Food calculator for cooking for larger groups

Updated February 21, 2017

While you may be confident knowing how much food to plan for your family of four, things can get confusing when you're hosting a meal for a large group. If you host a buffet, you'll need more food than at a sit-down dinner, as guests tend to serve themselves larger servings and sample more items. When in doubt, round up to ensure you don't run out of food. After you've planned out the menu, total up the quantities of appetizers, main dishes and side dishes. The total should be about one pound of food per person.


If you are serving appetizers before a meal, plan on having enough so each person can have six bites per person. If the only food being served is appetizers, such as at a cocktail party, plan on having 10 to 12 bites per person.

Main Dishes

If you have just one main dish, plan on each guest eating 170gr. If you serve more than one main dish, plan on 227gr. per person. If the main dish includes meat on the bone, you'll need to increase the quantity per person to account for the bones. A 9-by-12-inch casserole dish contains 10 to 12 servings.

Side Dishes

Offer at least three side dishes, including both savoury and sweet foods. Vary textures and colours. Plan on 1 1/2 cups per person, or one 1/2-cup serving of three side dishes. When cooking rice or grains, 1 14.2gr. dry makes one serving cooked. Two oz. dried beans or pasta count as one serving. If you are serving a salad as a side dish, assume one head of lettuce serves five people. Allow for one roll per person.


Have one full portion of dessert for each guest. Divide the desserts into smaller portions, so guests can select multiple items. A full portion of dessert is a regular slice of cake, two to three scoops of ice cream, three to four mini-pastries, 113gr. pudding, or two to three pieces of fruit.


Guests usually consume two drinks during the first hour, and about one drink per hour after that. Have a mix of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages on hand. You'll also need 0.454kg. of ice for every four to five guests. One lb. of coffee, or 1 cup of tea leaves, makes 50 servings. Plan on 1 pt. of cream for every 25 servings of tea or coffee.

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About the Author

Susan MacDowell is a freelance writer from New England. She is a CPA by training, but has many additional interests, including history, baseball, cooking, and travel. She's a native of New York, who now lives in Massachusetts and Maine.