When you’re planning a cocktail party, it’s easy to stress out about whether you have enough food and drink.  Nothing is worse than running out before the end of the party, but then you don’t want to blow your budget and be left with tons of leftovers either.  Here are a few pointers I’ve picked up over the years on buying the just-right amount for your guests: 

Consider your guest demographics. Men tend to eat and drink more than women, and younger people consume more than older people, generally.  If there will be children at the party, stock extra of appetizers like cheese, crackers, and shrimp—children can lay waste to an hors d’oeuvres table!

Plan on ten nibbles per person. A good rule of thumb is to serve five different types of appetizers and assume that each guest will eat at least two of each. However, the larger a party is, the fewer hors d’oeuvres each guest will likely eat—when there are a lot of people to mingle with they won’t linger at the food table the way they might at a more intimate affair. But at a small cocktail party you may need to stock more food.

Overdo it a little on drinks. They say that guests consume an average of two drinks during the first hour of the party, and one drink per hour for each hour after. I’ve generally found that to be true, but it can be hard to predict if they’ll be drinking wine, water, or cocktails.  Err on the side of buying too much wine and liquor.  You can always save the leftovers, and some stores will let you return unopened liquor for a refund (though check in advance, of course).

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