It’s your first Friendsgiving, and you and your buddies have decided to make it a potluck. Great! That reduces the pressure on everyone.
No matter who’s hosting, no one needs to slave away in the kitchen all day. Plus, each person’s contribution and tastes factor into the food on the table. This is one of the best ways to host a truly egalitarian Friendsgiving, but it’s easy for a potluck to go wrong.
To avoid that possibility, there are a few rules to follow when planning a potluck Friendsgiving. Then again, there are also some that beg to be broken. Not sure which is which? We’ve got you covered.
Do: Have a plan
If there are just a few people coming to your party, make sure everyone has a specific dish that they’re planning to bring. Mashed potatoes are great, but no one wants an ultimate mashed potato showdown when Kelly and Greg both bring their moms’ famous mashed potato dishes to the table.
Have a sign-up sheet in a group text or email thread where everyone can put down what they’re bringing so there are no awkward duplicates.
Do: Decide on a theme
Whether you’re planning a traditional Friendsgiving meal or something unique, make sure everyone knows about and agrees on the theme.
If one person shows up with eggplant Parmesan but there are no other Italian-inspired dishes on the menu, they’re going to feel awkward and the food isn’t going to mesh on the plate. Avoid this by planning a theme early and sticking to it.
Do: Cover your bases
Repeat after us: appetizers, main dishes, side dishes, sauces, desserts and drinks. Make sure there’s at least one option for each part of the meal you’re planning to have, even if it doesn’t contain all those elements.
If necessary, ask folks to bring both an appetizer and a dessert, or ask someone to come over early to help you with the main dish or sides before everyone else arrives hungry and ready to eat.
Do: Remind people to bring serving tools
No matter who’s hosting and no matter how many people are attending this Friendsgiving potluck party, it’s likely that the host doesn’t have enough serving tools for every single dish.
Rather than awkwardly doing dishes during the party, just be sure to bring a utensil that’s appropriate to your dish so everyone can serve themselves and have a good time.
Be prepared to pack up leftovers to take home, including the remainder of your dish or someone else’s.
With a potluck meal, it’s easy for people to prepare too much food, so everyone should be willing to chip in and keep some for work lunches in the week ahead. Otherwise, one person gets stuck with a fridge full of food. No fun.
Don’t: Make it unwieldy
While it may be tempting to bring messy finger foods to a potluck (think nachos), it’s better to avoid them.
The same rule goes for towering cakes or things without much structure, like trifles, Jell-O or pudding. Stick to structure and have a better time serving, eating and enjoying the food on the table.
Don’t: Forget about food allergies
If you want to make a super-fudgy peanut butter brownie pie with peanut shortbread crust and peanut butter whipped cream, cool! Just remember that some people at the party might have serious food allergies, so you need to be extra diligent about the potential for cross-contamination — or you need to pick another dessert and leave the peanuts for another time.
Rule to break: Portion planning
Potlucks should be a bit of a free-for-all when it comes to serving, eating and enjoying, so don’t stress about having exact portions. Make a recipe large enough to feed your friend group and worry about leftovers when the party ends.
Don’t police what people do or don’t eat, and remember: The whole point of having choices is the ability to say “yes” to some things and “no” to others.
Thanksgiving is mired in a lot of weirdness, culturally, so don’t stress about having a traditional meal with your friends. Think outside the box and create a meal together that is delicious and inspired.
Rule to break: Make everything at home
Pre-assembled dishes are certainly easy to serve at a potluck because you can show up, put them on the table and eat. However, some dishes can be made into fun activities if they need to be assembled. Consider a do-it-yourself sundae bar or a fill-your-own mini pie crust display.