HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Cheap Party Attendees

Several times a year there are various gatherings of groups or clubs where the guests are requested to sign up to bring a dish to pass &/or some other party essential (wine, beer, condiments, etc.). Outside of the hosts who put forth the effort & expense of hosting such an event (main protein, housecleaning, etc.), I am always amazed at how cheap (or lazy) some people can be. As somewhat of a healthy foodie, I always go through the effort of preparing something relatively unique with fresh ingredients that presents well. I understand not everyone has the kitchen skills or knowledge or time to prepare something elaborate, but come on...katsup & mustard? A bag of chips and jar of salsa? Potato salad from the grocery store deli? We're talking mature adults here, no kids.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'd rather have a bag of chips and jarred salsa than no chips and bad salsa. Not everyone can cook. I don't see the big deal here.

    1. Doesn't really bother me. Can't get upset about something out of your control. Just because eating healthy food presented well is important to you doesn't mean it's important to everyone.

      If it really drives you crazy next time you host one of these things be super specific. I hosted a school pot luck recently and used "punch bowl" invites as you can list the items needed and the quantities. Having options like soft drinks, paper goods, condiments, etc gives those people who don't have the time, inclination or skills to cook an easy option while allowing those who want do more the option too. Ie: fall inspired appetizer, vegetarian entree, etc

      1. I hear you. I organize a Christmas potluck each year at my office. It's always disappointing when someone throws a box of oranges, a container of poppycock or a bag of 3 day old buns on the table. What does irk me, is that those same people love to belly up all the wonderful homemade dishes that others spent hours working on. But I've realized, over the years, you can't win this battle so I decided to stop being mad about it and come up with some other strategies.

        1. Making a super big deal about a person's specialty, if they ever brought a nice dish I shower them with praise about it. "World famous or best ever..." They will usually bring it again. People like being complimented.
        2. I ask two people to pair up. One who makes more of an effort and the other brings rice, or a specific accompaniment.
        3. I ask someone to bring small baked potatoes hot in foil and a second person the 'toppings'. Easy prep but enjoyed item for most.
        4. Creating a specific lists including easy items like ketchup, paper plates, etc.. this allows everyone to participate at what ever level they can based on time and funds available.

        Some times it's unrealistic to expect people to spend too much time on it, because they may not enjoy cooking or the store bought potato salad is perfectly nice to them. We all have different standards.

        Good luck. I feel your pain!

        3 Replies
        1. re: TSAW

          Haha - in the case of my office potlucks, not only do the people not contributing belly up at the potluck, but they always seem to also help themselves to another plateful of food to take home with them. Anyways, some good suggestions that you provided.

          1. re: SaraAshley

            a woman I worked with solved that issue.

            If you wanted to eat, you had to bring a dish or $5, which would be put toward ice, plates, etc.

            It worked really well, and not a single soul refused to pony up one way or the other.

            1. re: SaraAshley

              I try to view it like I do people at work that steal your lunch out of the fridge. Either my cooking is better than theirs or they don't have enough money for lunch for themselves. It has made me feel much better to believe that rather than just get myself all worked up once again about something I can't seem to resolve. Maybe the young guys at work miss their Mom's cooking.

              Anyway, it is what it is and I don't judge. I say enjoy.

          2. In my group of friends (we are adults I guess..late 20s/early 30s), most of them cannot cook. Some it's because they're lazy, but for most, it's because they don't even know where to start and/or are just too busy. So, they bring store-bought items. I'd rather they do that than try to make something and it be bad.

            Also, it's often cheaper to make it yourself, than to purchase it, so they are actually spending MORE than they bought all the ingredients separately and made from scratch. So calling them cheapskates usually isn't appropriate.

            3 Replies
            1. re: juliejulez

              I think if you don't cook a lot, it really can cost more to make it yourself without a well stocked pantry.
              Not cheapskates.

              1. re: monavano

                That's very true. Either way, cost is not usually the reason why people opt to bring pre-made items to a party.

                1. re: juliejulez

                  I agree. I have a drive to make my own. Enjoy it even. But, not everyone does.

            2. If the same people do this all the time, then yes they are either lazy or cheap. If it isn't the same people doing this all the time, then I'd reserve judgement, especially if you are looking at a two career couple with kids. Sometimes they barely have time to turn around, let alone make a special party dish.

              I have noted this same behavior, by the way. Some people really do habitually show up with meager offerings for the potluck. Other people will have noticed what you have noticed too. Aside from assigning dishes, or eliminating said people from the guest list, I don't think there is a lot you can do.

              1. There's cheap and then there's poor. Please remember that sometimes poor people can't cook either!

                1. I assume the people in my life have a wide range of tastes, appreciation of good food (my definition), money, and free time. Bring what you're going to bring, and let's enjoy each other's company. The Jewel potato salad my Aunt Peggy brought to almost every family gathering of my childhood did not make her a less lovely human being than my mom who spent the day cooking.

                  1. If you want to control the quality of a party, host it. That's where someone not only provides the space but all of the food and beverage.

                    You describe a potluck (the hosts are not hosts in the fullest sense of that word). Potlucks lack a control feature.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Karl S

                      We're not talking about a party of "invited guests" where the hosts do virtually everything with perhaps a few guests supplementing with something special to add to the buffet. We're talking the types of groups that may not otherwise get together socially outside of the group - ie; the Bible study group, bike club, gardening club, choir - a chance for spouses to be included. So it's not a potluck per-se, but not a formal sit down either.

                      It just seems tacky to show up with a bag of pretzels or a $3 bottle of wine and then proceed to chow down on the on a plate full of fresh shrimp and help yourself to a few glasses of $30 wine.

                      1. re: Scoutmaster

                        That's still a potluck. Hence the problem. It comes with, as it were.

                        1. re: Scoutmaster

                          I say stop keeping score and relax. Maybe throw back a few glasses of that $30 wine!

                          1. re: monavano

                            Personally, a Bible study group that was keeping close tabs on how much people's individual food contributions were worth, and giving them dirty looks for eating food that doesn't match the price/quality category of the food they brought, is a Bible study group that I'm not going back to (and one that needs a good smack upside the head).

                            I figure that if you choose to take fresh shrimp or $30 wine to a potluck, that's your choice. It's not everyone else's responsibility to match the price of what you choose to contribute, or for that matter, to have the knowledge to figure out how much each particular bottle of wine cost in the first place. If you resent taking $30 wine to a potluck and having people who brought cheaper food drink it, then take something less expensive the next time.

                          2. re: Scoutmaster

                            Why would you take $30 wine to a potluck in the first place? Unless you're all a bunch of wine critics and food-tasters, the group would be just as happy with a $10 or $15 bottle. Save the expensive stuff for a special occasion.

                        2. Sometimes the reverse is true also.
                          If you arrive with your fugu sashimi, lobster Thermidore and a bottle of Chateauneuf Du Pape, does that make you look like a total wanker, trying to outdo the other PTA ladies?
                          Just a thought...

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: cronker

                            yes. you look like a wanker because cdp is a terrible pair with lobstah. ;)

                            1. re: cronker

                              You make a good point! I think there's a good middle road depending on the group of people being served.
                              Fugu sashimi cracked me up!

                            2. >>"A bag of chips and jar of salsa? Potato salad from the grocery store deli?"

                              I think some people do genuinely prefer those things, so they bring to the party what they'd like to see on the table.

