13 Easy & Affordable Potluck Dishes
I am a Baptist preacher’s wife and a Baptist preacher’s granddaughter.
I grew up going to potlucks often and thought it was totally normal to eat a random hodgepodge of food brought by everyone who goes to the church after the church service with my church family.
Apparently, some churches don’t do potlucks every month?!
But if your church does do potlucks often, it can be a bit stressful to figure out what to bring.
Growing up, my grandma always cooked like she was cooking for our family. She’d make chicken and dumplings, rolls, green beans, corn, and tea. And then we’d carefully load the full meal into the car and carry it into the church fellowship hall.
As a mom of four, I cannot do that.
I just can’t.
On a regular Sunday morning, it is a struggle to get to church on time without yelling, crying and gnashing of teeth.
Related Post: The Real Reason I Make My Kids Dress Up for Church
If I throw in whipping up a full meal, we’re done. There’s just no way I can cook a full meal on Sunday morning before church and be a good mom. My four kids are young (aged 3-11) and they’re my priority.
Guarding their sweet little hearts is one of my most important jobs in this season of life.
So I will choose easy over impressive every single time if that helps me to love my kids well.
Having said all that, it can be very difficult to think of easy and affordable potluck dishes. And depending on where you live, potlucks aren’t just relegated to church functions. I’ve had several jobs where we had potluck lunches several times a year.
Here are 11 easy and affordable potluck dishes that everyone will like.
I’ve tried to make brownies from scratch a couple of times. I got on a frugal food kick for a while and was trying to make everything from scratch to save money. And while money was saved, it was also wasted because no one ate the brownies. They weren’t bad, they just weren’t very good.
So now, I just spend the $1.00 and buy boxed brownie mixes. We keep a couple on hand at all times in case we need to whip some up to deliver to a friend. My favorite kind is Pillsbury chocolate fudge.
And if you want to be fancy, you can always add some Reese’s peanut butter cups or chocolate chips or drizzled caramel or sprinkles or whatever!
But if you really don’t even have the time or energy to mix it up yourself (we’ve all been there), Pillsbury now has place and bake brownie bites in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.
They are still delicious.
They are still homemade (you made them at home).
They are still cheaper than buying the already made brownies from the bakery.
2. Pig in a Banket
I’m not sure everyone calls these snacks the same thing so let me tell you what they are.
It’s half a hotdog and some cheese rolled up in a crescent roll and baked.
These are the kind of food that kids (and honest adults) love. If you want to bring a dish that will have zero leftovers, this is the one.
Now if you don’t want to use hotdogs, you can also use lunch meat, sausages, bacon, or breakfast sausage.
There’s also a lot of flexibility in what cheese you use. Kraft slices are always classic, but we usually use Colby-jack slices or shredded Colby-jack because I try to be a little healthy. I usually make at least 24 because people will often grab two.
3. Funfetti Dip
This is one of my family’s favorite things to bring because it is as fun as the name suggests!
To make the dip you simply add one container of Cool Whip and 1.5 cups of vanilla yogurt (I use Greek yogurt because I’m extra) to a box of Funfetti cake mix.
You mix it all together and let it chill.
You can throw some extra sprinkles on top to make it even more bright and colorful if you want.
I serve with chocolate graham crackers or chocolate teddy grahams. This is one of my kids’ favorite recipes and they request it at every single birthday party.
I personally do not like meatballs. But I still bring them to potlucks often because they are so easy.
Simply buy a bag of frozen meatballs and add a jar of spaghetti sauce. If you’re wanting to impress, bring some fancy bread and mozzarella cheese and people can make their own meatball sandwiches.
Or you can add a bottle of BBQ sauce and grab a box of toothpicks for the side. Either way, they will get eaten.
5. Fruit Tray
My family eats fruit like they’re in danger of getting of getting scurvy.
So you can make it super easy on yourself and pick up a fruit tray at the store or slice your own.
The easiest things I’ve found are apples, strawberries, grapes, and bananas. I often just buy a bag of green apples, slice them up, and put a container of caramel dip in the middle.
And here’s a tip to help you look like a pro if you choose to cut up your own apples – soak them in Sprite for a minute or two before putting them out to prevent them from getting brown. It works and doesn’t leave any aftertaste like lemon juice and apple cider vinegar.
6. Vegetable Tray
Exactly like the fruit tray, this veggie tray is easy to throw together and people generally like them.
