Potlucks are a staple of the holiday season – whether it’s an appetizer party where everyone contributes a plate of tiny bites or a family holiday meal that’s gotten so large one kitchen simply can’t feed all the guests anymore. While potlucks may seem easy (“everyone just bring whatever you feel like!”), a truly great potluck requires people to make sacrifices.
This year, be a team player and bring something necessary, but maybe not as glamorous, to the potluck. Things like cutlery, extra place settings, or even booze are all necessary items, so this year pick something untraditional and make this potluck the best one yet.
15. Salad Without Leaves
Extra salads are never a bad idea, especially during rich holiday meals where meat is usually the focus. However, you should try and avoid bringing a salad where lettuce is the star, especially if someone else is already bringing a salad. There’s nothing worse than two giant salads made of exactly the same ingredients.
Mix it up this year by tossing together a seasonal slaw or even a salad loaded with fruit and nuts. Really impress your family and friends by making a composed salad like a Cobb, or something a little less traditional, like mozzarella and tomato skewers.
14. Extra Cutlery and Plates
Other necessary items that most people forget about when it comes to potlucks are the cutlery and plates. Potlucks tend to get thrown together haphazardly, and hosts often invite way more people than they have room for because they assume that everyone will just be mingling and eating standing up.
Make sure your host is covered for extra cutlery and plates by bringing some of your own, buying paper and plastic disposables, or splurging for a rental service where you can return the plates at the end of the evening.
13. Napkins and Paper Towels
Napkins and paper towels are essential items that tend to get forgotten during the planning stage of a potluck. Make sure your host has plenty on hand by showing up with an armful this holiday season. Even if they don’t get used during the party, your host will be grateful to have them on hand during the cleanup – which usually takes place mid-hangover the next morning.
12. A Signature Party Cocktail
During a potluck, everyone tends to eat their own mixture of foods, so having a signature cocktail to tie it all together really elevates the party. The best way to do this is by mixing up a pitcher cocktail, so people can serve themselves, or you can play bartender. Pick something without too much alcohol, because people will probably be coming back for seconds (and thirds). There are tons of holiday pitcher cocktail recipes on the Internet, or you can be creative and make up your own.
There is nothing worse than a party without ice. Make a good impression on your host this year by bringing both ice and a vessel to hold drinks.
People going in and out of the fridge in search of cold drinks can be extremely annoying if there’s still cooking in progress, so take the stress off your host by bringing a couple bags of ice, and a bucket or large tub where you can set up a drinks station. Better yet – take advantage of the cooler temperatures, and set it up just outside the door.
Another way that you can be helpful to your host is by helping decorate for the party. Volunteer to come over early, and help them set up. Depending on your relationship, you can even bring additional decorations – just make sure they match the host’s style. Lending a hand during the decorating process is probably one of the most helpful ways that you can assist during a potluck.
9. Flowers (In a Vase
Bringing flowers to a host is a lovely gesture – just make sure they’re in a vase already. There’s nothing more awkward than having to pull the host away from party prep so they can dig through their cupboards and find the right vase for your arrangement.
This year, take the stress out of an otherwise lovely gesture by bringing either a potted plant or an arrangement that comes in its own vase. Your host will be grateful.
8. Tables and Chairs
Potlucks at their heart are about filling your home with the people that you love, without having to make a three-course meal for dozens of people. While potlucks are easier on the host in terms of cooking, filling your home with that many people can be stressful.
One way you can help is by bringing party necessities like folding chairs, or even an extra fan or space heater, depending on the time of year. Most parties don’t need extra desserts, but would definitely benefit from additional seating or even an extra folding table.
7. Extra To-Go Containers
One thing that’s certain is that potlucks beget leftovers – tons of them. There’s always heaps of leftover food following a potluck, so this year make your hosts life easier and save their Tupperware collection by bringing a bunch of extra to-go containers. That way the host can portion out leftovers for people to take home without giving away all of their containers. Plus, guilt-free leftovers are a major potluck bonus.
6. Serving Platters
Another way that you can make your host’s life a lot easier during a potluck is to show up with several serving platters – enough for your own dish, and a few to spare. Most people bring their dishes in Tupperware containers and assume that the host will have enough platters to go around, which often isn’t the case. A stock of extra platters and serving trays will be a major boon for a frazzled host.
5. Food Traditional to Your Culture
Another unique thing to bring to a potluck is a food that’s specific to your cultural heritage. A potluck is a great place to try new things because you can serve yourself a taste just to try, and you don’t have to feel guilty about not consuming an entire plate if you don’t care for it. A holiday dish unique to your heritage can definitely inspire a great conversation on family holiday traditions.
4. Post-Dinner Tea or Coffee
After a heavy meal of delicious, rich food, most people need something to settle their stomach before beginning the long journey home. Volunteering to bring coffee and tea (and preparing it as well!) is a great potluck offering – it gives the host a much-needed chance to sit down, and also serves as a way to let the exhausted host subtly signal that it’s time for everyone to go home.
Make sure to bring a selection of both caffeinated and decaffeinated tea and coffee – one black tea, one green tea, and a few herbal teas will give everyone an option they’ll love.
3. Mood Music
Another way to take stress away from your busy host is by volunteering to curate a playlist for the party. Once you’ve come up with the perfect party playlist, arrive a little bit earlier on party day and set up their sound system, so they don’t have to worry about it. If you really want to go all out, reach out to the other party attendees to see if they have any song requests, then incorporate them into your playlist.
2. Something No One Else Wants to Bring
Potlucks are full of people who bring whatever dishes they want – the chance to show off their cooking to a crowd is just too tempting. Be your host’s favorite person this holiday season by volunteering to bring whatever no one else wants to bring. Maybe your host had grand plans to make a cheesecake but just couldn’t find the time, or maybe no one wants to splurge for wine.
This year, be the solid, reliable person who just says “yes” when the host asks them to bring something, no matter how difficult or ridiculous.
1. Toilet Paper
Running out of toilet paper during a potluck is one of the most unimaginable nightmares of party hosting. Be a great friend this holiday season and bring along a package of toilet paper to your next potluck. The host may laugh about it, but believe us, they’ll be thanking you later.