5 tips for hosting a successful potluck

Cheesy brocolli casserole

Potlucks were made for summer parties. When you have to host a ton of guests, they’re the perfect low-key solution—at least they’re supposed to be. If you’re not organized, it’s easy to end up with too many desserts, not enough sides, a cold main, and wishing you’d just done everything yourself. To ensure that’s not the case, and your potluck turns out to be the laid-back success you dreamed of, follow these five simple steps.

1. Create a sign-up list: While it may feel a little informal to start an email or Facebook thread to determine who’s bringing what, it will definitely help avoid overlap and make life easier for you, since everyone will be able to see what others are bringing. Another great option is to create a Google doc, which will not only let others see what guests are bringing, but also allow you to break the dinner into categories for people to sign up under, including appetizers, mains, sides, desserts, and drinks.

2. Plan prep and refrigeration: While you’re at it, ask that guests also include any re-heating or refrigeration that their meals require within their response. That way, you can gauge how much fridge space you’ll need. It will also help you avoid the problem of having guests bring more dishes than your oven can accommodate.

3. Dish out some ideas: While you may have some guests who have a delicious signature dish to bring, there may be others that are a little more kitchen-challenged. Send out a few easy or even “cook-free” ideas for these guests to snag, anything from dips and salsas to cheese and veggie platters.

4. Take care of the main: If you plan on serving a large, hot item such as ham or turkey, make this your contribution to the meal. Not only are roasts difficult to transport, it’s not something you want to have to reheat at the last minute. An added bonus to preparing the main yourself? The wonderful aroma that will fill your home for when your guests arrive.

5. Supply take-home containers: Even at the end of the evening, there’s sure to be plenty of food to go around. Unless you plan on hoarding all of the leftovers for yourself—hey, no judgment here—start collecting take-out containers that you’re okay to part with ahead of time, so you can send everyone home with lunch for the next day.

Check out these great ideas for a new recipe to bring to your next potluck