Plan the perfect picnic potluck

Is there anything better than a picnic potluck? Make one dish, eat several. Win-win. Unless you are just learning how to organize a potluck , and then it can become daunting, confusing, and complicated. Unless you read this blog.

When you are looking for picnic food ideas for large groups, potlucks are an easy choice. After all, people always feel compelled to bring a gift to the event host; why not make it a hot dish worth sharing with everyone?

Pick your parameters.

If you’re having trouble getting started, picking a theme often helps. A few picnic ideas  you could try:

  • Meat and Greet: As the host, you prep the protein (BBQ Pork, loose meat sandwiches, seafood boil), and ask guests to bring a side dish or dessert.
  • Guinea Pig Party: Tell guests to bring a dish they’ve never made before, so everyone gets to try their hands at making—and eating—something new.
  • Go global: Spin the globe and pick a cuisine from outside of your neck of the woods. By country or continent, food is a great way to explore the world without ever leaving your picnic blanket. Or, for a twist, ask everyone to bring a dish of heritage significance.
  • The Brinner Brunch: There are no rules that say potlucks are only for lunch or dinner; bring on the eclectic breakfast any time of day.
  • Potluck brought to you by the letter _____. Pick any letter of the alphabet and ask guests to make something that starts with it.
  • Finger foods: This is hugely popular with families and anyone who loves to happily graze. Finger foods are often easy potluck recipes and are perfect for every course.
  • Summer surplus party: Have more zucchinis than you know what to do with? Perfect! Invite your gardening guests to bring their bounty. Have them make one dish with it, and bring the rest plucked and uncooked. Everyone leaves with one less errand to run.

Themes can be a great way to try new dishes or encourage new people to join in the fun. That being said, sometimes the best potluck ideas  are the ones that come together naturally, when a simple date, time, and ‘bring your favorite home-cooked dish’ is enough. Yes, this increases the chances of people only bringing dessert, but is that a problem to lose sleep over? 

Divvy up the dishes.

When you send out your invitations, you’ll need to be clear on how guests decide what to bring.

Here’s where you can be as strategic as you want to be. If you want to ensure you get a variety of food that feeds everyone, an online sign-up tool can be helpful. There are several to choose from, and most are free to use. Use your total headcount as a guide, and ask that people plan on bringing 8-10 servings of whatever they bring as an individual, couple, or family.

Don’t want a lot of structure? That’s ok. If you don’t have specific categories, dishes, or explanations, you may need to be clear on your invitation what constitutes a dish (i.e. don’t just bring chips, Uncle Mike).

Have a few guests who hate to cook? Put them in charge of the paper plates, cups, cutlery, and beverages. These are all important ingredients that a successful potluck picnic can’t be without.

Pack up the surplus.

Assuming everyone brings a dish to share in portions that are larger than they could possibly consume, you will always have more than enough food. Want to make sure your party keeps going for a few more days? Send the leftovers packing. Either you can purchase some cute to-go containers for this purpose, or you can encourage everyone invited to bring a leftover container with them.

Something else to consider is making plates up for neighbors or friends who weren’t able to join you, especially if they aren’t feeling well or aren’t up to big gatherings.

There you have it, a few potluck and picnic ideas  for one of the best ways to spend an evening with friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. We can’t wait to hear about your potluck and what worked for you. Tell us in the comments below!

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