What to Feed Your Halloween Party


In addition to my regular menu planning this weekend, I had to finalize our party menu, too! Saturday was our bi-monthly Sam’s shopping trip–excellent timing on that one–so we took advantage of already being in the warehouse store to stock up on the usual goods plus anything else we’d need for party food.

We also stopped by Trader Joe's on the way home. (This doesn't include the cooler full of meat or the case of beer.)

We also stopped by Trader Joe’s on the way home. (This doesn’t include the cooler full of meat or the case of beer we also purchased at Sam’s.)

Todd’s trunk was so weighed down it made alarming noises when we stopped at red lights! And there was no way everything was fitting in the pantry, so party prep items are still hanging out at the end of the dining room table until needed. I’d estimate we spend $200-$300 extra in groceries when prepping for a big party like this, and it always feels like money well spent. Our guests have plenty of options and the leftovers feed us (and sometimes our offices) in the days after the party so we don’t have to worry about cooking after the fun. It all evens out.

Speaking of those options, this is what the menu is currently set at:

Spanish Pulled Pork with Kings Hawaiian Rolls
Vegan Corn Chowder*
Roast Beef and Swiss Pinwheels
Smoked Gouda Pimento Cheese Pinwheels

Bacon-Wrapped Artichoke Hearts*
Stacked Spuds*
Spinach Puffs*
Spicy Black Bean Dip* with assorted crackers and chips

Cranberry-Pumpkin Bread
Chocolate Chip Brownies*

Paladin Punch* (non-alcholic)
Mulled Apple Cider
Frank-n-Brew (tequila)
Black Juleps (whiskey)
Beer: Yuengling Oktoberfest and Not Your Father’s Root Beer
Assorted wine, sodas, full bar, and mixers are always available

(Menu items marked with an * are from my cookbook, What to Feed Your Raiding Party.)

It’s very similar to last year’s menu with a lot of “fan favorites” like the bacon-wrapped artichoke hearts and the pinwheels. I had multiple dips on last year’s menu, but with so much food they got overlooked, so I slimmed it down to only one (and one that is always a hit at out parties). I also had a couple more desserts on the menu for last year, but I know that at least one guest is bringing a couple of sweet items for the table, so I lessened my to-do list knowing that we’ll have plenty.

We had all of this, plus 3 more items on the table in the kitchen that we just couldn't make room for!

In the end we had all of this, plus 3 more items on the table in the kitchen that we just couldn’t make room for!

And last year’s table was so jammed full that I thought it would be nice to have a little more room to maneuver this year!


This picture is from last year, too–I like to plan what is going where on the table and what serving dishes I’ll need before I start filling platters and dressing up the table. It looks like we only had 2 of the 3 leaves in place–I guess we only added the third leaf for Thanksgiving, though we’ve left it in place since. Good! That means we’ll have even more room to work with!

Okay, now back to work on my costume!

Your Secret to the Perfect Party Revealed!



Yeah, okay, not exactly a big secret, right? But I lost track of how many people said ‘I don’t know how you did it’ or something similar at or after the Halloween party. Because, yes, when the dining room table is fully extended and still barely contains everything, it does look like a lot of work.


That’s roughly 24 square feet of deliciousness.

So the “secret” is organization, and the strategy is divide and conquer.

Food is always a big part of all my parties. If you leave my house hungry, it’s your own damn fault. I like there to be a good variety and enough so that I don’t have to worry about running out of food before the fun is done. But it’s true that time is of the essence, so being organized to a fault is a plus and being reasonable with my expectations. Once I figure our what I’m making, I put it in order of what holds best on down to what must be made just before serving and then I start making 1-3 things a night for the week leading up to the party.

But what to make and how much of it? Catering math is the completion of the party-planning trifecta.

Catering math involves 3 variables and simple multiplication (yes, you can use a calculator if you need to).

  • How many people do you expect?
  • How long will the party last?
  • Will dinner be served?

If you’re serving nibbles before a dinner, you don’t need as many hors d’oeuvres otherwise your guests will be too full to enjoy the meal. But if all you’re serving is cocktail food (especially if it’s during the main lunch or dinner window) you need to have enough to serve as the meal. So for a party with both snacks and dinner, it’s 5 pieces per person per hour. Without a dinner planned it’s 10 pieces per person per hour. Simple as that!

Catering math made simple.

Catering math made simple.

For the Halloween party I figured on around 25 people for 5 hours or so with no separate meal served, which means I needed somewhere in the vicinity of 1250 (25x5x10) pieces for the evening.

1250 pieces sounds like a lot, but when you figure that–for instance–each veggie on a veggie tray, each meatball, each little cookie counts as a piece (and a bigger cookie counts as a 2 or 3 pieces), the numbers start adding up quickly. And if you’re serving things that a little bigger, you can fudge those numbers even more. So as I add things to my party menu, I note how many pieces I’m expecting out of each and I can keep a running total as I build it out. The number is a guide, though, and you have to know your guests and adjust accordingly.

I also make my shopping list, prep schedule, and plan for serving pieces while I make the menu: a one stop planning doc!

I also make my shopping list, prep schedule, and plan for serving pieces while I make the menu: a one stop planning doc!

Something else I do as I make my menu is to categorize the dishes by content, texture, and temperature as well as taste. Having a balance between sweet and savory is often as far as a lot of hosts go, but I like to make sure I plan options that are both crunchy and creamy, hot and cold, plus a good mix of vegetarian options among the more carnivore-friendly. It’s all about the mix, just like the mix of people you invite over!

Preparing for this year’s party was surprisingly chill. I kept up with my prep schedule and Todd and I kept everything moving so that on the day of the party there was no last minute rush before the guests arrived and we were able to greet our guests as calm and collected hosts. I hope these tips help you navigate your next party in similar form!