A potluck dinner is an old, familial tradition where people gather to eat, talk, socialize – and secretly compete to outdo each other with the food dishes they prepare and bring. At your next potluck, reserve your place in covered-dish legend – all while saving money – with these eight inexpensive ideas.
Save Some Bread – Pudding
Bread pudding is not only delicious, but it gives you a reason to show off how cultured and knowledgeable you are by explaining to the other potluck guests that the dish originated hundreds of years ago in Europe as a way for hungry peasants to make stale bread taste good.
Recipes vary, but generally, pieces of day-old bread are soaked in a combination of milk, eggs, sugar, and fall spices like cinnamon and nutmeg; baked; and served hot. Raisins or other dried fruit or nuts are often added, which won’t add much to your already lean budget.
The Pioneer Woman offers a recipe with pictures.
Make Your Pesos Count with Mexican Layered Dip
Ditch the need to cook or bake by spreading refried beans on the bottom of a shallow dish and sprinkling them with taco seasoning, and then adding as few or as many layers as you like of: guacamole, diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, sour cream, black olives, green onions, and anything else that wouldn’t feel out of place in a taco. Pair it with chips for potluck finger-food gold. This video will walk you through it.
Hint: Avocados can be expensive. Consider swapping the guacamole for another cold spread.
Spend Small Potatoes on Tater-Tot Casserole
Spread a mixture of milk, cream of chicken soup, and browned ground beef on the bottom of a greased casserole dish; top that with a bag of frozen tater tots and bake for 40 minutes. That’s all it takes to break the bland stereotypes associated with the most overused and underutilized mystery concoction in the history of potluck dinners – the casserole.
Craving Comfort’s recipe is a good place to start.
Deviled Eggs, Devilishly Cheap
If you can afford to splurge on a dozen eggs, some mayo, Dijon mustard, onion, and paprika, then you’ve got enough for 24 of what is often the most quickly devoured finger food at any potluck.
According to this recipe by Kitchen Stewardship, simply cut hard-boiled eggs in half, remove the dried yolk, mix it with everything else, and spoon the mixture back into the halved egg whites. Sprinkle with paprika and watch your potluck status grow with each disappearing bite.
Crockpot-Luck – Save Cool Cash with Chili
Chili is like music or children – everyone thinks theirs is the best. If your potluck runs long enough, consider bringing a slow cooker to your gathering to let the anticipation build. Chili recipes vary more widely than perhaps any other crockpot dish. Combine some variation of beans and essentially any kind of meat with spices, tomato sauce, and time until it simmers to perfection.
Consider this basic recipe at The Simple Dollar.
Grilled Cheese Bites and Tomato Soup
Get yourself a nice, non-white-bread loaf of sliced bread and sliced cheese, preferably Jewish rye and Swiss. Make a few grilled cheeses (that’s the thing where you put two slices of cheese between two pieces of buttered bread and cook in a pan on the stovetop) and cut them into bite-sized squares or triangles; put a toothpick through each. Get a can tomato soup for dipping, heat it up, and put it in a bowl with a cover. You will win points for non-cassserole creativity.
Sweet Squash Halves
This is seasonal, but so worth it if your potluck takes place – as so many do – between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Pick up a few acorn squashes, some brown sugar, and butter – that’s it. Cut the spherical squashes in half across the middle. Remove the pumkin-esque seeds and gross gobbledy-gook inside. Put a tablespoon of butter and a generous sprinkle of brown sugar inside the divot in each half where the seeds were. Put directly on the rack of a 350-degree preheated oven. The squash will absorb the butter and brown sugar, then all you need to do is supply some spoons for one of the most simple, delicious treats on the planet.
Feel free to swap out squashes with whatever you think will work, and remember, to save money, stay in season.
This depends what kind of potluck crowd you roll with, so use your judgement. But if you think there might be a vibe of covered-dish wild, be the rock star and make peppermint martinis. Not cheap, but not a bank breaker, you’ll need vodka, peppermint schnapps, cocoa liqueur, powdered or flaked chocolate, a standard bar shaker, and a bunch of little glasses of your choice. Ordinarily they’re served in martini glasses, but in this case, small plastic cups will do.
Run the rim across the powdered chocolate until it sticks. Mix the three ingredients over ice in the bar mixer and strain (wait until you get to the party to do this) the minty/chocolatey goodness into the chocolate-rimmed cups. Prepare to make a lot of new friends.
Yes, you’re going to the potluck to hang out, mingle, gossip, and eat. But be honest – part of you wants to take home the unofficial trophy for potluck awesomeness. It’s within your reach. Think outside the box, get creative, and make it work.