                              My friend's workplace has an annual lunch where everyone brings food to share. I think it's a group of about 15 or 20 people. His first year in the job, I prepared a bowl of hummus, another dip (I forget what it was now, but nothing oddball that people may not have recognised), a platter of crisp Spring vegetables for dipping, and an assortment of home-dehydrated fruits (apples, banana, kiwi fruit).

                              Nothing scary, nothing fancy, just good fresh snackable food. The kind of thing that everyone I know will devour in minutes, and ask me to bring along next time.

                              He returned home that evening with virtually everything untouched, save for the portion he'd eaten himself. Nobody was even game to try that apparently bizarre assortment of baffling objects (um, what's that funny kinda long green thing? aspara-what...?).

                              The two bags of chips he took the second year were far more gratefully received. I don't know that laziness or cheapness is always a factor -- people just like what they like. But *why* they'd rather have a jar of pasteurised shelf-stable blah than some actual food? Meh, I don't get it. Whatever, more for me.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Daisy.G

                                I have given up at my current workplace's annual Christmas time potluck too. My previous workplace enjoyed a good homemade dish (which was usually Korean). Not this one. They prefer fast-food fried chicken too. I've given up now and don't bother cooking for this event.

                                This Christmas I think I'll just provide the drinks/cups.

                              2. Another thing to consider is, are these events something everyone really wants to participate in, or are they something that is expected of them because they are a member of a particular group or job? In the case of jobs, many people do not enjoy potlucks and simply do not wish to participate, however since it is expected of them, they may bring something easy like chips or a deli salad. The same thing can be said of different clubs/groups/organizations. Maybe they are involved in it for a totally different aspect than these potlucks, so they don't put much thought/effort into what they bring.

                                I also agree with the others who have said that some people simply do not have the desire, skill, time, etc to put together a nice dish. Unless the whole point of the gathering is to have a potluck to share everyone's specialties, I don't have a problem with it. Especially chips or other salty snacks. They are safe and it's easy for people to stand around and munch. As others have said, I'd rather someone bring that instead of nothing. Everyone has different likes and preferences about food. That healthy, fresh dish that you so lovingly and thoughtfully prepared may look gross to someone else and they may stick with the cole slaw from the grocery store because they know what it is and it seems safe. I don't have a problem with that, we all have different tastes.

                                1. I think there's a difference between moochers, and people who just don't want to cook something relatively unique with fresh ingredients that presents well.

                                  Consistently showing up with a single 2 L bottle of generic cola when everyone else has brought a substantial dish, eating until you're stuffed and angling for leftovers? Moochy. And there are always a few people like this in any group, and they are annoying.

                                  Bringing potato salad from the grocery store deli, in a reasonable quantity? Maybe not up to foodie standards, but perfectly acceptable by potluck standards.

                                  Bringing chips and salsa because that's all you can afford? I figure there needs to be a bit of leeway for people who don't have a lot of extra cash, and/or don't have the resources to cook. So if someone is normally reasonable, cut them some slack on monitoring the price of what they bring.

                                  There are a lot of factors that play into this - is this a voluntary potluck or one you have to attend? Is it right after work? I like to cook and am good at it, but if a potluck is right after work, you're probably getting chips and salsa from the 7-11, because of the cooking/transportation/storage difficulties involved. Single vs families - if you have a family of 6 you should be bringing something substantial. If you're single that chips and salsa may well be a proportional amount of food to bring. Have previous gatherings had waaay too much food? Then scaling back on what you bring to save on waste can make sense.

                                  Two things I've learned about potlucks though. The first is that if you have a potluck you give up control of what shows up and the quality of the offerings. If you want 100% control, you have to do it yourself. The second is that if the offerings are declining in quality, or the burden of providing the bulk of the food settles on a few people, or there isn't enough to go around, it doesn't necessarily mean that everyone else is lazy or cheap. Quite often it means that the potluck meal model is no longer working, and you need to try something else.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                    I'm going to have to disagree with bringing chips and salsa because of cost. Chips and salsa, even when on sale, can cost around $6-7. You can easily make something at home for less than that. Fried rice? Baked beans? Oven-roasted potatoes? Or if you can't cook, you can bring a rotisserie chicken for the same price as chips and salsa.

                                    1. re: AllaSiciliana

                                      Agree that chips and salsa are almost certainly in excess of $5. The fact is that I've never been at a potluck with leftover chips and salsa. They may not be up to "foodie" standards but most potlucks are not about foodie-ism (is that a word?). People typically bring food that they enjoy consuming and plenty of people like chips and salsa (myself included).

                                      1. re: masha

                                        Oh don't get me wrong, I'm probably the reason there's no chips and salsa left over at a potluck. I lose absolutely all self-control if I see it on a table. I'm thrilled when anyone brings it.

                                        But I wanted to just point out that if someone's bringing it just to save money, they may want to recalculate. I think the more common reason people bring chips and salsa is because it's easy and safe: everyone likes it and it's vegan/kosher/gluten-free/nut-free for those with dietary restrictions.

                                    2. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                      I like chips and salsa. I have some food sensitivities. Sometimes, what I can eat at a potluck are: whatever I have brought + raw fresh veg + fruit + corn tortilla chips & salsa. Thank you, chips & salsa people.

                                    3. Some people don't have the time or desire to cook and I'm fine with that but I have been to too many potlucks where they bring a family of 8 and a bag of chips but then everyone eats a ton of food. I've been to potlucks like that where they've run out of food. If you can't afford to bring enough food, then don't participate or eat less. My son's tennis team always did potlucks and the coach would assign A-L bring entrees, M-Z either a dessert (usually a box of storebought cookies), a bag of chips, or a 2 liter bottle of soda. I don't think it ever occurred to him that making an entree was far more work and money than bringing a 2 L bottle of soda or bag of chips.

                                      1. I'd rather eat potato chips than someone's bad cooking. Our church potlucks are generally awful--lots of old New England cooks, so gloopy casseroles and undercooked, under seasoned egg dishes are often on the table. I'd be thrilled if someone decided to toss down a bag of Tostitos instead!

                                        By contrast, our neighborhood block party always has amazing food. A few will bring chips and salsa, but there is always some delicious lentil dish, homemade meatballs with fresh tomato sauce, roasted eggplant salad, pasta salad with fresh tuna and perfectly cooked veggies. Last night, someone had brought a gorgeous pavlova for dessert and someone else did an ice cream sundae bar.

                                        I really think this depends on the mix of people in the group. Our neighborhood has a lot of foodie types who are health conscious, but a group of people who just happen to work together might not have the same interests.

                                        1. I see it from both sides. At my old job we'd do potlucks once every month or so. I'd usually be asked to bring chicken salad or potato salad - both labor intensive dishes that require a trip to the store. One girl always - ALWAYS brought a block of Kraft cheddar cheese (approximately $2.50), which she'd butcher with a plastic knife. But then again when my husband is asked to bring something over when the guys are watching a game, it's always either chips or cookies unless he gives me a heads up before. He is both terrified of and hates cooking. He doesn't cheap out though, and also contributes a six-pack of decent-to-good beer to share. If he was unmarried and asked to prepare a specific dish, I don't know what he would do.

                                          1. I think it's best that you bring your lovely dish with a side of good will and tolerance.
                                            It sounds like this gets under your skin, and it really shouldn't. Focus on the gathering of people and enjoy that others are enjoying the fruits of your efforts.

