Help! I'm hosting the holidays!
How much Food is the right amount for my party?
November is here, which means the most exciting, yet stressful time of the year has arrived for the hostess: the holidays. Whether you’re hosting the holidays for a party of five or 30, planning what food to buy, what recipes to use, and especially how much food to cook is the trickiest part. For years, my family played the dangerous game called ‘guessing’ and it usually ended with spending too much time, money, and effort at the grocery store and in the kitchen. After years of hosting parties, especially over the holidays, we finally figured out the most efficient and stress-free way to host; know your numbers to know your food. Here's our guide to food party planning.
There’s really no special recipe for how to portion meals for your guests or for how much food to make. Some people show up full, some people bring a friend, some go back for seconds and thirds, and some people don’t show up at all! But knowing how you plan to host, how many you’re hosting, and what you plan to cook can make for a pretty accurate estimate.
P.S. Before you do your big shop, always ask yourself if you’ll have room in your fridge (and belly) for leftovers.
So let's start with knowing how you plan to feed your guests. Essentially, this means deciding between a sit-down dinner or “grazing”/ buffet style. If you go with a sit-down dinner, always expect your guests to eat more than they would with a buffet-style. Someone I learned from is Skye from From my Dining Table at Food 52. Skye portions out the amount of food she would eat and then multiplies it by her number of guests. If she plans for an intimate sit-down dinner, she cooks ¼ more than the calculated amount. If she plans for her guests to eat buffet-style, she cooks ¼ less than the amount she calculated. Now I’ve tried this rule, and it works. I’ve used it for intimate sit-down dinner parties with 5-10 friends as well as buffet-style team dinners with 25 athletes. I can say with confidence that this method has never failed me, and by failing I mean left me with too little or too much food.
Another important aspect to consider is what you plan to make. Choosing what type of foods to cook has always been one of the most fun parts of hosting. A rule of thumb my family always uses is to have an abundance of bread, a large salad, and some snacks. For bread, a baguette never disappoints. For salad, keep it simple. And for snacks, our guests always love some pickled vegetables and cheese! Accurately estimating for the main part of the meal is a bit more important, but having a little extra of these three sides never hurts. Lastly, it’s important to consider if certain guests have dietary restrictions or food allergies. Having a general idea of this can help you adjust how much to cook and prepare some smaller portion options to meet any special dietary needs for these guests!
I know, it sounds like a lot. But knowing how much food to cook is worthwhile, and these tips and tricks are as simple as they get for planning. If you’re a bit more precise than I am, there's always a more intricate calculation to use. Linda Johnson Larsen gives a few of these calculators in her How to Cook Food For a Party article.
So what do you say, are you ready to finally host a party without overly stressing about food?