Figuring how much food you need for your feast can be scary. You don’t want to run out of mashed potatoes, or not have enough gravy. But you also want to plan smart so there isn’t so much food leftover that it is impossible to eat it all. This guide to how to estimate the for Thanksgiving will help you to decide just many dishes you need to serve your guests.
Since you will probably be serving more than the simple protein, starch, vegetable trifecta, how do you even take a stab at estimating the food you need for Thanksgiving?
Buffet Style Serving Requires More Food
Here are some simple quantities to plug into your menu. These numbers will work with most dinner parties, however, you should remember that serving food buffet-style, you need to have enough food that the last person in line doesn’t have to scrape the bits from the pan to have a taste. Also, when you have several dishes in the same category, (think mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes) many of your guests will have a spoonful of each so you will need to plan accordingly. People are creatures of habit and will fill a large plate with more food than a smaller plate. There is also the buffet dynamic of taking larger servings earlier in the line of food and as the plate fills, the servings will get smaller so the food will fit on the plate.
Dietary Restrictions Changes the Math
You also need to factor in the dietary concerns of your guests, if you have several vegetarians coming to your Thanksgiving feast, that skew the math away from the meat and heavy on the dishes that they will enjoy. Same with any other food allergy or food preference. Since this is everyone’s Thanksgiving feast, please make sure all your guests will enjoy a bountiful menu.
So for this Thanksgiving food estimator, I’ll include a sample menu of popular dishes. Then tackle the amount of food per person to plan on. Since every recipe is different and the serving size is often not listed at the top of the recipe, I suggest you check the nutritional information which will give the serving size and calculate if you will need to scale up the recipe from that information.
These amounts are for average adult eaters. Count children 12 and older as adults, if you are serving children younger than 12 and older adults who don’t eat as much, reduce the amounts by 1/4-1/3. If you are serving guests with the appetites of starving football players, increase the amounts by 1/3. And I usually pad the numbers by 1.5 – 2 servings just to make sure there is enough.
How to Estimate the Food for Thanksgiving
- Roasted Turkey (1-1.5 pounds per person)
- Ham (.5 pounds per person)
- Bread Stuffing (4 ounces per person)
- Mashed Potatoes (6 ounces per person)
- Turkey Gravy (4 ounces per person)
- Cranberry Sauce (2.5 ounces per person)
- Rolls (1.5 rolls per person)
- Butter (1 tablespoon per person)
- Jam (.5 tablespoon per person)
- Sweet Potatoes Casserole (4 ounces per person)
- Green Bean Casserole (4 ounces per person)
- Brussel Sprouts (3 ounces per person)
- Peas (2.5 ounces per person)
- Other Vegetables (3 ounces per person)
- Green Salad (2 ounces per person)
- Fruit Salad (2 ounces per person)
- Drink (8 ounces per person per hour)
- Pie (1/8 per person)
- Whipped Cream (1.5 ounces per person)
- Ice Cream (3 ounces per person)
Plan of providing some kind of nibbles or appetizers as people gather. Because this is the prelude to the big meal, you can estimate 4 appetizers per person. However, remember that if you have a variety of appetizers, people will sample each one and you will have to adjust the count for that. If you are serving a relish plate or chips and dips, estimate 3 ounces of dip and 3 ounces of chips per person.
The general rule is to plan on two drinks (of whatever beverages you are serving) the first 90 minutes, and one drink per hour after that per person. Use the serving size on 2-liter bottles of sodas to help you estimate the quantities you will need for your guests.
Remember food safety, as you plan your meal and serve the meal. Food that is served hot or cold that has been sitting out for more than three hours should be thrown away, so if you are done eating the appetizers or dinner, get any leftovers stored in the refrigerator.