Party Planning Food/ Portion Guides

Updated on June 05, 2019
F.B. asks from Kew Gardens, NY
10 answers

Was recently involved in putting on a party at my kids school and ended up with way too much food, which was wasteful and expensive.

Can anyone point me to a good resource to pass on to whoever does this next? It was a buffet.

Left over apps. Mains included cold cuts on croissants, chicken fingers, and meatballs. Could have put out 3/4 of the total and been okay.

Could have used more fruit salad, wished we could have gotten the coffee out faster.

F. B

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Los Angeles on

Use "sign up genius" and tell them to not go overboard. Have a face-to-face planning meeting and tell them what happened this year.

If you have a local shelter? the food can be donated there, hopefully.

Sounds like there was waay too much selection as well. Keep it simple. If it's supposed to be a luncheon? Then plan for 1/2 of what you got this year.

Good luck!

More Answers



answers from Springfield on

Honestly, just write it all down and pass it on to the next person. But you need to include more information like how many people attended, what food was provided and how much, what people were told ahead of time (that refreshments would be served, that lunch would be served), etc. You mentioned getting the coffee out faster. What time did you start making coffee and what time did people start arriving? What other beverages did you offer? Don't go crazy into the details, but try to give helpful information.

You really didn't end up with "way too much food." The amount you describe is about what generally happens. If there weren't leftovers, you'd be wondering if you actually ran out and no one wanted to say something. It's almost impossible to have a successful event and not have leftovers.

The best thing you can do is talk to whomever is in charge of the overall event. That person should have a folder or a binder or something that has notes from previous years. That binder should be passed on to the next person each year. Your job is to add to the notes.

Our Cub Scout Pack has binders for our annual events. Actually, we've been talking about converting everything to a thumbdrive or something. But the point is, if this event happens annually, it's important to keep notes about each aspect so that the next group isn't starting from scratch each year and so that improvements can be made.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

If this was intended to be a main meal (supper or lunch), then perhaps the menu could have been limited to the main dishes (croissant sandwiches, chicken fingers and meatballs) plus 2 sides (the fruit salad, and perhaps another side such as a vegetable platter. Appetizers are maybe what caused you to have too many leftovers. They're often served by themselves, well before a main course. It's too easy for a party guest to simply pick up crackers and cheese or other simple apps, while they're chatting, and then be too full for the main course. Just limit the choices and you should be okay.

But if this was just a "serve something to munch on while visiting with the other parents" kind of thing, after school (and not a main meal), then it sounds to me as though you offered too many main dishes. Small chicken fingers and meatballs, plus fruit, and some baguette slices would have been nice, or just the cold cuts and croissants and fruit.

The usual rule is: if you're only having one main course (a large roast, a turkey, or a large ham), then plan on about 6 ounces of the protein per guest. But if you're serving more than one protein as you did (sandwiches and 2 meats), then only plan on 4 ounces of each protein per guest.

But really, it does sound like your party was a success. Better to have some leftovers than to leave your guests hungry. Kudos to you for stepping up to help host a school party!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

What time was the party? If it was lunch time I can say that a LOT of kids don't eat as much as they should at lunch, and if it was a party they were probably even more wound up and distracted. If it was after school that was probably too much food because a lot of kids are feeling tired and looking for a snack, not a full on meal.
I think if you only went 1/4 over (that's how I'm reading it?) you actually did okay. It's pretty impossible to predict EXACTLY how much people will eat, so it's always a good idea to go a little over.
I go by "serving size" on recipes, and I adjust that if I'm doing it as part of a buffet. So for example if a pot of mac and cheese serves 18 as a main dish it will likely serve twice or even three times as many as a side dish.
Honestly a lot of this is just trial and error, and you'll get better at figuring out amounts and what types of items get eaten more consistently than others. In my experience the salty/savory stuff (like pigs in blankets or pizza) always gets gobbled up, whereas things like crudites and those pinwheel/wrap sandwiches usually get left behind.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I think it's better to have too much than too little.
Then just split up the leftovers to take home if you purchased them.
Always good to have enough appetizers out so people can go up as soon as they get there & have a little something.
Pastas are always good to have for the main part, some kind of protein, salads & bread (filling).
Can you leave a written menu idea for the next group that does it at post it at the school somewhere on a cabinet?


