Out With The Old, In With The New: Start a Potluck Circle

Throughout the month of December, The Simple Dollar is posting a daily series focusing on specific activities you can do right now to set the stage for a great 2011. Out with the old, in with the new.

22. Start a potluck circle.

One of our favorite social events is the potluck dinners we have with our friends. At these events, everyone in our group congregates at someone’s house, the host makes some sort of main course, and all of the attendees bring some sort of supplement to it – beverages, side dishes, desserts, and so on. Since everyone’s together, we usually make a long evening of it by watching movies, playing board games, or doing something else socially together.

Having these events as a regular part of our social calendar cuts our entertainment budget significantly while often reducing our food budget a bit as well. If you add on top of that the fact that we’re building our friendships while also having a very enjoyable evening with them, then you can easily see the value of a potluck circle.

A potluck circle is simple to start. Just host a potluck dinner and invite some compatible people. Tell them what you’re going to serve and invite them to either bring a side dish, a beverage, or a dessert of some kind.

What should I serve? Keep it simple! Don’t worry about having some perfect seven course meal for a potluck dinner. Prepare a huge cauldron of soup. Make burritos or enchiladas. Serve up a giant batch of chili. Whip up some homemade pizzas. Focus on main dishes that can easily carry an entire meal with minimum accompaniment and you’re likely in the right area for this.

If you want, you can get very complicated with meal selection and preparation, but there’s really no need to do so.

Have something in mind for post-dinner entertainment Have a few interesting movies on hand. Have a few simple board games or card games on hand. Between the two of these, you can usually entertain your guests, no matter who they are.

Our circle almost always chooses to play games, and the games usually go on until late in the night. It’s perfect for us because we’re all sitting around a table conversing about random things as the turns pass.

Carrying the circle forward The biggest challenge for many people is simply making sure that the circle will move forward – in other words, ensuring that it doesn’t end up being just a one time thing or that you aren’t stuck always being the host.

My suggestion for solving this problem is to mention it up front. Simply state that you thought it would be fun to start having regular potluck dinners with the group you’re inviting and volunteer to host the first one. Suggest that the group can talk about future potlucks at the first one.

When you’re all together, it’s a good idea to come up with a schedule of hosts with a little bit of flexibility. Obviously, some people are going to have conflicts some weeks. My suggestion is to just rotate the potluck amongst possible hosts on a regular basis so that it’s easy for everyone to figure out the schedule and who is hosting the next one at any given time.

It’s also useful to suggest that whoever is hosting share what they’re planning on having for a main course so that appropriate side dishes and beverages can be selected and brought by the attendees. A Facebook group or an email list is a perfect way to do this.

A potluck dinner circle is a great way to maximize your entertainment and food dollars at the same time while also enjoying the friendship of others. In other words, it’s a win in more ways than one. Give it a shot.

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