I organize the funeral dinners for my church and this past weekend I was given the pleasure of providing the meal for a wedding reception. Before my kids kept me so busy, I used to be in charge of the meal for the annual 4-H Livestock Banquet in our county. Throughout these different ventures I have gained a little bit of knowledge about cooking for a crowd. Here are a few tidbits that might help you the next time you need to plan for a bunch of people!
Coffee: 1 cup of ground coffee to 33 cups of water. A good rule of thumb is to use about half as much ground as what the instructions on the can actually say. The more servings you make, the less grounds you actually need.
Punch or other non-alcoholic beverage: Plan for, at a minimum, double what the suggested serving size says on the container. To stretch your punch a little bit, you can have water pitchers on the tables or easily accessible. If your punch seems to be running low, add more 7-UP or whatever you main ingredient is. No one will know the difference!
Potatoes: 80 lbs of potatoes fed about 250 people at the wedding. That is approximately 1/4 lb per person. If you are making scalloped potatoes, you can do slightly less or go by the casserole suggestion below.
Hot vegetables: go with the serving size on the side of the container.
Relish Tray: I would guess about 2-4 pieces of veggie per person. Remembering that carrots are the most popular crudette on the platter- Get more of them than you do any other veggie. Veggie dip, go with the servings on the container.
Salad: We calculated 3 oz per person for the wedding and had way too much. I would think 1-2 oz per person would be a better guess. And most people used less salad dressing than the suggested serving size as well.
Hot meat: Boneless meat like roast beef or ham is about 1/4 lb per person. Bone in meat like chicken is closer to 1/2 lb per person but not more than that.
Lunch meat: There is a trick to this one. If you pre-make the sandwiches, the meat will go further, as little as 1/8 lb per person. When people make their own they often over-do it, especially if the meat is shaved instead of sliced. If you do not want to pre-make the sandwiches, buy your meat sliced (I tell the deli to slice mine as thin as possible while maintaining a whole slice) and have silver-dollar sized buns made. 1 slice: 1 bun: person. If you think you have to have regular sized buns, go with 2 slices of meat per person.
Pie: The average size pie can be cut into 8 pieces. Smaller, bought from the freezer case pies are about 6 pieces.
Cake: On an average single layer cake, a 2×2 piece is sufficient. So, a 9×13 pan would make about 24 servings of just slightly larger than 2×2.
Casseroles: If the casserole is a main course, you can fit about 12 servings into a 9×13 pan. If it is a side dish like scalloped corn or green bean casserole, you can use the same 24 servings as you would for cake.
Cold salads: like pasta, potato, pea, etc. One large spoon full per person is a good guess. That would come out to 1/4 t0 1/2 cup per person.
Hope this helps! Feel free to send me a comment if you have something specific you are preparing and don’t know how much. I’d be glad to offer my opinion!