                                            1. It's not something that bothers me, much. I add the much because if it came from the store, there are nicer things available than a tube of pringles. If you don't have the skills or time to make something, I would maybe like to see that you spent the extra $2.
                                              The only person that this behavior really bothered me in is my husband. He has for years had the nasty habit of turning up at office parties with a Chik-fil-a platter or something similar. Because he simply forgets to tell me until 9 the evening before. But thanks to technology, he can enter a reminder in his phone and I can make something. Just because I like to.

                                              20 Replies
                                                1. re: monavano

                                                  Yeah, at least he has the good sense not to go foraging at the Circle K.

                                                2. re: alliegator

                                                  Chik fil a platters, pizza and KFC are always the first to go at potluck!

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    People eat that stuff because they know where it came from....people that OCD about cleanliness won't eat things made in others houses they don't know.

                                                    1. re: LaLa

                                                      so they prefer food from a fast-food chain ? food that has been touched by possibly dozens of hands?



                                                      fwiw, i have never seen this stuff at a pot-luck.

                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                        Probably because you don't have kids in after school activities. They plan them in the evenings, after a long day at work. It's much easier to stop by Pizza Hut to head to a soccer potluck or whatever than to try to make something the night before and try to heat it up w/ limited time.

                                                        At my son's last piano recital which started at 7, they asked us to bring food to eat after it was over. I worked that day and had to bring my daughter to dance and then the recital. I called a pizza place and they delivered and put the pizza in the food hall just before the recital ended. Easy and it was the first thing to go.

                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                          thanks for better context. was just thinking of my grown-up friends and i do not have kids.

                                                          personally, i don't put pizza and kfc in the same pigeon-hole.

                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                            I couldn't bring myself to do KFC but it's surprisingly popular. In the beginning I'd always stretch to make something but got lazy. It's not worth trying for a crowd that doesn't care.

                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                              DH always wants to take KFC to a potluck. Because he likes it, and wants to share. I like to take something I've made. When it's his friends, he gets to take the KFC. :)

                                                        2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          Well chic fil a is known for their cleanliness ...I didn't say this is how I am but many people are!
                                                          I have never been to a pot luck that didn't have store bought chicken!

                                                        3. re: LaLa

                                                          Teens who are paid minimum wage? Having BTDT, I'd have to warn people who are OCD not to eat fast food.

                                                          1. re: LaLa

                                                            LOL, that is My mom. Whenever I have had a party and people bring dishes, she won't touch them. Brought her to a potluck once and she just stared in horror at the food with her arms folded tightly and whispered "you're not really going to eat any of this, are you?" total OCD.

                                                            1. re: Kat

                                                              I remember going to church potluck dinners as a kid. I would always go straight to whatever dish my mother made. After that, I'd look for something simple like fried chicken and chips. Since this was Minnesota, there were always a lot of weired hotdishes. I never would want to eat somebody else's mom's hotdish, not knowing what was in it scared me as a child. Matter of fact, I kind of still feel that way.

                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                You don't care for the hot tots dish or the ones with cream of mushroom soup, the "Lutheran Binder"?


                                                                1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                  That dish is most properly called Tater Tot Hotdish, or at the school cafeteria, Potato Nugget Hotdish (I guess they didn't want to appear to endorse a particular brand of frozen potatoes).

                                                                  I do like Tater Tot Hotdish, except that everybody has their own version and I would only eat my mother's or the school cafeteria's because I knew what was in them.

                                                        4. re: alliegator

                                                          I spent a couple hours once making a special mexican dip for a party, only to see it trumped by a jar of Rotel and a block of Velveeta - ditto on the Chik-fil-a tray. If I know one is coming, I just throw my hands up in the air and resign myself to an evening of watching my tasty homemade food go uneaten next to the chicken chunks. Plus I have to say their fruit tray is pretty great.

                                                          1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                            This has happened to me too!
                                                            Neighbor's picnic and I make cheesecake with a mixed berry compote on top. Gorgeous and seasonal.
                                                            It got picked at while the 'Nilla wafer boxed pudding concoction was snarfed up ;-(

                                                            1. re: monavano

                                                              Has happened to me too.

                                                              I made a lovely cheese plate for a pot luck party. I had a couple of very nice (but not "freaky or weird") cheeses with an assortment of nuts and homemade crackers. It sat untouched while the generic cheese and bologna trays from the deli section were inhaled. Finally towards the end of the night, mine was eaten and my husband joked "I guess they now drunk enough to try yours."

                                                              I should have know better given the crowd......

                                                              1. re: cleobeach

                                                                Sometimes the issues is ease of serving. At a potluck, I would be afraid of holding up the line behind me. A cheese plate would be an item I would come back to when there is no "audience".

                                                          2. re: alliegator

                                                            The responses have been very enlightening :D
                                                            I like chik as much as the next person, but would always gravitate to something homemade at one of these things. I guess that's why I chat here.
                                                            And I have found the same, this sort of thing and Velveeta dip, etc... will always go first.
                                                            But I will still show up with something I made. If others won't eat it, I sure as hell will.

                                                          3. In our circle of friends most are pretty good home cooks and a couple of us are gourmet/gourmand types (one friend was the head chef at our local bistro). Less than a handful just don't cook. One friend in particular is known for bringing his famous store bought shrimp platter or cocktail sauce-covered shrimp and cream cheese dip with Ritz Crackers to most gatherings. Our get-togethers are about spending time with friends not who can or can't make the best dish.

                                                            1. Yes, I've seen people bring a bag of chips and a jar of salsa, and usually it is a young bachelor.

                                                              What bugs me is if people are asked to bring snacks and everyone brings their specialties - - extremely sweet desserts like cookies, clusters, fudges, and dessert bars. I know you can't serve jello without cups and spoons, but how about some fruits?

                                                              1. We have a tailgate potluck every year for the Holiday Bowl Game in San Diego. Everyone knows they provide their own beverages.

                                                                The variety is amazing each year. From home made sushi rolls, deviled eggs, a whole smoked turkey, three foot sub sandwiches, small end rib roast with rolls, a stack of six pizzas from a specialty place and KFC to Christmas gift boxes from Hickory Farms, bags of chips, dips, jarred salsa, cheese cubes and the infamous "Hairy Mexican"- a seven layer dip topped with alfalfa sprouts (made by one of our bachelor attendees).

                                                                A pot luck lets everyone be creative; it always seems to work out.

                                                                My church has a rotating assignment of salad/appetizer/main dessert/plastics and paperware for gatherings, funerals and events. I know people stock up on items when on sale and have 'standard' dishes they bring, so they'll be ready when it's their 'turn'.

                                                                20 Replies
                                                                1. re: Cathy

                                                                  Nice analogy of how different people have different skills and tastes and how it all works out, right down to a bag of chips or KFC. In fact, I'd be disappointed if no none brought a bag of chips, as I usually gravitate to them like a bear on honey!

                                                                  1. re: treb

                                                                    I attend foodie picnics each year and it is stressed that you just come. Just come. Bring chips and dip. Bring napkins and utensils. Bring bottled water.
                                                                    You'd think in a group of foodies, there'd be pressure to perform, but it's actually played down because liking food doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with liking to cook/bake.
                                                                    You can imagine the variety of food at a foodie picnic.
                                                                    One person roasts a PIG, another smokes ribs and brisket, others bake amazing goods and some bring chips and dip.
                                                                    It'a all good!

                                                                    1. re: monavano

                                                                      That's my Italian class, too. Some love to cook and spend days prepping. Others don't but soda, paper products, etc. are all appreciated. But, my teacher does put her foot down that desserts/baked goods need to either be home made or from a great bakery, none of the Giant/Safeway stuff. It was a good call and no one was offended. Someone once brought a great bottle of olive oil and balsamic--easy but certainly not cheap!

                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                        I went to a potluck bbq once. One gentleman brought the dessert, a bag of Oreos and a bag of Chips Ahoy. I will usually give a guy a pass if he doesn't cook etc. but he had a wife and kids (they didn't attend). That wife should be embarassed she let him show up with two bags of cookies. On top of that the hosts were very inexperienced in hosting and had no additional offering for desserts as a back up or any ketchup (other than a mostly empty bottle-oops!) for the burgers and dogs.

                                                                        I taught my son that first choice is homemade, next preferred is an item from a real bakery, lastly an item from the bakery in the supermarket.

                                                                        1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                          I'm not sure why a wife should be embarrassed over what her husband brought. Why does his having a wife and kids matter to what he brings? When my husband goes to a potluck, he cooks or gets his own food. I'm completely uninvolved (unless he asks) and not embarrassed by his decision. He's an adult.

                                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                                            Agree, what's with the gender-stereotyping, especially on this board, where there are plenty of male cooks and bakers? Jerseygirl, I hope at least that when you taught your son that "first choice is homemade" that included teaching him how to cook.

                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                              I offer to send my fiancé with something to the fantasy football gathering and he insists on picking something up on the way, which is almost always a few bottle of soda or some chips. Other contributions from other guys: one pizza (doesn't even serve everyone), bucket of chicken, box of tacos from Taco Bell, package of double stuffed Oreos...

                                                                              Perhaps if he every gets around to hosting it himself I will get to cook something.

                                                                            2. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                              Damn, I love Oreos!! he would be more than welcome at one of my parties!!!

                                                                              1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                Just think--you could have used two chips ahoy and an oreo to make a cookie sandwich cookie sandwich. When I was younger, I loved the Chips Ahoy in the brown bag. I can't remember why they were different from the ones in the blue bag. Thicker and smaller.

                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                  Chocolate chunk vs chocolate chip?
                                                                                  The red bag is chewy, which I despise. Give me the blue bag any day!

                                                                              2. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                I don't understand throwing the wife under the bus. Is the man incapable of stopping by a bakery or even handling dessert on his own.

                                                                                1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                  Seriously JerseyGirl?? Why do you assume the wife cooks? What does having kids have to do with it? And why should *she* be embarrassed? I would really like to know why you think this way?

                                                                                      1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                        Just piling on with a WHAT? response to holding a woman responsible for what a man brings to a potluck and assuming that a woman cooks. Wow.

                                                                                        1. re: debbiel

                                                                                          kinda like holding a woman responsible for what her adult husband who's been dressing himself since long before she met him wears in public. (DH is a sharp dresser -- ex wore gorgeous suits during the week, but dressed like a hobo on the weekend)

                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                            Yes! I hate the archetype that reduces women to nags and men to bumbling idiots. How about everybody just acts like themselves?

                                                                                        2. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                          I'm not married, but if I were, and my husband was going to a potluck party that I was not attending, odds are I would NOT be the one cooking for him to bring something to the potluck table.

                                                                                          He's attending the party; he's got two feet, two hands, and a wallet. If he doesn't want to cook, he's perfectly capable of driving to the store to buy something to bring to the party.

                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                            Funny thing is, I like to take that as an opportunity to try a new recipe for some finger food that I'm not sure if I'll like. Make it, try some, send it off. If I likey, I'll make it again.

                                                                                2. I used to always make home-baked cookies and slices to take to potlucks... but since I became chronically ill, I don't have the energy to spare for baking anything but the simplest of dishes. If I have time to prepare it the day before, I'll take a boxed cake or brownies (which people seem to like just as much as the homemade stuff they always used to rave over!) and if I don't, it's a bag of chips from the grocery store. I'll probably only be at the event for an hour anyway because that's as long as I can sit. A lot of people take bought stuff because they don't have the time and/or energy to cook, or they don't think their baking is up to snuff...

                                                                                  1. The Malabar Munchers have been meeting monthly for 28 years. There is the faction that tries to outdo each other, (me) and the folks who bring the basics and eat. And they are highly appreciated also.

                                                                                    One family stops at Publix for a large frozen shrimp ring with the gloppy sauce in the middle. Gone in 5 minutes while still frozen. Another stops at Walmart for a whole chicken. Others stop at the deli case for macaroni and potato salad. So we know that there will be something innocuous to eat.

                                                                                    Which is great when the hostess forgets to coordinate and everybody shows up with their favorite salad and there is no main course. Or there are no vegetarian offerings. Or when we had UP pasty, Jamaican met pie, Nachitoches meat pie, Columbian and Puerto Rican empanadas. And no salads.

                                                                                    If you can rely on the chips and salsa donation every time, your planning has just been made easier.

                                                                                    And everybody has to bring their own liquid refreshments. If Old Milwaukee floats your boat, good for you.

                                                                                    1. I've seen this happen many times. Most of the time it is because the person doesn't know how to cook, or is busy and ends up waiting last minute.

                                                                                      If you are hosting do you send out RSVP cards? Perhaps you can mention a list of things that would go with what you are cooking that people who don't have the time or don't know how to cook can bring.

                                                                                      Wine, fresh bread from a recommended bakery, fruit, cheese, Salad ingredients etc.

                                                                                      Another Idea might be to have one of your friends pair up with a non cooker to help that person along.

                                                                                      If it's just out of shear laziness you might want to stress on your invites that you would like people to bring home cooked items and not prepared or store bought items.

                                                                                      11 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                                                        I do think that if you're 'hosting' an event, and you send out an invitation that specifies that people are to bring home cooked items only - not store bought - well, you'll have a lovely quiet evening with you and your home-cooked dish.

                                                                                        I like to cook, and usually take nice home-cooked stuff to potlucks, and a demand like that would have me discovering that I had accidentally double booked that night and couldn't make it.

                                                                                        The key point about potluck is that you can't control what is brought. If it's vitally important to you that the food for a party, dinner or gathering be high quality and home-prepared, then you have to actually *host*, which means you have to buy and prepare the food yourself, and not pass your demands on to other people.

                                                                                        1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                                                          Agree with tastesgoodwhatisit - an invitation specifying a recommended bakery, or only home cooked items, would probably be returned with a No Thank You from me.

                                                                                          1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                            i've been to potlucks where the host sends out a request for apps or salads or sides or what-have-you, and i do always make something from scratch. however not everybody has the time or inclination to do so. "requiring" such seems the height of presumption. you're inviting friends, not servants.

                                                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                              I think the key to a potluck, if hosted at a home, is to have backups in case someone, like I mentioned in my other post, is assigned or offers to being dessert and the only thing you end up with is 2 packaged bags of cookies.

                                                                                              Wow. That was one huge run-on sentence. Sorry.

                                                                                              1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                i don't host pot-lucks. i have people over because i love to cook, host and share and the idea of random dishes of varying quality makes my teeth itch.

                                                                                                however, if i DID? it's the nature of the beast if you assign courses and a guy shows up with oreos. maybe their his absolute favorite? dunno, but having to make "back-ups" seems to confound the theory behind a pot-luck.

                                                                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                  sometimes I just go ahead and host a potluck, because everyone will bring something anyway...

                                                                                                  ...but things like the 4th of July and Thanksgiving sort of lend themselves to potluck, both out of tradition and sheer volume of people (50-60 on the 4th, 35 for sit-down on Tgiving) It'll kill you to do all that by yourself, but if it's split up, it's fun and nobody work very hard (well, on the food...I'm still running ragged to buy drinks and dinnerware, cleaning, etc., et.c, etc.,)

                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                    mostly i have 15-20 over at a time and that's a breeze. once or twice a year i have 40-50 and still do it myself, but always buffet style. i don't have 35 chairs. :)

                                                                                                  2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                    Not necessarily make something, just have a back up just in case. I'll bet that most people that host potlucks don't have control issues, but if there is a chance of ending up with just Oreos and it will upset you, best to have a back up.

                                                                                                    1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                                                      i DO have control issues, lol, which is why i don't host pot-lucks!

                                                                                          2. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                                                            I strongly disagree. A pot luck is what it is. While its ok to have sign ups by category so you don't get all apps and no mains it is beyond rude to require specific bakeries, brands or home cooked dishes. To me it comes across as "I want to have a dinner party but am too cheap so will get my friends/coworkers to supply what I want".

                                                                                            1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                              You are right. I was just trying to offer some suggestions that may or may not work to the OP.

                                                                                              I understand that the OP is saying that they put a lot of work into the food for a pot luck and hosting it and they just want people to reciprocate.

                                                                                              The other option is just to have a dinner party and host and make all of the food. But I didn't think that is what the OP was asking for.

                                                                                          3. Either don't invite them again or take matters into your own hands by being more specific with your invitations. Group your invites into teams. One team brings appetizers, another brings entrees, etc. This allows each team to control that portion of the meal And communicate with each other about who will bring what part of it. I've hosted countless potlucks, and after seeing one person bring steak for 30 and another bring lettuce for 30, I knew I was responsible for being a better organizer. If you have the same guests, keep track! Next time, choose different teams. Tell your guests that you will draw randomly for these positions, and do, but don't put all your potato chippers together! Be willing to cheat on the "random draw. Then, relax and have fun! Let your guests handle each other. It works great!

                                                                                            1. I admit that I get more worked up about this issue than I probably should.

                                                                                              When I describe to people how small the town I grew up in was, I often say, "It was the kind of place where not only did everyone know everyone else, it wasn't uncommon for them to all be in the same room." And when I say that, I am thinking of the amazing town potluck dinners we'd have a couple of times a year. 40 or so feet of tables groaning with everyone's best hot dish, and another couple of tables covered in desserts. With exceedingly rare exceptions, all lovingly home made, and brought in appropriate quantities.

                                                                                              With that memory in mind, grown-up potlucks I've been to have often been disappointing. Ones involving the local hounds are the exception -- they're every bit as awesome as the potlucks of my childhood and possibly better. But work potlucks, and the ones for my women's social club have involved a number of people who couldn't muster up more than chips.

                                                                                              If I'm planning a potluck and it's primarily a social experience, I try not to stress about what people bring. Try. Don't always succeed, but try. I do think I manage not to make my concerns known to the people who bring the inadequate offerings, and I don't hold it against them later, but I can't always help thinking dark thoughts in the moment.

                                                                                              If I'm organizing a potluck and the food is the focus (for example, cookie exchanges, themed potlucks where we're all supposed to be trying a specific cuisine), then I've found one very simple trick for getting people to actually make things:

                                                                                              Ask everyone to bring X copies of the recipe for their dish, so you can send everyone home with a packet of all the delicious recipes.

                                                                                              People get the idea that they're supposed to make things, not bring chips; it helps those with allergies determine what they can or can't eat; and everyone gets some new recipes that they already know if they do or don't like. It's proven to be very effective.

                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Jacquilynne

                                                                                                I guess the one "flaw" I see in this plan is assuming that "homemade" is always superior to store-bought.

                                                                                                1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                  lol. i worked with a guy years ago who bragged and bragged about his wife's christmas cookies and how she spent days upon days making them. turned out they were vile -- too dry, nasty discs of crisco-laden junk. blech.

                                                                                                  utter waste of flour and sugar.

                                                                                                  1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                    It may not always be superior but if we're doing, for example, a cookie exchange, it's about getting something different from what you already make or can easily buy, so homemade is desirable even if it's not technically superior.

                                                                                                    1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                      Lol! I agree! In one of my potlucks, a guy bragged he was going to make his "famous stroganoff." As guests were staying for the weekend (we live far from the maddening crowd), he cooked it in my kitchen and insisted I watch him make it. He cut up filet mignon, and then poured cans of cream of mushroom soup right over it without so much as sautéing it first. This was a dish for 30 people! Imagine the expense of that dish! Imagine the taste! I had to leave the kitchen. I just couldn't watch.

                                                                                                      1. re: KatheM

                                                                                                        should have asked him "famous for what?" :0

                                                                                                    2. re: Jacquilynne

                                                                                                      Your idea is better than mine.

                                                                                                      I think there may be some people where you just have to let it go and say, they are here as company, guest, etc.

                                                                                                      My brothers don't really cook but they either get my mom to help or they call and ask us what they can bring. That is why I had suggest wine, beer, bread etc.

                                                                                                      Coworkers, Hrmmm well I love them dearly but not all of them know how to cook. They have been gracious enough to ask ahead of time how they can help.

                                                                                                      I think as a host or participate we should all be gracious and communicate ahead of time. Maybe it's just communication we are missing.

                                                                                                      I did have a cookie exchange where I guy who did not bake went to one of our ethnic stores to buy the closest thing to what his mom made him as a child. It was nice and thoughtful without being home made.

                                                                                                    3. people contribute as they are able, as a rule: able, due to financial, time, or skill constraints.

                                                                                                      i'd rather have someone feel they are able to attend, and bring something useable (soda pop, chips, condiments, whatever - even paper cups and napkins) than have people either feel that they are unwelcome/excluded, or bring something inedible, because they can't afford/don't know how/don't have time to cook something at home.

                                                                                                      if you feel like it's unfair because you put a lot of effort into your contribution, well, you can't control anyone else's behavior but you can control yours.

                                                                                                      if it bugs you, save the time/money you feel you're putting in and others aren't, hit up the supermarket deli for some tater salad, and enjoy your potluck without the stress!

                                                                                                      1. One thing I love about potlucks and tailgating is the opportunity to indulge in what we affectionately call "white trash food". I'd scarf the Ro-tel Velveeta dip with enthusiasm as it is something I never have at home. I have guacamole and other "fancier" fare at the house. Give me some Bisquik sausage balls, some Bojangals spicy chicken from the box and the like. That's the only time I have that lovely, trashy food.

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                          I feel the same way - tomato noodle casseroles, jello salad, deserts made from cool whip and boxed cookies...

                                                                                                          I don't usually make these things at home (generally one scoop of jello salad is enough), but occasionally I quite enjoy a meal like this.

                                                                                                          1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                            Yes! My husband teases me when he sees me enjoying "white trash food" because at home, I am quite the food snob.

                                                                                                            A friend of mine's "famous" potluck dish was a cheese sauce veggie baked dish with a crushed up saltine topping, that dish was ALWAYS scrapped clean.

                                                                                                          2. I don't like potlucks and your post reminds me why I don't like them. You care about healthy food, about being unique, you want to make an effort for these events. Other people do not always want to make the effort. They might be busy or might have been pressured to attend by a SO. You are judging other people's efforts - please stop.

                                                                                                            Or, of course, host a party yourself and make terrific food.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: ellaf

                                                                                                              or? eat before you go so the food is no longer your personal focus.

                                                                                                              and yeah, stop being judgey.

