A few years back, my boyfriend introduced me to his tiny, lodge-y, weekend getaway at a rural community on a lake. During my first visit, we attended a spur-of-the-moment get-together with some of his neighbors. It was a surprising night for me in two ways. First of all, everyone treated me like they’d known me forever. As a gal with definite introvert tendencies, this was most welcome and a great “note-to-self” for my own future hosting. Secondly, everyone brought their own drinks and a snack to share. Brilliant! Essentially, all the host had to provide was ice and toilet paper. Talk about stress-free entertaining! Piggybacking off this experience, here’s our complete guide on how to host a potluck.
Why Host a Potluck?
Whether you’re new to the neighborhood or a veteran resident, a successful potluck party can help create and solidify friendships and make you feel right at home in your apartment community. It’s a fun way to make memories and create long-lasting friendships. It’s a great way to host without breaking the bank, and it’s a no-brainer because people like to eat. And, hosting a potluck will create a foundation to build upon to eventually host gatherings where you provide everything…and do all the work.
Invite some people: your besties, relatives, coworkers, apartment neighbors – mix and match! Decide how many people your home/dining table can comfortably accommodate and plan your guest list accordingly. Consider how many place settings you have – plates and silverware. Do you have serving spoons? If not, be sure your guests know to bring one for their dish. How much guest parking is available near your apartment? Don’t forget to let your guest know where they should park. If your apartment community is gated, let your visitors know how to get in so there’s no awkwardness upon arrival.
Planning any kind of get-together can be daunting. How much food should there be? What drinks should be served, and how many will be needed? A potluck solves these problems. If everyone brings food to share there will be plenty. When they also bring their own drinks, you have no decisions to make about quantities or types of refreshments to have on hand. Do make sure you have plenty of ice and glassware.
Hosting a potluck that satisfies all appetites is easier if you create a theme. This will help make your meal complete and cohesive. Just make sure your guests advise you what they plan to bring so you can make sure there aren’t duplicates and that all portions of the meal are covered. Here are some creative potluck theme ideas to choose from for your next apartment gathering.
Apartment Potluck Themes
Have your guests pick a dish from their favorite restaurant in town to recreate. Who knows what you’ll end up with? Pasta, empanadas, cupcakes, tacos. So many possibilities. It’s a great theme if your guests are foodies as their contributions will assure a variety of interesting dishes that will spark conversation about the best restaurants and best foods in your area.
Who doesn’t like Tex-Mex? With simple recipes and affordable ingredients, you can’t go wrong with a Tex-Mex potluck theme. Mexican-American dishes are delicious, filling, and difficult to botch – even for the novice chef. Opt for a Tex-Mex Night and make sure that everyone brings a different dish so you don’t end up with six jars of salsa and bags of chips.
Everyone has a dish that reminds them of home. My mom used to make a dish she called Surprise Packages. She’d make foil pouches filled with sliced potatoes, a hamburger patty, a slice of onion, sliced carrots and peas. They were awful, but my siblings and I never tire of teasing her about them, and my father loved them. Maybe your friends have better offerings like their mom’s chili, dad’s Sunday gravy, Thanksgiving’s sweet potato casserole, or a family recipe that’s been passed down for generations. Ask your potluck guests to bring a family favorite and prepare to enjoy a wide range of heartwarming foods along with a night of nostalgic memories!
Theme your potluck with this cheery color and be prepared for a night of mac and cheese, coconut curry with mango, buffalo chicken dip, and cornbread. Once you open your mind to seemingly random themes, the possibilities are endless. Colors, letters, and numbers are all great places to start. Be relatively lax about the “rules” and see what creativity your guests bring to the table. What might seem odd in the beginning could end up being your favorite potluck theme in the end.
FARMERS MARKET FAVES
If you’re looking for a way to make your potluck dishes more cohesive but don’t want to limit your guests to a specific cuisine, consider a theme involving where they shop for their ingredients. A farmer’s market theme is also an excellent way to support local businesses like Findlay Market in Cincinnati, Yankee Street Market in South Dayton, or Dallas Farmer’s Market. With dishes centered around in-season ingredients you’ll end up with similarities throughout your dinner spread — and high-quality ingredients, too!
Have your meat-loving friends step outside of their comfort zones. Challenge everyone to add some type of vegetable to their dish — including the desert! A veggie tray would be a no-brainer, but there are many veggie dishes that are so hearty, no one will miss the meat. Like Alison Roman’s Spiced Chickpea Stew which went viral >> #thestew. And, who doesn’t like carrot cake or banana bread? The options are endless and delicious for a plant-based potluck theme.
HOME STATE ORIGINALS
A classic potluck theme, friends bring an iconic home state dish. In Kentucky, that could be a Kentucky Derby favorite, burgoo. How about a recreation of Cincinnati’s Skyline Chili? Dayton-style square-cut pizza is a fun option, or how about one of these seven classic dishes famous in Dallas? Not only does this potluck theme have the potential to be delicious, but it can also spark some great conversation between guests about their home states.
A wonderful theme for spring and summer months, a salad bar is easy, fresh, and tasty. There’s always plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables available in season, but don’t forget about other warm-weather staples like pasta or potato salad! A salad bar theme is perfect for a light, refreshing dinner that will require no reheating.
Casseroles are great for cooler months. Hot, comforting casseroles are what everyone craves during the fall and winter. And, they tend to be easy to make. How about a gooey mac and cheese or a tater-tot casserole? For dessert, think apple crisp and or blueberry cobbler.
Another fun idea is to have everyone bring the same dish and see who makes it best. Think a chili cookoff, taco night, or a chocolate chip cookie bakeoff.
So make a guest list, send out invitations, dust and vacuum, stock up on toilet paper, set the table, light some candles, and let the potluck party begin! If you and your guests have as much fun as I think you will have, consider a monthly rotation from one person’s home to another. Eat and drink your way to closer friendships and better neighbors.