I think it's better to have too much than too little.
Then just split up the leftovers to take home if you purchased them.
Always good to have enough appetizers out so people can go up as soon as they get there & have a little something.
Pastas are always good to have for the main part, some kind of protein, salads & bread (filling).
Can you leave a written menu idea for the next group that does it at post it at the school somewhere on a cabinet?



answers from Minneapolis on

I think what you did not need was the main dishes. Appetizers and desserts would be sufficient. Congrats on having a successful party. Too much food is always preferable to not having enough.



answers from Chicago on

I don't know why you think it was too much! in my book you can never have too much. Only too little and that is embarrassing and uncomfortable for the guests. I have a sister, bless her soul who probably measures the entire plate into fractions and puts out enough food for the group...minus two. So everyone is taking extremely tiny portions and waiting like my pup, for a few leftover scraps. Me I could eat the whole turkey but take a sliver of it and ooh and ahh over it. The thing is she's a great cook! but I don't dare tell her she could cook serve a little more. We simply try to bring along a delicious donation to round out the meal. It also so happens that I was also at a party once where we all contributed a few dollars for sandwiches and the host failed to mention she had thousands more in her basement refrigerator while we all grudgingly began splitting the ones set out. After we ate appetizers, split the few sandwiches amongst the many of us, became full-a tad later we were told there were plenty more. UGH. So my point here, maybe not as logical as some of the other bits of advice is to serve plentifully and purposefully. People always look forward to your next celebration.


answers from Norfolk on

Why ever did you have more than one main dish?
A school party as a potluck is difficult for the very reasons you just experienced.

Most school parties are not meant to be full meals.
At least when our son was going to elementary school - parties were cookies, candy and cupcakes and soda.
The basic concept was 'load them up on sugar and then send them home'.
It was pointless trying to do anything healthy - I'm fairly certain the other class moms must have had stock in major candy corporations because Halloween through Field Day was a non stop sugar fest.
Our son got his fill to the point where he was ok just throwing a lot of it away.
There was that much - he actually got tired of it.

The only time someone needs to bring enough for the whole class is if they are the only one supplying that item.
So if one person is responsible for drinks - that person brings the drinks for all.
If 3 people are bringing drinks - each can get 1/3 - perhaps one brings cola, another brings Sprite, and the other root beer - there's a variety without there being too much of one thing and sure you might run out of one thing but it is NOT the end of the world.

If you are doing a main meal - do one main thing with just a few sides.
Pizza is classic - half of them pepperoni pizza and half of them cheese pizza.
No other 'main' things, just a fruit (water melon cubes) and salad options as sides.
ONE dessert - cupcakes or cookies are fine, plenty and enough.

Best thing to do is have a sign up sheet that says what you want brought in (specify amounts) and people can sign up for the things they want to bring.



answers from Portland on

When we've done parties where the mains got left (I'm thinking birthdays) it was because we had appetizers. This was usually because my husband just put out too many and the kids were ravenous and gobbled them up. So you might have budgeted ok for the mains, but the kids could have filled up on apps.

I know I do that - will fill up on bread or appetizers and then not eat my full meal, if I'm hungry. Same with drinks. Did everyone drink before eating? If you drink a water/juice before you eat, you can literally eat 1/2 what you would. So if kids were running around and drank before you served ... there you go.

I do think there are websites out there for party planning purposes that help with this kind of thing (charts) - I've never used them, but someone might know (or if you Google). Usually though, 1/4 over is probably ok. It's just that it seems wasteful because it's the mains and those are the pricier ones to prepare unfortunately.

*Here they do (if this helps) for adult parties (such as for the staff) - soups and salads and people bring soups in crock pots, etc. and then easy to take home extra soup .. so none gets wasted (people just take home in tupperware). They bring in chili that kind of thing.

Kids they tend to basic stuff - like pizza and salad for kids who don't like pizza choices. That tends to go over well and it gets eaten up. My kids have come home with those styrofoam boxes of salad before so it gets used up and my kids will ask if they can eat it for supper.



answers from New York on

Here is what I use for a guideline:

Portion Size Per Person

Hors D'oeuvres

6 bites when preceding a meal.
4 - 6 bites per hour when hors-d'oeuvres are the meal.
The longer your party and the larger your guest list, the greater the number of selections you should offer.

The Main Meal

Poultry, meat or fish - 6 ounces when you have one main dish, 8 ounces when you offer two or more main courses.
Rice, grains - 1.5 ounces as a side dish, 2 ounces in a main dish such as risotto.
Potatoes - 5 ounces
Vegetables - 4 ounces
Beans - 2 ounces as a side dish
Pasta - 2 ounces for a side dish, 3 ounces for a first course, 4 ounces for a main dish
Green Salad - 1-ounce undressed weight


1 slice cake, tart or pastry
4 ounces creamy desserts such as pudding or mousse
5 ounces ice cream
When serving two of the above, reduce each by a little less than half.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions