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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.

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  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.