ounce servings during the party.

Cocktails:  Figure that your guests will consume 2 drinks per person per hour for the first 2 hours and 1 drink per person per hour after that.

    What to stock for your cocktail party:
  • As for liquor for a small party, purchase at least one 750-mil bottle (standard size) each of scotch, rum, bourbon, tequila, vodka and gin if that is practical for you. Each bottle contains about 16 1 1/2-ounce shots. (The same size bottle of wine or champagne contains 6 4-ounce servings. One 12-ounce beer is considered one serving.)

  • How to Stock a Bar

  • Stock mixers such as club soda, lime juice and other fruit juices, tonic water, and non-alcoholic beer in small bottles so that unopened containers may be used in future.
  • Stock 1 pound of ice per person if the drinks need to be iced. Twice that much will be needed for an outdoor, warm-weather party, or if the party lasts a long time.
  • Figure about 4 cocktail napkins (or 2 linen napkins) per person per hour, less if your guests will be using small cocktail plates for food.
  • Stock enough glasses that your guests can trade a dirty one for a clean one at least once, maybe more.

Party Food Planning III:

Time Management

Time is something that needs to be factored in to your party food planning. There are several things you can do to insure that those last crucial hours before your party begins are calm and un-harried in the kitchen.

  • Start your party food planning 6 weeks ahead of time, if possible. Decide what kind of party you will have, what party recipes you will prepare, and what you will need to purchase in the way of food, liquor, napkins, plates, etc.
  • Purchase non-perishables as far ahead of time as is practical, saving the rest of the shopping for later.
  • Prepare what foods you can ahead of time. Many of our recipes can be prepared, at least in part, hours, days or even weeks ahead of time, if frozen. Do that.
  • Take advantage of time-saving kitchen equipment like blenders, mixers and food processors. If you haven't yet invested in a food processor, I recommend you do so. Even inexpensive models perform well. For smaller jobs there's nothing like a mini-chopper. It chops garlic and grinds nuts or sesame seeds so fast it will make you giggle. You'll never regret either investment, party or no party.


One more tip: Even an impromptu gathering can benefit from advance preparation. Simply have a few easy recipes in mind and keep the ingredients for them on hand for when company drops by unexpectedly. All great parties begin with a little party food planning and lots of great party recipes.

More Party Food Planning: Quick Tips

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Join the party! Tell us how you were able to use or improve the recipe(s) or tips on this page.


Join the party! Tell us how you were able to use or improve the recipe(s) or tips on this page.

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