Cooking For A Crowd

 How much is enough? Here’s how to make food and drink to last the whole event, but not leftovers to feed an army.
Veggie Potato Salad for a Crowd

Photo by Molly

Guest-imating: How Much Food to Fix?
The amount of food you plan for your party can change depending on the time of day, type of food, or even by the people attending. (Have you watched teenagers eat?) But as a general rule, consider these guidelines for individual portions:

  • Eight appetizer pieces: appetizers should consist of two to three bites
  • Three ounces of dip or salsa (about 1/3 cup per person)
  • One cup of soup (less if it’s a thick soup, like chowder)
  • Three ounces of salad (about one cup)
  • Six ounces of meat or main entrée
  • Five ounces of starch (potato, pasta, or rice)
  • One and a half pieces of dessert

Though you can easily apply these numbers to whatever size crowd you’re cooking for, let’s try a sample shopping list based on a guest list of 10 people.

Chicken, beef, fish, or pork

  • Four pounds

Potato or pasta salads

  • Three pounds of potatoes
  • One pound of dry pasta

Hot dogs or sausage (main dish)

  • 20 hot dogs
  • Three pounds of sausage such as bratwurst or kielbasa


  • Shrimp: two to three pounds, pre-cooked and peeled, or three pounds if raw and unpeeled
  • Clams and mussels: two pounds

Soups and stews

  • One half gallon if served as an appetizer
  • One gallon if served as a main dish

Green salads

  • Two to three large heads of lettuce, or two pounds green salad mix
  • Three cups of dressing

Of course, how you mix and match what you are serving affects how much you should make. For any two main dishes, such as chicken and fish, four pounds total are necessary, not four pounds of each. But consider adding a pound to the total, as many will want to try both dishes.




  • One gallon for every 10 guests

Beer, wine and cocktails

  • Two drinks per person, per hour is a good guess

Check out our cocktail party advice:

Sidecar Cocktail

Photo by Nanda


Suggested Menus
Here are some menu ideas to get you started–something perfect for every season!

Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls

Photo by marsha151