How to Calculate Food Amounts

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Properly calculating food amounts in advance will ensure that you are prepared to feed any size party or event. Offering too little food will quickly deflate the festive spirit of a gathering. Supplying too much food often results in high shopping bills and unwanted leftovers. You can avoid breaking the budget and wasting food by buying only what you need. Make a simple calculation based on the guests, time and location to bring the right amount of food to satisfy everyone in attendance.

Make a comprehensive guest list and total up the number of attendees over and under 12 years old. Assume that guests are over 12 years old if you do not know their age.

Multiply the total number of guests under 12 by one pound to calculate the total amount of food needed to feed the younger people. For example, 50 guests under 12 would require 50 pounds of food.

Multiply the total number of guests over 12 by one and a half pounds to calculate the total amount of food needed to feed the older people. For example, 50 guests over 12 would require 75 pounds of food.

Add the food weights together from both groups to get the total amount of food needed to feed the guests. Using the prior example, 50 pounds from the younger group and 75 pounds from the older group would equal 175 pounds of food.

Divide the total food weight in two giving half the weight to meats and entrees and the other half to appetizers, breads, salads and side dishes. This distribution will supply plenty of choice and quantity for the event.


  • The calculated food weight totals do not include beverages or desserts. Two drinks per hour for the first hour followed by one drink per hour for each additional hour is a good rule of thumb on both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Two dessert servings per person is sufficient for most gatherings.