Cooking the right amount of food

It is always difficult to plan how much food you need for a BBQ, especially if you have invited a large crowd and are unsure who will turn up. According to the National BBQ Association and Mintel, families in the UK spend around £315 on food and drink for BBQ’s each year, as the tendency is to buy far more food than is required. This leaves you with lots of leftovers that often end up uneaten, but there are some easy ways to estimate just how much food you’ll need.

Predicting portion size

Once you know the number of guests, you need to estimate the portion sizes per person. You can do this by looking at the age range (and eating habits!) of the guests you’re expecting. If you’re feeding young children, they will need approximately 4oz of meat per serving, but remember that some of them might come back for seconds! If you’re feeding a crowd of hungry adults, you should estimate around 16oz of meat per person.

Adding it all up

Next you need to add it all up so you are prepared before your trip to the shop. Multiply the number of children you expect by their estimated intake of 4oz meat, and multiply the number of adults you expect by their estimated intake of 16oz meat, excluding any vegetarians. Add these two numbers together and you’ll be ready to visit the shops.

Buying the meat

Having the estimated weight of meat you’ll need is useful information if you’re intending to shop at a butchers or meat counter, as they will weigh everything out for you and provide a great mix of BBQ-ready meat products. If you are planning to purchase ready-packaged meat, you may prefer to estimate your meat allowance by purchasing two small pieces of meat for each guest, adults and children - this might be sausages, burgers, chicken breasts or kebab skewers.

Side dishes

Whether you are buying or preparing the side dishes, no BBQ would be complete without tubs full of potato salad, coleslaw and of course, crisps! Believe it or not, each of your guests is likely to eat 5oz of side dishes alongside their meat in total, so multiply this by the number you’re expecting and bare this in mind when doing the shopping, remembering that you don’t need this amount of each side dish, just altogether. With crisps, it is often easier to buy multipacks of crisps, allowing one bag per guest.


Having enough drinks is vital at BBQ’s, as lots of food and sunshine combined can otherwise lead to dehydration. If buying bottled water, estimate around half a litre for each guest, and ensure that bottles are stored in cooler boxes or out of sunlight. Fizzy drinks, juices and alcohol are always great at a BBQ too, and the easiest way to estimate the number of these is to buy a variety of individually portioned cans, bottles and cartons, ensuring that there are two or more for each guest. You may want to increase this number and the amount of water you’re buying if your BBQ is an all day event. 

Bread and condiments

No burger is complete without its bun and no hot dog is complete without ketchup and mustard, so make sure you have enough bread and condiments to go round, without leaving you lots leftover! Buy individually portioned bread in the form of buns or pittas, and buy this after you know how many sausages and burgers you’ve got. Once you know this, buy one bun for each piece of meat, and a few spares. Then buy 1 onion and 1 pack of sliced cheese for every five burgers or hot dogs and 1 bottle of ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard and salad cream for every 10 guests you’re expecting. 

If you bare all of the above in mind whilst planning how much food you’ll need for your BBQ party, you should find that you have plenty of food and drink to go around, without ending up with too much waste or too many leftovers.

If you do find that after all guests have gone you’ve still got lots to eat, here are a couple of tips:

  • Refrigerate BBQ leftovers as soon as possible and keep your fridge below 5 degrees. This will help your food stay fresh for longer, giving you more time to eat anything that’s been leftover.
  • Any meat that’s been left over should be covered and put in the fridge immediately or within two hours of being cooked, and used up within four days in lunchboxes, sandwiches or on salads.