How do I know how much food to serve at my baby's birthday party?

Real Mom Problem

“We're having about 40 people for my daughter's first birthday party. We are going to be having sandwiches and chips and cake. I am wondering if that will be enough or should I get a salad or a veggie tray as well? I really don't want to go overboard with the food.”

by AudreysMom0307 AudreysMom0307

Quick Tips

  • 1. Try to get a good estimate of the number of kids
  • 2. When in doubt, it's always better to have too much; you can send parents home with leftovers, freeze stuff, or possibly donate to a shelter or food bank
  • 3. Consider your party's time of day, theme (e.g. tea party) and length when determining the amount to serve
  • 4. Choose kid-friendly fare that freezes well, like chicken nuggets or hot dogs, and whatever you don't use you can freeze for a future date

Real Mom Solutions

Fretting over how much food to serve at your kid's birthday bash? See what these moms suggest and you won't have to guess!

Laura Wallis Laura Wallis

Our Expert Mom Says...

There's no magic answer when it comes to how much food to prepare for a party, because a lot depends on the appetites of the kids in question, as well as whether the adults at the party are eating, too, and the time of day. There's no worse feeling than running out of food for a party, but overestimating is almost as bad -- especially if you end up throwing food away.

Some guidelines: Consider the time of the party first. If it's a midday bash, or a late-afternoon into evening one, then people will expect you to serve the equivalent of lunch or dinner. If you're having pizza, plan on two slices apiece for older kids and adults, and one each for little ones (even this conservative formula has burned me in the past -- I've had parties where kids were done after a half slice each, and almost all the parents skipped it entirely, and we ate leftover pizza for days! But at mealtime you've got to expect people will eat). If you're making or buying a giant sub, those typically feed 4-6 adults per foot (and probably at least twice that many kids). Plan for the same general quantities, whatever your main course offering. Then you'll want sides, and snacks, and desserts. Don't overdo it: Have some chips and dips, some healthy veggies to nibble on, but don't make snacks at a kid party so filling that they all ignore the meal itself. Likewise, if you're having cake, you might want some cookies and ice cream, too, but unless it's a sweets-themed party you don't need six different desserts.

Laura Wallis is a mom of two and a veteran food and lifestyle writer. She was a longtime staffer at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and still pitches in as a freelance editor on "Everyday Food" magazine and special issues, and contributes to a variety of other food, lifestyle, and health publications. She has also contributed to numerous Martha Stewart books, including "American Food" and "Favorite Crafts for Kids."

More Party Meal Tips from Moms

  • Yowanda42

    For my first daughter's first birthday, I made a big tray of lasagna. That went over pretty well with all age groups. But pretty much every birthday since, including my little girl's first birthday, we've just done pizza. It's easy, fast, and also appeals to all age groups. Just pick a table food that your daughter likes and make enough for everyone.

  • awesomeamylynn

    I find with kids' birthday parties, the simpler the food is, the better. Try not to over-think it. Besides, usually the kids are too busy playing to eat much anyway!

  • svenskama

    The amount of food you serve at a birthday party depends on the time of day of the party. If it is around a normal meal time (lunch or dinner), then you will want something kind of substantial for people to eat. If it is in between lunch and dinnertime, then snack type foods are fine.