Sharing Meal Costs by Creating a Long-Running Potluck Dinner

by Thursday Bram · 5 comments


For the past three years, I’ve had dinner once a week with a group of five of my friends. Just what day of the week has depended on our different schedules, but we all have decided that this dinner is an important part of our routine and we’ve made time for it.

We rotate where we hold dinner, and whoever is hosting is responsible for the main course. Different people bring desserts and side dishes (usually after consulting with the host). We have great dinners and the cost is lower than it would be otherwise.

The Benefit of the Potluck

By doing dinners potluck style with the same group on a regular basis, there are quite a few benefits. Overall, the meals tend to be cheaper than those we cook on our own because it’s easier to buy in bulk when you can plan on cooking at least one dish for six people regularly. It’s also possible to save time: there are many ways to create a fast side dish or dessert, especially when you’re only cooking one main course once every few weeks.

Planning for a potluck dinner can also reinforce good shopping habits:

  1. Because you will be buying more food to prepare (either for a side dish or a main course), you’re likely to pay closer attention to what’s on sale or to what you can get in bulk.
  2. You’re more likely to plan meals a little ahead. Cooking for a group of people requires you to have made arrangements ahead of time, especially if you have to come straight home from work and start cooking. Even if you aren’t preparing the main course, you have to make sure you know what will go with that week’s main course before you start cooking.
  3. You may have an opportunity to go in together on food beyond the potluck. If you get a sense of what other members of your group like to eat, you may be able to split bulk purchases, a CSA share or other opportunities to buy food in quantity for lower costs.

Keeping a Potluck Going

One of the key considerations is that you and your potluck group have to consider this dinner a priority. If every week, someone different skips for something more important, it’s very difficult to hold a group together. Surprisingly, moving potlucks to a monthly schedule doesn’t help — it seems even easier for a group meal to fall apart if you aren’t committed to having it once a week.

If you can pair your potluck with something that you’re all interested in, you may have a better chance of going for a long-term potluck dinner. Maybe that’s playing a board game after dinner, or perhaps it’s watching a movie. Think about what you and your friends wish you did more often together.

Overall, that commitment pays off. Not only do you get meals regularly that require less work on your part, but you get to sample different dishes that you wouldn’t normally put on the table as well as hang out with your friends.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • This is a such a great idea. We have a few friends that come over once a week to play Euchre. Is it sad that we are only 25? 🙂 I think I might have to start making it a potluck night.

  • Marnie says:

    I really love this idea. You’ve got me thinking about who in my neighborhood would be interested…

    You never know until you ask.

  • TheInfamousJ says:

    I do a once-a-week potluck with a group of local CouchSurfers (usually those who are offering to host people as opposed to those traveling through the area). I really like it from both a frugal and a friendship standpoint. It is true that breaking bread with someone is a truly remarkable thing.

    We do not coordinate menus. We are sometimes given a theme by the host (it is a rotating potluck but it rotates with no set schedule). Instead, people are asked to bring what they feel like sharing. While we once had all desserts, and once had no desserts, and once our only beverage was water, for the most part it usually works out in an entirely balanced manner.

    We have a set time and day though: Tuesday at 7 pm.

    I would recommend, author, that you consider a potluck where you ask your guests to make the thing they make best. Leaving it open to chance to not be the Martha Stewart-ideal of a dinner may surprise you; in a positive way.

  • The best part of pot lucks, is getting to try new food that you wouldn’t normally. It seems that anyone attending a pot luck, puts a lot of effort into it — I feel bad, as I’m the Safeway Platter guy.

  • Jenna says:

    My friend has a monthly potluck with a group of international friends. It’s great way to try different foods, get more recipes and hang out with friends.

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