Hosting a party or gathering for friends or family is fun, but can be stressful as you try to manage all the ins and out of party planning along with the rigors of everyday life. One of the most difficult aspects of party planning is deciding how much food to prepare for everyone. You don't want to run out and yet you don't want to waste food and money by making too much. If you know how many are coming to the party, you can estimate how much food to make.
Determine how many guests will come to the party. Send out invitations at least three weeks to a month ahead of time and include an RSVP card to return. Add 10 percent to the total number of RSVPs to account for anyone that shows up who didn't RSVP or who brings additional people.
Decide on the meal selections for the party. You can get a better idea of how much food you need if you know what food you will make. A good rule of thumb is to have a few types of appetizers, a main course with a couple of sides and dessert.
Cook appetizers expecting each person to eat 6 to 8, and then add an extra plate or two to allow for those who overindulge or if more guests than you expected show up. Guests won't fill up on appetizers, but it appeases their stomachs for an hour or two until the main meal is ready to be served.
Prepare the main course using the 1-lb. rule when it comes to poultry, turkey and other meat dishes. Each guest will eat about 1 lb. of meat. If one of the sides is soup, then account for about 1 cup per person. Assume each guest will eat one or two dinner rolls and 1 cup of the second side.
Create the dessert with the assumption of about one piece of cake or pie per person or three scoops of ice cream per person.
Prepare a little bit extra of each dish as a precaution. It's much less embarrassing to have a little extra food in the end then to run out of food and leave your guests hungry.