The Economic Value of a Potluck and Two For Tuesday

Welcome  When I first say “potluck,” what vision springs to mind?  For me, it is an image of a fellowship meal that periodically bookended a Sunday church service, either around the noon hour, or following the Sunday evening meeting.  I actually have so many positive memories connected to this idea of sharing a collaborative meal together with fellow Christians at the small town churches I attended growing up.  Others must as well, as there are entire cookbooks devoted to the theme of church potluck recipes!  Maybe for you, it’s a vision of a holiday meal with your family, where everyone pitches in by bringing covered dishes and sides.  Or, you may recall summer picnics and block parties, again depending on everyone contributing food provisions to the large gathering.  Maybe your family and friends participate in some epic tailgate potlucks during football season.  Today I want to celebrate the idea of a potluck meal and encourage the revival of this economical way to entertain, and it’s Two For Tuesday!  Please note: This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when you click on one of my Amazon product links and make a qualifying purchase.  There is no additional cost to you and helps keep this site free for your use and free from pop-ups.  Thank you.

Food For Thought  I’ve been sharing a lot of budget-friendly recipes on the blog recently.  Most families these days are working hard to stretch their grocery dollar.  With several potluck events in our family, church, and community this summer, I got to thinking about how budget-friendly this whole potluck idea really can be.  Think about it…a lot of people can go through a serving line, with a wide variety of main dishes, sides, and desserts, and the mere cost was their one or two dish contribution.  No single family is out a major expense, which seems to happen frequently when someone hosts a “regular” dinner at their home.

Meats are usually the biggest expense, but my childhood experience of potlucks included meats as part of the contributing dishes.  Yes, some families brought fried chicken from the local deli or a tray of assorted lunch meats.  So what?  Those meats feed the crowd just as well as someone forking over big dollars and time to smoke some pork or grill multiple packs of hot dogs and brats.  There are also ways to stretch the meat dollar more by making things like salads with meats, such as the Classic Chicken Salad recipe I’m going to share today.

Some potluck events turn into more of a dessert bar and we’ve probably been to more than one that was a little heavy on bagged potato chips.  Even so, I still love the frugality of going potluck.  I don’t have to prepare an entire dinner and it saves on at least one night’s grocery bill.  Making a side or dessert for a potluck is still cheaper than paying for our family of three to eat out, yet we still have all the variety of a buffet or restaurant menu!

Here’s what I’m saying, friends: Bring back the potluck dinner!  It’s a great way to get to know people in your church or community, or even spend time with extended family.  It stretches everyone’s food budget a little further for the week.  You get to try some new recipes from friends and family.  And it’s fun!  I love the surprise factor–maybe I’ll get a whole plate full of different salads today, or I might be eating a lot of macaroni and cheese and baby carrots!

Best Potluck Tips
Start with these tips and recipes and revive the potluck for fun, fellowship, and frugality!

 

Today’s Product Links  Be prepared for the potluck revolution with these great products!

Rachel Ray Expandable Lasagna Lugger and Casserole Carrier

MIER Insulated Double Casserole Carrier

Arctic Zone Hot/Cold Thermal Insulated Picnic Satchel

Anchor Hocking Oven Basics 4-piece Value Pack (2 casseroles with 2 fitted lids…I product I use and love!)

Libbey Baker’s Basics 9×13 Glass Bake Dish with Plastic Lid

Buddeez Unbreakable 3 1/2 Gallon Beverage Dispenser with Removable Ice Cone

 

Today’s Recipes  Anyone who knows my momma knows she knows a thing or two about cooking.  She knows even more about stretching grocery dollars.  My mom has always been well known for her cooking, baking, and willingness to “bring a dish.”  Even when money was super-tight in our family, my mom never let that be an excuse for not sharing with others at a church or community potluck meal.  Whether it was a gathering she was prepared for ahead of time or an impromptu “could you?”, she would contribute some of her tasty homemade provisions.  My first recipe today is one she made so many times when I was growing up.  One of her church dinner staples was her homemade chicken salad.  She knew she could stretch a couple of boiled chickens pretty far to feed a crowd with this delicious sandwich filling.  But my mom didn’t stop there, no way!  She made it even more memorable by making homemade sandwich buns to serve it on.  My mom could achieve small-town fame with her special food preparations!  I’m not going to go that far with our recipe today, because I want to keep our potluck fare low-stress, and I don’t consider homemade sandwich buns low stress!  But if you want to “splurge” a little, serve this delicious filling on some King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls.  This chicken salad tastes equally good on low-budget brown-and-serve rolls, traditional sandwich bread, a bed of salad greens, or on its own!