                                                                                                              1. re: ellaf

                                                                                                                Hear, hear, Ellaf! Automatically assuming someone is "cheap" or "lazy" because their potluck contribution isn't up to ones standards is a bit snobbish, IMO. Everyone has different budget and time concerns, not to mention different comfort/ability levels with cooking. Don't get me wrong- between work, school and social life, I attend a lot of potlucks. I love a potluck where everyone has the time and ability to bring something homemade and special, but I never expect that to be the norm and would never judge people for not being able to deliver on that. As many others have suggested, don't go to the office potluck if the standard of options bothers you so much, or have your own so that you customize the event to your own liking.

                                                                                                              2. I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned this yet, but there's a possibility that these folks are embarassed/scared to share their cooking with the group. Reasons for this could include lack of experience, insecurity about cooking competence, or, such as the case of my mother, fear of others finding a hair in their dish! Yes, there are five animals in my mother's house including two huge dogs, and growing up it was not uncommon to sometimes find a stray hair in your meal. I'm of the thought that "God made dirt, dirt don't hurt' etc., and she only served homemade items to immediate family, however it would be *mortifying* to bring a homemade dish to a gathering and have your friends/coworkers/whatever find hair in their serving. My mom has always brought store-bought (but tasty) items to gatherings for this reason.

                                                                                                                Just a possibility =)

                                                                                                                1. Sometimes circumstances are against you. I used to love contributing to pot lucks at work, but in the last year or so, my partner has become ill, we're down to living on my income only, had to sell the house, downsize and move to an island (cheaper mortgage) which meant adding a 30 minute ferry ride to my already long commute, spend part of the week at my mother's looking after her (dementia) in a chaotic kitchen (no point in equipping it to my desires, things disappear and are found in unexpected places - or never found again - regularly at Mum's house), sometimes I don't get to sit down until well after 9:00 pm at night at Mum's, and sometimes I don't get home until after 8:00 pm if I'm on the island, so some days you're probably lucky if I can even muster up a bag of chips and a jar of salsa.

                                                                                                                  The logistics of transporting the food on a crowded ferry, or turning my back for a second and finding that Mum has "stored" my creation somewhere, who knows where - are just more than I can even begin to contemplate most days.

                                                                                                                  I envy that you have the time, money and brainspace to be able to contribute like you do. I have the kitchen skills and knowledge, just not the time or money. You just don't always know what other people are dealing with. It's not always cheapness, laziness, lack of caring, or cluelessness. Sometimes it is, but not always.

                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: ursy_ten

                                                                                                                    I hope some things a turn for the good in your future. If I was near you, I would bring over a complete dinner on the evening of your choice. Really.

                                                                                                                    1. re: justicenow

                                                                                                                      How sweet you are, Justicenow; thank you. I am really touched by your kind thought. I thank Chowhound for the opportunity to meet lovely people like you.

                                                                                                                  2. A friend of mine is notorious for being a cheapskate. He will typically show up to parties empty handed and make a joke about it on top of it all to rub it in, saying something like "not only did I show up empty handed, I brought to-go containers". He seems to think he can just freeload off of everyone around him and nobody is going to speak up. When he "throws" a party, he basically makes like one dirt cheap food item, like tortilla & cream cheese roll ups, and expects everyone else to bring the rest of the food and drinks. We're basically throwing the party for him, then he keeps all the leftover food (and booze) for himself. Needless to say, we don't talk anymore.

                                                                                                                    14 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: Atomic76

                                                                                                                      ah! so "ex-friend" is how your reply should begin. :)

                                                                                                                      some people are jerks.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Atomic76

                                                                                                                        I have a "friend" like that! He'll send out party invites:

                                                                                                                        We're having a barbecue! Bring your own meat, salads and drinks! We'll provide chips and scintillating company!

                                                                                                                        This is the same friend who when I asked on Facebook whether anyone wanted a bit of furniture I was getting rid of, replied - "I'll have it - I'll come and pick it up on Friday. Why don't we catch up for dinner? Here is a (looong) list of things we ("friend", partner, offspring) don't eat"


                                                                                                                        I cringe whenever I see a post from him on facebook because he's always asking for something. "who has a truck and wants to help us move house?"

                                                                                                                        1. re: ursy_ten

                                                                                                                          Ugh. Anyone, and I do mean anyone that trolls facebook for help in moving house gets the unfriend from me. Maybe I'm just night a nice person, or maybe that's incredibly tacky.
                                                                                                                          And that friend's party invites? Yikes.

                                                                                                                          1. re: alliegator

                                                                                                                            Yep, I think he is the tackiest person I know. I wish I could unfriend him but we have mutual friends and it's just not worth the drama. I might have hidden his posts, can't remember (awesome functionality, that)

                                                                                                                          2. re: ursy_ten

                                                                                                                            an ex-coworker invited people over for 4th of july. he did not have outside space or a/c. the invite said you had to bring your own drinks and food. there would be no cooking facilities. he had no plates, flatware of glasses. AND NO CHAIRS.

                                                                                                                            raised by wolves.

                                                                                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                              Sounds like a wedding my fiancé went to. It was at a state park: bring a chair, a dish and something to eat on/with. I don't think the dish was for sharing. I couldn't go. Fiancé brought nothing, stood to watch the ceremony and then left having nothing to eat/drink or sit on.

                                                                                                                              It was his own fault.

                                                                                                                              1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                                I'd have thrown on my cutoffs, loaded up a cooler with some Bud (also good for sitting), and grabbed a few death dogs at the gas station on the way.

                                                                                                                                1. re: alliegator

                                                                                                                                  It was a formal affair. I think he wore his work clothes.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                    Cripey! Stop blaming the wolves. Wolf socialization is very complete - wolf pack behavior/heirarchy is intense and response to actions that are 'out-of-line' are swift. First offense a clip, growl or nip. Do it again? Bite. Hard. on NOSE!

                                                                                                                                    Me? I'm for enforcing wolf corrections. Free-load off me?
                                                                                                                                    as my deep-south Aunt Fay says 'Do that again and you're gonna draw back a nub'

                                                                                                                                    1. re: kariin

                                                                                                                                      It's just a saying for crying out loud....

                                                                                                                                      I live in Minnesota and we have over 2,000 wolves in our state. We have land in northern Minnesota and there is a wolf pack that travels through and spends time on our 230 acres with some regularity. I've seen them running on our trails. I know a little about wolves.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: kariin

                                                                                                                                        One has to admit that wolves don't organize potlucks well. Or set up chairs.

                                                                                                                                        My son uses the excuse "raised by hippies."

                                                                                                                                        I point out that we did fabulous potlucks. They just didn't have candy. Or soda.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: truepeacenik

                                                                                                                                          and coyotes have the absolute worst manners of all. I hear their whoop-de-doos up and down our valley all the time (I think we have 2 packs) the other day they sounded like children were being slaughtered (it's turkey season here right now so lots of discarded bits to fight over).

                                                                                                                                  2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                                    We were once invited over for dinner by someone we knew at church. "You dont need to bring anything". But after the woman called back and forth a few times she eventually had me bringing the main course and "by the way another family (with four kids )would be there." That WAS the dinner. I was too young and stupid not to come up with an excuse to call it off. Now I would just tell them that is the day I wash my hair.

                                                                                                                              2. I have fond memories of the monthly Methodist potlucks, and as a teen sitting together with my church friends and commenting on the food. Some of the best dishes were inexpensive, back when cheese was affordable.

