Planning a whole dinner party can sometimes feel like a giant logic puzzle: If we serve this dessert, then we’ll do that appetizer, but if that person comes, then we won’t serve that, and on and on! Deciding how much meat to buy per person is all part of the game. How do you figure it out?

Whether you’re cooking for four people or 40 people, there’s an easy way to solve this math puzzle.

Plan your menu first.

Before worrying about how much meat to buy, get started by planning your menu. Work backwards by looking at what else you want to serve, how the meat is going to be used, and what kind of appetites you think your guests will have.

It’s important to consider the side dishes you plan to serve. Will they be something heavier, like pasta or potatoes, or on the lighter side, like sautéed greens or roasted veggies?