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Ideas for planning successful, fun potlucks

Potluck dinners at first glance look like the perfect solution to most party-dinner problems. You don't have to do the cooking, so they save time. You don't have to buy the food, so they save money. Win-win, right? potluck dinners can be easy

Anyone who'e ever invited people over for a potluck and left it at that knows that what you actually end up with is one large lasagna (that you made yourself), three different kinds of potato salad, five bags of chips, three store-bought and two home-made dips, at least one jello salad, and six plates of cookies. If you're lucky, not all the cookies will have nuts, and the ones that do will state so clearly, because there's nothing worse than dealing with food allergies at parties.

Successful potlucks only require one thing: organization. Organizing a potluck doesn't have to be an all-consuming, onerous task. Whether you take the reins or delegate the party coordination, someone has to be on top of deciding and tracking who is bringing what. You don't have to be a control freak, either; it's just as easy to say "Bring an appetizer" as it is to say "Bring your Aunt Elizabeth's Delicious Taco Dip." It doesn't even have to be a food item - you can ask that someone be responsible for things like disposable plates and silverware, napkins, pretty much anything within reason. Including staying after to help with the cleanup. Keep an updated list of who's coming, who's bringing what, and you've got a party!

Potluck Ideas

Potlucks, by the way, aren't just for dinner any more. Why not have a potluck brunch, lunch, or even picnic?

Not every potluck has to be the "luck of the draw" for food. Having a Theme Dinner can be lots of fun, and having people bring ingredients rather than dishes can make it even more so. Here are a few ideas for meals where guests not only bring the ingredients, they can also put their own individual touch on dinner...

Theme Suggested Dishes

Pizza Night

"Make Your Own"

Store bought pizza dough, pita rounds, or pre-made pizza shells
Guests bring various toppings
Individual pizzas can be cooked in the oven or on the grill.

Mexican Style

"Fiesta Night"

Tacos, Burritos, or Taco Salads
Hard taco shells, tortillas, flatbreads, or tortilla chips
Guests bring toppings and ingredients
Serve buffet style

Grilling Outdoors

"Kabob-bob-bobbing Along"

Outdoor parties are great when the weather permits.
Kabobs can be a tasty and fun alternative to the traditional burgers and dogs.
Have guests bring pre-cut (and/or pre-marinated) food for making kabobs
Steak, chicken, veggies, even fruit
Silverware optional!

Italian Night

"Life without

Italian food doesn't have to be heavy to be good!
Have your friends bring various toppings and serve a few different kinds of bruschetta as a main course
Hot and cold antipasto items

Potluck Accessories to make things easier:


Catered Potlucks?

There's no rule against incorporating catering food into potluck dinners!

catered potluck food can be great

One way to turn a "regular old potluck" into a memorable party can be to have the main dish catered. This is a case where a partial service caterer can help out in a big way! Perfect paella, prime rib, sliders, bbq, any number of ethinic main dishes, crown rack of lamb and more are all dishes that can require specialized equipment or large investments of time to make. Why not have someone else take the work out of it for you? The added bonus is that when you know exactly what the potluck main dish will be, it makes it easy to give your guests an idea (or a request) of what to bring.

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