                                                                                                                                "That veggie-noodle dish with the cheese on top is really good!"
                                                                                                                                "Oh, my mom made that!"

                                                                                                                                "Ugh. What is this brown slop?"
                                                                                                                                "Oh. My mom made that..."

                                                                                                                                1. Actually, for me, potlucks are a great opportunity to show off my cooking skills!
                                                                                                                                  My daughter's school would have a "Snacks for the Teachers" day once a month, and I took great delight in walking in and placing homemade goodies- nutmeg doughnut holes (still warm), lamb sausages up in phyllo (with packets of Dijon), or a mini-baked potatoes cut in half and topped with garlic aioli and chopped red peppers and scallions- amongst the Chips Ahoy and Pringles.
                                                                                                                                  Whenever I came in, everyone's eyes would light up, and people would come up to me to see what I brought. My greatest compliment was entering my kid's second grade class and hearing someone say, "Oh, it's L's mom! She makes the greatest stuff!" and even today, teachers still approach me and thank me for things I donated years ago.

                                                                                                                                  I look at it this way: I love to cook, and I have the time to cook, so....I cook. I don't look down on the other donations; many people have neither the time and/or money and/or ability to cook, so it's up to those of us who do to....do.

                                                                                                                                  Like other posters, I feel that if you hold a potluck, you risk limiting your control; you can specify vegetarian/low fat dishes, or if you have a theme like Italian, Halloween, etc, but you will come across as a royal snob if you require that the food donated cost a certain amount of money, IMHO.

                                                                                                                                  If the bag-o-chips people especially bother you, may I suggest you approach your guests and request specific types of food from them "Can you bring a salad? Can you bring a hand-held dessert? etc." and have the non-cooks bring the equally necessary beverages, cutlery, napkins, paper plates, etc.
                                                                                                                                  ......or, in lieu of bringing a food, one could help clean up :)

                                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: Michelly

                                                                                                                                    Our school no longer allows homemade treats. They must be store bought at two specific grocery stores because of peanut allergies. Sigh. I miss the olden days.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: mtngirlnv

                                                                                                                                      Sounds like someone is getting a kickback from a couple of store owners. The school would just have to do without "treats" from this daddy.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                                                        It's not uncommon for schools to have this policy, in part because you don't know about the safety of food prep in the home. It's financially safer for schools to be extreme and not risk the liability. If it's store bought, the store takes the liability.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                          Most schools have this policy for food served to students. It usually does not apply to food served to teachers. The assumption is adults can monitor their own behavior.

                                                                                                                                          "My daughter's school would have a "Snacks for the Teachers" day once a month"

                                                                                                                                          Many PTA/PTO groups do lunches for teachers during the long parent teacher conference days, for example.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: mtngirlnv

                                                                                                                                        they tried that here, and were met with a sh*tstorm from the moms.

                                                                                                                                        The principal couldn't argue with the statement that a Mom can definitely control peanuts in her own kitchen...not such a guarantee with a commercial kitchen full of people who don't care.

                                                                                                                                    2. On the opposite tack, why do people bring fancy or complicated dishes to potlucks? To show off of course! For the accolades, admittedly, that's one reason I do it.

                                                                                                                                      1. Just an observation: the OP raised this subject In the context of communal pot lucks involving groups that have an independent basis for their existence -- e.g., the Church choir, a book club, the office holiday party, etc -- so the concept of a get together where everyone contributes items is completely socially appropriate. Comments about hosts who assemble their own guest list for a private potluck and whether that is within the bounds of etiquette are addressing a different animal.

                                                                                                                                        With respect to the kind of potluck posited by the OP, unless it is a cooking club or some other "foodie" group, it goes with territory that the invitees have differing cooking skills, budgets, and time constraints. For our block parties,we have a rule that everyone should bring a dish (appetizer, side, or dessert -- we all bring our own mains and chip in $ to cover drinks and disposable plates and utensils) that serves at least 8 people. For some that may be 2 bags of chips and 2 jars of salsa, while others bring elaborate homemade cakes. That's fine by me.

                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                        1. re: masha

                                                                                                                                          I agree. I am rarely involved in these types of pot lucks, but when I have gone to them, the non cooks (or no time for it /money for it folks) usually offer to bring other things (plates, soft drinks, napkins). Just showing up with a single, cheap bag of chips or a 1 cup container of potato salad from the deli (seriously) is both rude and not helpful to the spirit of a potluck. It almost screams "I don't care about or want to think about anyone else". At least napkins for everyone is actually helpful and useful to everyone.

                                                                                                                                        2. I love cooking and I am a cheapskate, but because I can cook, my cheapskate dishes don't seem cheap but they are probably cheaper than a bag of chips and a jar of salsa! e.g. things like lentil and feta salad, a frittata, stir-fried noodles, cheese scones, fish pate, carrot salad.

                                                                                                                                          I think we foodies do forget that many people really and truly cannot cook or even cannot comprehend how to assemble food!

                                                                                                                                          1. Reading all the posts, I can't say I've ever come across this 'cheap' phenomenon at a 'bring-a-plate' dinner. I think it's because we in New Zealand don't have the range of convenience foods that you do in the US and what we do have is quite expensive. I think there's also our frugal nature which makes us go,"I can make it myself for cheaper!".

                                                                                                                                            1. Between this and the not-eating-rice post above, I am worried about the lack of hospitality in the world. Are we really all watching and judging? If you don't think people are pulling their weight and it bothers you, don't hang out with them.

                                                                                                                                              1. This is why I loathe pot lucks. One person brings roast beef someone else always brings stale cheap bread and nothing to put on it.

                                                                                                                                                I hated office pot lucks. Living in the midwest they seemed to always be populated by dishes of snickers-oreo-coolwhip-brownie dessert drown in Hershey's chocolate syrup or tater tot hotdish etc. Lots of things that are unhealthy and I have no desire to eat. If I bring any sort of salad or veggies it would go untouched. I had an extreme dislike of office birthday cake. Never been a fan of cheap grocery store cake as an adult. It got even more awkward when I developed a wheat allergy. I couldn't even choke it down with a fake smile on my face anymore. Of course not attending this ritual makes you not a team player.

                                                                                                                                                16 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: blackpointyboots

                                                                                                                                                  Workplaces just differ dramatically. My midwest office potlucks are almost always good. Yesterday's included four homemade soups and chilis, some lovely salads, corn bread, sausage rolls, a couple veggie side dishes, several homemade desserts. Yes, there were also bags of chips (including one chip that I loved using to scoop up some of one of the veggie sides) and a couple store bought desserts. All had a great time.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: debbiel

                                                                                                                                                    Homemade soups and chilis, plus sausage rolls and veggie sides? I bet the turnover at your company is low!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                                                                                      We try to be right by each other. :)

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: debbiel

                                                                                                                                                      one office I was in was too broke to do a proper party so we did go all out for the potluck (we also had 3 kitchens, one with a range) and pretty much take the day off except to answer phone calls. that was cool. management even tossed in a few liquers and when the hefty leftovers were being packed for a nearby shelter I piped up "what? just the food? because they're homeless doesn't mean they wouldn't appreciate a nice digestif"

                                                                                                                                                    3. re: blackpointyboots

                                                                                                                                                      I agree, I always hated office potlucks too. Between the scrounges that bring nothing but stuff their face and then the lack of good cooks (not all but some), I hated to invest in the party (usually again like you said, we weren't a team player if we opted out).

