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Potluck Dinners – Tacky or Frugal?

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Energi Gal here with another post for Lazy Man...

The holidays have come and gone. During the season the topic of potluck dinners came to discussion. If you host a potluck dinner, are you tacky or financially smart? Growing up, my mother always told me that potluck dinners were tacky. If you invite people over you are responsible for all the food, appetizers, wine, beer, soda, dinner, and dessert. My mom would spend up to $500.00 to have people over! I think that is a lot of work and an awful lot of money. When I was in high school, I wanted to have some friends over and asked everyone to bring something. My mother screamed at me to high heaven! I was in high school with minimal college savings due to my parents spending. Why can't everyone contribute to a good time? Now that I am working and trying to save for a wedding and for a house in a high cost of living area, I think again, "Why can't everyone contribute?" None of our friends are broke, and even if they were, they could afford a 99 cents bag of chips. I see so many positives about a potluck dinner: people bring what they like, people bring their special recipe, and LESS WORK for the hostess (Lazy Man likes less work).

What does everyone else think?

Posted on January 26, 2007.

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8 Responses to “Potluck Dinners – Tacky or Frugal?”

  1. Personally, I love potlucks, but now that I am not a starving grad student we just call them “cooking club” dinners. Part of the stigma is just the name which older people strongly associate with being poor. I love to cook fabulous meals or try out new recipes which can be a very expensive and anxiety-provoking proposition if the whole dinner party is on you. So everyone tries out something (usually on the smaller portions end) plus the host also makes something cheap and “safe” (simple pasta dish, split pea soup or something) so we have something to eat if all the recipes fail.

    We rotate houses and the host gets to keep the leftovers. We do themes (Indian food, entree’s under 5.00 in ingrediants, something out of a particular cookbook, whatever) It’s a blast, its social, we laugh really hard, its good food, and it ends up being a really inexpensive way to entertain. I highly recommend it as a practice. Your mom is old skool but you aren’t. Go for it.

  2. Melsky says:

    I like potluck dinners a lot. At least that way, you always know there’s one thing that you can eat at the dinner! Also, it’s fun to see what other people made, I have gotten good recipes and ideas from potlucks, and learned about food from other cultures.

  3. Jeff Mackey says:

    I think you are both right. It would probably be improper for an established 50 year old couple to invite friends over for a pot-luck unless it was at a cabin or picnic type scenario.

    For us younger ppl, I don’t see anything wrong with a pot luck…it can cost a lot to have people over…my wife and I have a house and most others do not, so we entertain more often than others…and it can cost a bundle…especially when wine is involved!

  4. Foobarista says:

    I vote for “frugal” – or at least “fun”. Also, if parties are monstrously expensive, you won’t have many, as you point out.

    We often have parties for my wife’s Chinese woman’s group at our house. Being from mainland China where potlucks are unknown, it took them awhile to get used to the idea, but it has become quite popular among her group; the “inertia” needed to get a party organized and such is far less if it doesn’t involve a week’s pay and three days of cooking, as it could if a Chinese hosted party is planned.

    Some potluck tips:

    1. Assign dishes, or at least general food categories, to people, or have “sign-ups”. At our first potluck, we had 11 Safeway pies!

    2. Potlucks work best as buffets, with disposable eating-ware. Sit-down potlucks can be a logistical nightmare unless you have plenty of tables.

    3. If you have any guests with special food requirements (vegetarian, kosher/halal, etc) this needs to be known in advance and dishes planned.

  5. Matt says:

    My favorite potluck ever had a theme…”bring your family’s favorite obscure dish”. It gave us and our friends lots of chances to try new things. I’m considering hosting one like it soon…except my fiancee and I have way too many obscure favorites to choose from. :)

    The look on a friend’s face the first time they try Chinese Pastry (which contains no pastry and is not even remotely Chinese) is priceless, especially when followed by the bellowing laughter at the long family-history story explaining why we call it that. :)

  6. Jane says:

    I think PotLuck is the way to go this season! If you are having a party with a bunch of people who don’t know each other except through one mutual friend it is a good way to get to know the people by what they bring… of sorts. For example a birthday for your best friend and you invite her other friends because she does have them you know and they bring what they like to cook and eat. It is a good way to start conversation amongst the strangers also. Never mind the expenses because that is not the reason why we socialize is it?

  7. Catherine says:

    Potlucks are tacky, sorry. If you can’t afford to host a party, then don’t host one.

  8. Athena P. says:

    Tacky. If you’re too darn cheap to host a party, don’t have one. Who wants to eat food touched by people who can’t wash their hands while making it, anyway? A friend of mine got sick from eating food at a potluck because someone didn’t wash their hands before preparing the food.

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