Saturday, January 24, 2009


Being on a tight budget, for the last couple of years I have been struggling with what to take to potlucks. At home we normally eat food that doesn't transport well, or that needs to be cooked at the last moment. We've also been going very light on the meat, and heavy on the potatoes, rice, bread, pasta, legumes, frozen veggies, and canned fruit. For a potluck, you need a food of sufficient portability and sufficient size, food that is eaten on a plate (not out of a bowl or a communal pot) and which is considered "normal" enough to be eaten by regular people. On top of that, I need to find something that fits our budget. A nice fruit salad or veggie salad is rare enough around here that I can't really afford to take something like that to a potluck. Same for egg salad or deviled eggs. My recent solutions have been

-- steamed & buttered organic carrots
-- twice-baked potatoes
-- pumpkin pie (extra squash, lower sugar)
-- peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
-- apple Betty
-- baked beans
-- baked spaghetti
-- pizza lentils
-- bubble & squeak

(although the last two are considered "weird food" by many folks, and the previous two are standards that other people are sure to bring).

If anybody else has ideas for "More With Less" type of food that works well at a potluck for middle-class Lutherans in the Midwest, I'd love to hear your suggestions!


  1. I wouldn't know, since our church DOESN'T DO potlucks.

    They only do fundraisers.

  2. Oh, that is just plain SAD.

  3. The church we go to doesn't do potluck either, but in the past I use to take stuff to my former church. A favorite was sauteed diced onions, diced zucchini, and corn mixed together. Easy to make and not something a lot of people have eaten before.

  4. I always take fluff. one can crushed pineapple, one box pistachio pudding and one container cool whil. Cheap, fast, yummy. Everyone always asks me to bring it. Mix the fruit and the milk....then fold in the cool whip.

  5. I thought of something last night. How about carrot cake? The recipe I have uses crushed pineapple along with the carrots. The only thing that's a bit pricey about it is the eggs, and the cream cheese for the frosting.

    I'd skip the nuts and/or raisins to keep the cost down.

  6. EC and Kristi, part of my hang-up is that I don't particularly want to take desserts to potlucks. At our previous congregation, IF anybody brought something to a potluck, it was dessert or jello. Often I was the only one who brought real food (unless Kathy or Joan was there). And now I prefer to bring something that is all right for either the vegetarians or the gluten-intolerants or the lactose-intolerants. I can't manage to bring something that would be agreeable to them all -- although Randy always brings one dish that would work for all those groups (and it's always a blow-ya-away delicious salad!) but I can't afford fresh blueberries and peaches and tomatoes this time of year.

  7. Lu, the zucchini dish sounds good (although it would entail a trip to the store to ensure zucchini in the house). If I were to make that at home, I'd stirfry it and serve it hot out of the skillet. What do you do to take it to a potluck? Do you stirfry it and then keep it warm in a crockpot? Or are you talking about a raw salad?

  8. The problem I've found with potluck food is that people don't like "plain" foods. The last time I took baked beans hardly anyone touched them, probably because they weren't filled with salt and lots of meat. This year I did a yam and apple casserole for 2 potlucks because that's what I had on hand. Both times I came home with most of it left over because no one wanted to try something like that, they went for things like the enchiladas and sausage instead.

  9. Kim, I noticed that at our old church. If I was the only one bringing "real food" I was going to bring something plain and simple to ensure that my family would eat something but if there was anything else available, people passed by my dish. (They didn't, though, when I had the only non-dessert item on the table.) Sometimes it was almost funny to watch reactions to the stuff that we eat routinely.

  10. How about scalloped potatoes? That is what I just took that to church yesterday.

  11. A crockpot or baking dish of spanish or fried rice.

  12. I discovered a recipe a few years ago for cheesy cauliflower that entails a head of cauliflower, a bit of mustard, some mayo and topped with some shredded cheddar. It is quite tasty and healthy from a few simple ingredients.

  13. I don't have a food suggestion, but I did just buy a book called "Dining on a Dime" I look forward to trying some of her suggestions, if I see anything I will let you know.

  14. Susan, with the zucchini dish, I cooked it at home and then when I would take it to church for potluck, I put it in the microwave for a few minutes to warm it up. Usually during that time, we were finishing up set up before everyone ate. I guess, you could stir fry it, almost until it was done and then put it in a crockpot to keep it warm. This has become one of our favorite veggies, I now have to fix it for Kelsey as a side dish for Thanksgiving and Christmas and she always wants it when she comes home.

  15. Adding to my list --
    potato salad
    Erma's corn & pea salad
    lettuce salad (seasonally)
    Chinese cole slaw
    Andrew's pasta/broccoli/mayo salad
    layered burrito casserole.