You can buy a pre-made tray or throw some carrots, tiny tomatoes, and cucumbers on a platter with ranch dip. If you’re feeling fancy add some cauliflower and/or broccoli.
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
7. Buffalo Chicken Dip
This is my husband’s favorite thing for me to bring to church, parties, or our dining room table.
There are a lot of variations of recipes, but here’s how I make mine.
Assemble the following ingredients:
- 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese
- 1 cup cooked chicken breast (canned is fine)
- 1/2 cup Buffalo wing sauce
- 1/2 cup ranch dressing
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Put them all in a slow cooker on low and stir every twenty minutes until cheese is melted.
Serve with tortilla chips, celery sticks, or small slices of fancy bread.
Yes, I know this is a full meal, but hear me out.
Taco meat is so easy to make, so why not whip some up and throw it in the slow cooker? Then you just have to grab a package of tortillas, a tub of sour cream, and a bag of shredded cheese. Get lettuce and tomatoes if you’re feeling extra.
You get credit for bringing a full meal that everyone loves without spending a ton of time on it.
If you want to involve your kids in the cooking for a potluck, I recommend using pre-made cookie dough. Not only is it super easy, but it’s also kind of brilliant.
Your kids get to help prepare food without totally stressing you out because cooking with kids is stressful.
Then, they bring those weirdly shaped cookies in so proudly and tell everyone that they made them.
Do you know which grumpy church member is going to say something negative about your cookies?
Not a one.
Because you made them with your kids and the kids are super proud of them.
Honestly, you will probably never hear more compliments about your cooking than when you bring some place- and-bake cookies your kids helped to make.
So one time, I brought a tray of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to a church potluck because my kids were super young then and wouldn’t eat any squash casserole, chicken spaghetti, or jello fruit salad.
Honestly, I did it a bit out of frustration because our church at the time just did a bad job of bringing good food. I don’t know why but everyone brought weird side dishes.
That tray of PBJs was the first thing to be eaten up. Like adults were walking around with PBJs and complimenting me on how good my sandwiches were.
It was nuts.
And I know that some people have nut allergies so this may not be a great thing for your church. But you could always buy Sunbutter or just put a warning sign up to let people know that your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches have peanuts in them.
11. Mac and Cheese
Another crowd favorite is macaroni and cheese. I know that it’s not much harder to make homemade macaroni and cheese, but my kids really prefer the boxed kind. I try to not be offended by that, and I buy the organic kind whenever it’s on sale.
So I make a double or triple batch and throw it in the slow cooker with the “keep warm” setting turned on.
It’s another one of those dishes that kids will love and adults will too.
12. Charcuterie Board
Y’all know how fancy this sounds and looks?
So basically you just put a bunch of cheese, meat, fruit, crackers, and nuts on a tray. At my house, we always have some of those things so throwing one of these together is pretty easy.
In fact, my older two assembled it the last time we took this because it is so hard to mess up. Granted my son added a little pile of fruit snacks, but I thought it was kind of cute and they got eaten so…..
And if you don’t want to go all out and make a full board, just make a cheese tray with crackers. You can grab two blocks of cheese and slice them yourself or buy the pre-sliced cheese squares. Add a couple of kinds of crackers and voila! A cheese and cracker tray that will definitely get eaten.
13. Ice Cream
There’s a bit of timing necessary for this one, but I think it’s worth it since so little effort goes into the prep work. You just buy a container (or two!) of ice cream and some cones. Get some sprinkles if you want to really impress the kids.
And here’s the tricky part, you put the cones out on the table and leave the ice cream in the freezer until you see the first person finish their meal and go to get dessert.
THEN, you pull your ice cream out and put it on the table. It will be gone before it melts. And if you want to take it to the next level, buy vanilla ice cream and bring bananas, strawberries, chocolate, and caramel for banana splits. Or just bring a ton of mix-ins – Oreo cookies, Snickers, Twix, M&Ms, Thin Mints, etc.
In conclusion, if you are around people whether it’s church, work, or friendly get-togethers, you will probably experience a potluck at some point. These thirteen ideas for easy and affordable potluck dishes will make the decision about what to bring much easier.
What are your favorite easy and affordable potluck dishes? Tell us in the comments!
WANT TO REMEMBER THIS LATER? PIN 13 EASY AND AFFORDABLE POTLUCK DISHES TO YOUR FAVORITE PINTEREST BOARD!