                                                                                                                                                      We went to a neighborhood party the other night and someone brought a crockpot of chili. I don't eat canned chili but a can would have been 10x better. I felt bad as she took the time to make it but it's no good taking the time if it's going to be flavorless!

                                                                                                                                                      Potlucks stress me out...

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: thedryer

                                                                                                                                                        It sounds like your neighbor is my SIL. I recently are her chili. She made it without onions because she has a son who will not eat onions. I'm sorry, if you're not going to include onions, don't make chili. Oh, that 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder didn't do much either.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                          a friend grew up in an area of the US that doesn't encourage the use of seasoning. His mom, being a non-confomist, did make chili. It consisted of a pound of browned ground beef, two cans of kidney beans, and half a bottle of ketchup.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: blackpointyboots

                                                                                                                                                        At my last job we had great pot lucks once a month for birthdays. About 2/3 brought home made food and we always had plenty. We generally had a theme. Due to the nature of our job we could not go out for lunch.
                                                                                                                                                        I worked at another place that you brought your own cake for your birthday. That worked out really well.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: blackpointyboots

                                                                                                                                                          After my formal retirement, I worked as a consultant/ contractor. My agency encouraged us to "blend" with whatever work environment we found ourselves in. The last office I worked in tried very hard to achieve a "we are fam-i-ly" vibe which relied heavily on pot lucks, Except they weren't really pot lucks. They had a rigid set of rules, including sign-up sheets overseen by the secretaries who decided whether or not the dish you listed was acceptable or needed to be something else. We contractors somehow always got saddled with the more expensive dishes. I think they thought we were rich!

                                                                                                                                                          The secretaries also collected $5 from all of us, which was then given to one of the regular employees who used the approximately $200.00 to fry about $50.00 worth of chicken in her home. In that department, her fried chicken was mandatory. No chicken, no pot luck. It was not exceptional chicken. Just ordinary, greasy fried chicken.

                                                                                                                                                          Anything they deemed exotic was ignored, if not sneered at. Anything healthy was usually just ignored. If you brought exotic (eg,, cheese other than cheddar or american, smoked salmon) or healthy, expect to take it home at the end of the day.

                                                                                                                                                          They made sure there were lots of cakes, pies, cookies and cupcakes. Sometimes even while the line was still moving, they would pop in with their empty tupperware containers and fill them with cookies and cupcakes to take home to their kids and grandkids.

                                                                                                                                                          Toward the end of that contract, the department's leadership decreed that this year's holiday pot luck party would only be for the full time employees. Contractors were not invited. I'm sure they thought we'd be hurt and sad, but we joyously fled the building when it was pot luck time and went to a nearby bar to celebrate.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: juliasqueezer

                                                                                                                                                            good lord -- kinda the epitome of "the beatings will continue until morale improves"

                                                                                                                                                            I'm only surprised that the employees didn't show up at the bar.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                                              If I remember correctly (it's been a few years) a few did show up at the bar. I think we texted them to join us once we figured the official festivities had ended and the bosses had disappeared back into their suites. And yes, it was an awful office environment.

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: juliasqueezer

                                                                                                                                                              And I know I would be one who would call them out on showing up on the line with Tupperware containers while there were still people in line waiting to get some food! I agree with you - raising glasses at the local bar would be *much* better! Leave them to their boring, rigid food choices.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                I remember when a cousin of mine would take pierogies my grandmother had made for holiday meals, before the dinner was served. There is a funny famliy story about this cousin. At that cousin's wedding, our grandmother whispered to my mother 'valecky dupa' which means large butt in Ukrainian.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                  Probably from eating all of grandmother's pierogies. :-P

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: juliasqueezer

                                                                                                                                                                juliasqueezer - I despise "we are fam-i-ly" workplaces. I physically recoil when I see that sort of thing posted. to me it just says "we are desperately grasping at straws in our feverish delusion"

                                                                                                                                                                that can occur, but can't be cultivated.

                                                                                                                                                            3. Rant here. needed for stress relief.

                                                                                                                                                              Church (or other group) pot-luck = no individual 'host'. People bring whatever they can (or can get away with). We have a $$ bowl and provide plates, forks, glasses etc. (No disposables except napkins).

                                                                                                                                                              I've taken over w/a group of like-mindeds to do SERVICE PREP ! because it was driving me insane: non-homecook people brought their stuff and dumped it on the buffet table. Most without service spoons, knives, nothing cut, not even the chip bag or the damn jar opened, pizza still in the box and usually cold. Whole rotiss. or baked chickens in the container still tied up securely and blank stare from the person. What sent me over the edge was a whole loaf of great artisinal bakery bread (large, crusty) in a bag - person bringing it offered me the 4 inch plastic knife and said 'can you cut this for me please? ' No, she's not handicapped or elderly or overworked - just arrogant/ clueless... When i said 'ah no actually, not with that' she looked at the plastic knife and then at me and replied 'really, you can't?' I did not verbally snap at her - just stared. She dropped the bread on the buffet table, waved a hand and walked away.

                                                                                                                                                              So now I'm there 45 min early, a few others join in. We do all the service prep, cut stuff, get utensils, pre-cut everything, dress and toss the salads, pre-slice or portion desserts, fill glasses w/ice, open wine or drinks. Hold back some dishes when the table is full, remove empties and re-supply everything as needed. because of portioning, every item serves more people, less waste. Thanks to bar/restaurant work, which all of us seem to have had.

                                                                                                                                                              I've got nothing but appreciation and thanks for people coming from work, busy lives, kids, who do the very best they can w/what they can. Doing pre-service work reduces my stress level and makes the whole dinner go smoothly. Good solution.

                                                                                                                                                              But I'm hell-on-toast on the snots/oblivious arrogant priviledged (who may be rich or not) who can't be bothered to do anything to help. Often bring nothing and contribute no $. And they don't volunteer to clean up either.

                                                                                                                                                              feeling better now, thanks.

                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: kariin

                                                                                                                                                                Brilliant and gracious of you, too.

                                                                                                                                                              2. Believe it or not, not everyone's world revolves around food and cooking. Crazy talk, I know. There are also people who eat processed crap all the time, damaging their tastebuds to the point of not being able to enjoy anything but a salt lick deep fried in rancid oil. Don't forget the eat to live people who just don't care and the ones who don't know how to cook and grew up eating boxed and canned food so they don't even know good food, or the ones who are actually resentful that they had to bring anything at all and are there because they have to be and not because they want to be. And the quantity over quality people.

                                                                                                                                                                Try not to be so emotionally involved. If that doesn't work skip the pot lucks and only attend the dinner parties which are more likely to be attended by people who enjoy food and cooking.

                                                                                                                                                                1. Chips and salsa..not a problem. Once someone brought a bottle of soda and tupperware for leftovers.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. I once had someone at the annual work potluck say to me, about her own dish, 'I know not many people like this, but I love it.' And she continues to bring it each year (and take lots of leftovers, including other people's stuff, home).

                                                                                                                                                                    Otherwise, this particular potluck is very successful. Some people pool their money and order in dishes, others make homemade.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. I have to admit that I told the BF that this was the last year that he would get something from me for the Thanksgiving potluck at work. Four years with this company and not once has he been able to get out of the lab or meetings to make it to the lunch. I'm tired of contributing to a lunch that he doesn't get to enjoy. So I can see him stopping at the store on the way and grabbing a bag of chips and salsa next year just to being something.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. I admit, DH and I have each had that "oh crap forgot the potluck" moment where we end up at the grocery store picking up something - anything, just to have a contribution. it happens. :)