Throw an Awesome Potluck Dinner With These 6 Easy Tricks


Want to eat well and spend less at your next social gathering? Consider hosting an informal potluck dinner. We throw the majority of our parties this way, and we can typically accommodate up to 10 people on a dime, which includes providing a main dish, dessert, and some beverages. Aside from the savings, potlucks give friends and family the opportunity to try new dishes (or showcase old favorites) and flex their cooking muscles. It's both fun and frugal.

1. Think Scope

How big will your party be? If it's just a few friends or another couple, your planning will be pretty easy and compact. A standard recipe yield should work just fine. For larger get-togethers, you'll want to ask your guests to make servings enough for themselves and at least six to eight other people, depending. Choose a date at least a few weeks in advance to give your guests time to plan and execute their dishes.

2. Consider a Theme

If your friends have eclectic tastes, feel free to skip this step. However, to avoid some pretty funky food combinations (think lasagna and General Tso's chicken), try sending your guests an overall theme for their dishes. You can go Italian, Mexican, Asian, French, BBQ, American, seafood, vegetarian, small bites, or even try cooking meals from one cookbook. Choose a cuisine that will fit your guests' tastes and budgets. (For example: No truffles or foie gras required.)

3. Organize Food

Ask your friends to tell you what they plan to bring well ahead of time so you won't see repeats of the same dish. If you invite people via social media or other online invitation services, this can be as easy as having them post the info on the wall or notes section. You don't want to discourage excitement over certain foods, but your goal is to create a well-rounded culinary experience that everyone can appreciate. The exception to this rule is if you want to have a party with variations on the same food (think different types of pizza or pasta, etc.).

4. Make the Main

As the host, you are responsible for the main dish to serve. Make a generous portion that will fill all the bellies at the party. And whenever we throw potlucks, we also provide the bulk of the nonalcoholic beverages, some beer or wine, and a dessert (if the group is small or no one offers). Overall, you'll want to see how your party is balanced and try to fill in the gaps as you see fit. (See also: Win Your Next Potluck With One of These 23 Cheap, Easy Dishes)

5. Shop Around

While you're looking for ingredients to feed a crowd, try shopping at discount grocery stores like Aldi. The food is great and definitely wallet-friendly. For parties, I especially like their selection of cheeses, hummus, fresh berries, chips, and beverages. (Related: 10 Things You Should Never Buy From Aldi)

6. Label Everything

Provide note cards for guests to write down the ingredients they've put in their dishes. This will help people with dietary restrictions stay safe and happy. For example, vegans might like to know there's cream in that tomato sauce. People with peanut allergies might not imagine that those cookies are made with nut butter. If a friend does have a severe food allergy, mention it in the invitation (not by name, of course) so people can avoid that ingredient entirely.

What are your tips for throwing an awesome potluck?

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