Reduce Holiday Waste with Party Portion Planning

During the holidays, some estimate Americans increase overall waste by 25  data-sf-ec-immutable="">Given that food waste is the number one component of our waste stream, it can be daunting to determine how much food to prepare for a holiday party or special meal.

To help reduce food waste and save on their budget, caterers and restaurants use simple portion formulas to calculate how much food to prepare and serve at events. A good rule of thumb is to expect to serve 10 to 20 percent more people than the number of RSVPs. This helps account not only for last-minute drop-ins but also for the variations of appetites of your guests.  Here are some quick tips for planning your holiday parties.

Tips

  • Guests tend to eat and drink more in the evening than during the day.
  • You can serve a lighter menu in between meals (mornings and afternoons).
  • Napkins encourage snacking while plates encourage a small meal.
  • If you serve a buffet, people are likely to fill their plate, no matter their appetite. Salad plates allow guests to return for seconds while gently guiding people away from taking more than they can consume.

To reduce food waste, include items that you can easily use for a future meal if they are not used, like rolls, nuts, or a veggie tray. It’s much easier to repurpose dinner rolls for lunch sandwiches or add chopped veggies into a stir-fry than to eat barbecue-sauced mini sausages for days on end.

Drinks

Guests will likely consume two drinks the first hour and one drink per hour after that. If you host a four-hour party, plan for four drinks per person to help reduce waste.

Type of Beverage and Number of Services in Each  

  • Soda: 1-Liter Bottle = 11 glasses (6 oz.)
  • Punch: 1 Gallon = 32 servings (4 oz.)
  • Wine: 1 750 ml bottle = 6 glasses (4 oz.)
  • Liquor: 1 750 ml bottle = 15-18 pours (1 oz.)
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Hors D’ouevres and Appetizers

  • Cocktail or Finger Food Party – no main meal following but not near meal time: 4-6 bites/hour
  • Cocktail or Finger Food Party – main meal following: 6 bites total
  • Cocktail or Finger Food Party – in lieu of main meal: 8-10 bites/hour

Lunch Entrees

  • Protein: 4-6 oz. 
  • Chilled Salad: 4 oz.               
  • Pasta as Side: 3 oz.                  
  • Pasta as Main: 6 oz.     
  • Bread: 1 roll

Dinner Entrees

  • Protein: 6-8 oz.                 
  • Starter Salad: 1 Lg. Handful                    
  • Pasta as Main: 6-8 oz.                    
  • Hot Side Dishes: 3-4 oz.               
  • Bread: 2 Rolls 

We hope these tips help you better plan your menu and grocery list so you don’t have a lot of food left over after a grand event. If you do have leftover food, send it home with your guests. They will love the extra gesture of generosity!

Happy Holidays!

— Christina Files
Posted on Dec 15, 2016

Summary: To help reduce food waste and save on their budget, caterers and restaurants use simple portion formulas to calculate how much food to prepare and serve at events. Here are some quick tips for planning your holiday parties.