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How To Host A Summer Potluck on a Budget

Hosting a Summer Potluck is not just about having your guests bring their best recipes to your party. It’s about how you and your friends can celebrate summer without breaking the budget!

Follow our easy tips to host your summer soiree. It’s such fun to invite a bunch of friends and family over but let’s face it, the budget could take a hit if you are not careful. Follow our tips to host your summer potluck on a budget!

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How To Host A Summer Potluck On A Budget

What is a potluck?

A potluck is a dinner or party where each guests brings a dish. The purpose of the potluck is not only to share the work of cooking the food but to enjoy each person’s delicious recipes. Most folks bring their best dishes.

It is best if the host of the potluck organizes a menu with topics such as Appetizers, Entree’s, Sides, Desserts and Beverages and keeps track of who is bringing what so everyone doesn’t bring the same thing.

Keep It Simple Yet Festive

Don’t plan an elaborate menu, location or decor. Just keep it simple by hosting at your home, and using what you have for decor.

You’ll want to be sensitive to your guests budgets also so keep your menu fairly basic.

Summer Potluck Food Theme Ideas

B.Y.O.S. or B.Y.O.M. Bring Your Own Steak or Bring Your Own Meat

We have been hosting a Steak and Potatoes dinner for the last couple of summers. We provide all of the Baked Potatoes and have our guests bring their own steaks. Folks bring their own sauces if desired and others sign up for salads and sides.  

How to mark which steak belongs to who at a pot luck steak cook out

We mark the owner of each steak using toothpicks and tape. Simply fold the tape around the tip of the toothpick and write the persons name on it. Stick it in the steak once it is done.

It isn’t fancy or cute but it is cheap and it works. Our master grill operator only cooks one family’s steaks at a time to avoid confusion. 

Delegate the food

Depending on how man folks you have invited, delegate each couple a specific part of the menu. Several for each food category; appetizers, entrée, sides, dessert and beverages. 

Be sure your Theme includes dishes which will be easy to transport for your guests. Encourage the use of coolers for transport during the heat of the summer for food safety. Pasta salads are great but most require refrigeration and need to be kept cool for the trip to your party.

Never assign appetizers to anyone who is habitually late! Double check to make sure two people won’t be bringing the same dish.


How to make a quick and easy centerpiece using what you have. Stick some silk hydrangea in a soup tureen for a striking centerpiece.

Cut fresh flowers such as hydrangea and display them in any of your vases or even a Mason jar. If you don’t have live flowers in your yard, just ask a friend or neighbor to let you cut a few. 

You can fill a Mason Jar with pretty much anything, sand, hard candies, aquarium rocks or dried beans and place a tea light candle on top or even stick small flags in for bright festive decor. Pictured above is a soup tureen with silk hydrangea I used for a quick and cheap centerpiece.

Shop the Dollar Store for supplies

Tablescloths and napkins from the Dollar Store are perfect and you won’t feel guilty about tossing them when it’s over for easy clean up.

Skip the Paper Plates

Blue and white stacked dishes. Place setting for a Fairy Garden Tablescape.

Use your real dishes. You can save a few bucks by skipping the paper plates and plastic forks and use what you have instead.

Mixing patterns is perfectly acceptable and in fact can be fun eclectic décor. I mixed three different sets of dishes for the place setting pictured above. The napkins are from the Dollar Store and the flower in the cup is silk from my stash of fake flowers for decorating.

Ask Guest To Bring Their Own To-Go Containers

Pot Lucks are notorious for left overs which is great because it means you won’t have to cook the next day. Cha ching to the budget! Rather than provide to-go containers, ask your guests to bring their own. No one has to worry about returning dishes and there is no extra expense involved.


Use social media, mobile and the internet for your Invitations. There is no cost involved with any of these methods for invitations.

Facebook Event

You can easily create an Event on Facebook and invite your friends and family.


If you are not familiar with it there is a website called Evite which allows you to create free invitations which you can email to your friends. They can RSVP back as well. You will need the email address of everyone on the invitation list.

Phone Call or Text

You can always call to invite your friends and follow up with a text reminder of day, date and time.


Have some fun and plan a few games which are cheap and easy to pull together. Here are a few good ideas.

Have lots of fun! Follow our tips for hosting a potluck on a budget and spend more time visiting with your friends and less time fussing over décor and food!

Table of Contents

More Party Food Ideas

12 fresh herbs pictured
How To Host A Potluck On A Budget. Budget saving tips for hosting a potluck. #potluck #potluckideas #budgetpartyideas #party

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    1. Shirley, I made this a feature at the week’s Whimsical Wednesdays Link party in the Labor Day Weekend Recipe section. Have a wonderful week!

