How Much Do I Need to Feed Each of Them? How Much Food Does a Typical Woman Eat?
The typical American female eats precisely 7.0287 ounces of food at a wedding shower, not counting the obligatory piece of cake. OK, I made that up. Figure 1 1/3 servings per woman. In my own mother's words, “It's better to have too much than to send your guests home hungry.” The only time Mama is wrong is if you are hiring a caterer and it's costing you big bucks to be wrong. (But since you have carefully gotten your RSVPs back, you know precisely how many people to plan for.)
If you figure a serving is one hamburger, one chicken breast, one cup of pasta with sauce, and so on, and you plan 1 1/3 servings per person, you will hit it just about perfect. I always consider any dinner a success if I have at least two servings left when the dishes return to the kitchen. (If there were only one serving, you'd figure someone was too polite to eat the last of it but was still hungry.)
If you are serving cold cuts or a buffet, you'd want to roughly calculate 3 ounces of meat per person and 1½ servings of bread.
If you are serving just canapés and deli plates with carrot sticks and other finger food, you can probably figure on about 1 1/2 cups of food, loosely chopped, per person. That will give you a bit extra, but it's easy to figure.
For instance, if you can fit one cut up taquito, a few nuts, three carrot sticks, and two cherry tomatoes into 1 1/2 cups, you've got it about right. (P.S.—When serving finger foods, use six-inch plates, not the big ones, which encourage waste and screw up your planning per person.) People eat less in the summer and at certain times of day.
If you've ever been to a buffet, you may have noticed that the cheap, bulky items are always put first, before the meats and expensive stuff. You can set up your line the same way—put the pasta and green and fruit salads at the beginning of the line and the meats later.
People, especially women, eat less in public than they might at home, so you can count on that, too. Nobody's likely to waddle away from your buffet with two full plates of chow.
For the cake, plan on everyone taking one piece and there still being a few slices left over.
For beverages, a general rule of thumb is two cups of liquids per person per hour. If we're talking alcohol, it changes, of course, depending on the potency. Two beers in an hour may be reasonable, but so would three ounces of a strong liqueur.
The official guidelines in several catering books, party planning books, and cookbooks say basically this:
- Hors d'oeuvres: 3-4 per person per hour
- Meat, poultry, and fish: About 3 oz. per person
- Fruit salad: 4-6 oz. per person
- All other kinds of salad: About 2 oz. per person
- Breads, rolls, etc.: 1–1½ servings per person (make sure you slice breads in advance).
- Dessert: One slice of cake per person