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Event Food Planning Guide

Party food planning is part art, but mostly science. Would you like to know 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? They're all good questions. We'll tell you all the answers.

Party Food Planning: 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 For Snacks
1 1/2 Pounds Of Food Per Person For A Meal

Those are average figures to toggle between the linebackers and the little dainties. Let's break them 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.

Fondue: One person can eat about 20 1-inch cubes of bread (1/2 to 1/3 of a loaf of French bread), 6 to 8 ounces of meat, 6 ounces of fish or seafood, 4 to 6 ounces of cheese, 6-8 ounces of vegetables, before trimming, 6-8 ounces of fruit, before trimming, 2-4 ounces of dried fruit, 4 cookies, and about 2 ounces of dessert sauce. Again, figure a total of 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of food per person, depending on the circumstances.

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.

Party Food Planning: Beverage Calculator

Include beverages in your party food planning. 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 , 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.)
  • 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. More will be needed for an outdoor, warm-weather party, or if the party lasts a long time. Only about half that though, 1/2 pound of ice per person, is needed if the beverages are pre-chilled or the party is of short duration.
  • 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: Recipe Conversion Facts

Party-size recipes are the norm on this site, but as part of good party food planning, you may want to cut a recipe down for a smaller group. On the other hand, you may need to double or triple some party recipes for an extra-large crowd. These conversion facts should help.

A 750-milliliter bottle = @ 3 1/4 cups, just over 25 fluid ounces. This is the standard size bottle for most liquor, wine, and champagne. 3 750-mil bottles = @ 10 cups

1.75 liters = @ 7 1/2 cups, almost 60 ounces

A Liter = @4 1/4 cups, almost 34 ounces

A Gallon = 16 cups =128 ounces = 4 quarts = 32 4-ounce servings (A punch cup = 4 ounces)

A Quart = 4 cups = 32 ounces = 2 pints

A Pint = 2 cups = 16 ounces

6 Lemons = @ 1 1/2 to 2 cups lemon juice

4 Tablespoons = 1/4 cup

3 Teaspoons = 1 tablespoon

Note: Don't confuse dry weight measurements with fluid measurements. A piece of cheese weighing 8 ounces, for example, is not 1 cup of cheese. Liquids are close enough in weight and measurement, though, that you can use one as a rough estimate of the other.

Party Food Planning: 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.

    • Call Party Line as soon as you decide on a date for your party to reserve everything you'll need for a wonderful event
    • 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, we 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.

Great parties begin with a little party food planning and lots of great party recipes. Even a small impromptu gathering can benefit from advance preparation. Simply have a few simple recipes in mind and keep the ingredients for them on hand for when company drops by unexpectedly. Large or small, preparation is the key to good party food planning. Have a great party!

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