  1. I would love to try all their varieties, especially the Broccoli & Cherry Tomato Parmesan Pasta Salad.

  2. Oh my gosh, your salad looks so yummy! I have to try it…we grow cherry tomatoes in our garden! I have only tried the classic before, I didnt know they had so many different ones! I would love to try their recipe for the Chicken Pasta Salad with Grapes and Poppy Seed Dressing using their classic Suddenly Salad! I make a pretty plain chicken salad with grapes…this one looks so much better than mine. Have to try! I love cold pasta salads in the summer!

    1. I’d forgotten about the chicken salad with grapes! Yes, the Suddenly Salad recipes sounds so much better, doesn’t it! Cold pasta salads are so perfect for the summer menu!

  3. I went to the store last week and bought four boxes of suddenly salad because the sale stacked so well with the coupons. i got them for 50 cents a box! I looked at the recipes and i’d try the chicken salad and grapes.

    1. Sharon, those coupons from the Ready Plan Save site make the sale great at Publix. It is a great time to stock up! I’m going to try that recipe too!

  4. I prefer the Suddenly Salad varieties that require mayo over the ones that use vegetable oil. I find the ones that use vegetable oil to be too vinegary for my taste, where the other ones more resemble a traditional macaroni salad. The southwest style ranch is my favorite variety because it has tortilla chips included that give it a unique crunch. My favorite recipe from their site is the Chipotle Chicken-Bacon-Ranch Layered Salad, which could be made using my favorite variety.

    1. David, you and I agree about the mayo. We will be trying the Southwest Style Ranch with those tortilla chips. Sounds like a really good summer dinner!

  5. I want to try the Layered Mexican Party Salad. It looks so festive and would make a nice addition to a party table.

  6. This dish looks delicious! It made me hungry for lunch and I haven’t had breakfast! Thanks for linking to Talk It Up Thursday. Have a great week and hope to see you back this Thursday.

  7. I am a big fan of ranch. I would make the Ranch Spinach Pasta Salad which is perfect for grilling out with family and friends.

  8. I love pasta salads during the summer. I would buy the Suddenly Salad classic pasta salad mix to make the Layered Mexican Party Salad. I have never had a pasta salad and a leaf salad together before, would be interesting to try.

    cshell090869 at aol dot com

    1. Shelly, I just served our pasta salad on a bed of lettuce. We don’t mix the two either. Suddenly Salad makes it so easy to have Pasta salad often in the summer!

  9. All of these recipes look very enticing to me. The one that stands out the most and the one I want to try the most would be the Black and Blue Pasta Salad with Steak recipe. It looks so healthy and easy to make. I think my family would really enjoy it. Thank You!


  10. We are having our big Summer potluck for the 4th of July and the recipe that I really want to try is Greek Tossed Pasta Salad! We love Suddenly Salad recipes and get them all the time. I just got 4 boxes for $1 each! Thanks so much for this awesome giveaway!

    email jewelwood55(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. Julie, you got a good deal on your recent Suddenly Salad purchase. Publix will have a coupon up soon for .75 off when you buy three on their Ready, Plan Save site.

  11. Thanks for the tips! We have not had time to settle down and think yet…since the move. I’m pinning for when I get a moment to check out these recipes:)

    1. Thanks for the Pin Zan. I hope you guys get settled in soon. Suddenly Salad would make an easy meal while you are still unpacking and getting the new house organized.

  12. I can’t decide. Both the Black and Blue Pasta Salad with steak and the Greek Tossed Pasta salad sound really good to me! (I must be hungry!)

  13. I love the idea of a salad theme for a summer potluck! Every single time I make a recipe featuring Suddenly Salad for a potluck, I have to double or triple it. Your salad looks scrumptious.

    1. We double and triple also Alli. Suddenly Salad is such an easy meal to prepare and I love the way you can make it your own by adding our favorite ingredients to it.

  14. I would make the ranch spinach pasta salad for sure! It combines many of my favorite ingredients…and ranch on pretty much anything tastes amazing.

  15. I would like to try the Chicken Pasta Salad with Grapes and Poppy Seed Dressing recipe.
    jslbrown2009 at aol dot com

  16. Oh, I especially love their Suddenly Pasta Salad™ Ranch and Bacon. I typically make two boxes at once and add either two packs of imitation crab pieces or a pound of those tiny cocktail-type shrimp (I’ve done a mixture of imitation crab and shrimp, too). It makes for a quick meal for hot days when I don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen cooking.

We enjoying hearing from you!