Five Potluck Ideas for Low-Stress Entertaining


Potlucks have been a fun, intimate way for people to share a meal for centuries.  According to the Oxford English dictionary (2nd edition) the first known use of the term was in 1592 and meant guests were invited to eat, but anything could be in the pot and the host wasn’t responsible for its contents (pot + luck).

Today’s potlucks allow you to entertain friends without the expense or time commitment of a full-blown party. Whether you’re hosting the neighborhood or just a few couples, these five party ideas will fill your pot with good food and friendship.

What’s Old is New Again: Host a Traditional Potluck 

Potluck means come as you are and bring a dish. To hold a traditional potluck, simply pick a date and invite your friends to make a dish to share. To keep the party fresh and new each time, ask your guests to experiment with making something unusual or show off a favorite family recipe. The dishes can also be seasonally based with light vegetarian fare for summer, hearty stews for winter, or a holiday theme.

art-0314-pl2Dinner Clubs: A More Intimate Potluck

Dinner clubs offer a sophisticated touch to a “bring your own food” gathering. Smaller and more intimate than a traditional potluck, a dinner club works best when three or four couples participate and take turns hosting dinner. How often you meet is up to you. The host picks the theme (Mardi Gras, Caribbean, Indian) and assigns each guest a course to bring. The host provides drinks and a game or two to keep the evening lively and fun.

Progressive Dinners: A Potluck on the Move

Progressive dinners are a mobile feast similar to dinner clubs, but with multiple hosts and some travel required. This party works best in a single neighborhood or among friends who live close to one another. Each participant is assigned a dinner course, and either themed or freestyle works for this party. Guests arrive at the first house to enjoy an aperitif or appetizer and then move to a different location for each course. To add some fun, ask trivia questions at each stop with prizes at the end. Hire one or two babysitters to watch all of the kids at the last house and split the cost to save money.

Around the World: A Global Perspective Potluck

Host an around the world potluck for a taste of the exotic without leaving home. The party takes place in one neighborhood with each house a “country” that serves one dish from that country. There are 196 countries in the world, so dishes can range from familiar Swedish meatballs, to something out of the ordinary, like pilau (spiced rice) from Kenya – inspiration is just a mouse-click away. The festivities begin in one “country” and at a designated time, guests walk to the next international destination. For a fun twist, create passports for each guest with funny aliases and back stories, and stamp the passport at each stop.

A Family Affair:  A Potluck for the Kids

Kids love parties as much as adults. Why not host a potluck for the whole family? Breakfast for dinner is a favorite any night of the week. Ask guests to dress in pajamas and bring a dish normally served in the morning for a breakfast potluck. At an alphabet potluck, guests are assigned a letter from A – Z and bring a dish that starts with that letter. A color theme is also popular with younger guests. Each family is assigned a color and makes a dish to match. Challenge guests to wear the assigned color and give prizes for the most colorful costume.

Planning is important when children are guests. Organize games or a craft table to keep youngsters busy. Ask the other parents to share the cost of a babysitter to run the activities and give adults time to socialize.

Getting together with friends doesn’t have to be a costly or time-consuming affair. Open your home and invite your friends to share a meal and you’ll be sure to find plenty of luck in your pot.

About Janine Queenin

Janine Queenin is a writer, mom and social secretary for two kids aged 11 and 9. She loves to plan fun, inexpensive activities and often starts conversations with, “You know what would be fun…”

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