Classic Chicken Salad
This is my momma’s “famous” recipe for chicken salad that she toted to many potlucks over the years.

 

My Momma’s Homemade Chicken Salad

For the Boiled Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 lemon, cut in quarters
  • 1 bunch of celery tops (save the hearts for the salad)
  • 2 large yellow onions, cut in quarters
  • 2 carrots, with peel
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp whole pepper corns

For the Salad

  • 1 boiled chicken, cooled, bones and skin removed, chopped (about 4 cups of chopped, cooked chicken)
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 1 bunch celery hearts, diced
  • 1 large tart apple, diced
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 TBS fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup Miracle Whip

 

Place the whole chicken in a large stock pot.  Add remaining chicken ingredients to pot along with 2 quarts water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 90 minutes.  Pour chicken and ingredients through a colander or strainer, allowing broth to pour into a large pot or bowl to save for another use (I cool mine and seal in Mason jars for soups and casseroles later on.)  Remove chicken to cutting board and allow to cool completely.  Carefully remove bones and skin, watching closely for small bone shards and pieces.  When chicken has been checked carefully, chop finely for salad or other recipes.  An average whole chicken will yield about four cups of chopped cooked chicken.

For the salad, place all ingredients in large bowl.  Stir in Miracle Whip to fully incorporate all ingredients.  Serve with rolls, bread, or salad greens.

 

The second recipe today is for a super-easy bar cookie that works well for the dessert table at a potluck and only has five ingredients!  Cookies and bars always seem to be a big hit at the potluck dinner because they are already individually portioned.  With a big table of dessert variety, you can cut this batch into 30 or so pieces, so everyone can get a sampling of all the sweet treats!

Double Peanut Chocolate Toffee Bars
Only five ingredients, fast, easy, and transportable. Great for the dessert table at your next potluck.

 

Double Peanut-Chocolate-Toffee Bars (modified from a 2014 Pillsbury Bake-Off Recipe)

  • 1 roll Pillsbury refrigerated sugar cookie dough
  • 2 cups dry-roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup Heath toffee bits
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

 

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9×13 rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Break up sugar cookie dough onto foil and roll or press evenly into prepared pan.

In microwave-safe dish, heat peanut butter for 30 seconds.  Spread peanut butter evenly over sugar cookie layer.

Place peanuts in large zip-top bag and crush into small pieces.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the crushed peanuts.  Sprinkle the rest of the peanuts over the peanut butter layer.  Top with toffee bits.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and spread the chocolate chips evenly over the top and return to the oven for two minutes.  Remove from the oven and spread the melted chocolate layer smoothly.  Sprinkle with remaining peanuts and press down slightly into chocolate layer.  Cool completely before cutting into 30-36 small bars.

Notes:  Placing the pan in the refrigerator will speed the setting of the chocolate layer if you’re in a time crunch.  When cutting the bars, remove the foil from the baking sheet and use a large knife or pizza cutter to get the cleanest, most even cuts.  I like to trim the rough edges before I begin cutting the bars so they look even and uniform on the serving tray.

 

Bonus Tip  This isn’t really a recipe, but a great summer “hack” I found on Pinterest from The Creek Line House.  This has to be the absolute best way to cut and serve watermelon wedges for a gathering.  I tried it and it was so much simpler than what I used to do and it makes just-right portions for a potluck setting.

watermelon slicing hack
Most everyone loves a big tray of sweet and juicy watermelon on a summer potluck table. This is the best way to cut watermelon portions fast!

Cut the ends off a round watermelon.  Cut in half length-wise and place the halves, cut side down on a cutting board (Hopefully you can hit the half mark better than I did in my hurry!)  Cut each of these pieces in half again, length-wise, making four long wedges.  Cut across each of these four wedges in one to two inch increments, yielding perfectly portioned watermelon slices.

Save those large family-size pails from your economical ice cream purchases.  These buckets, with their lids, make ideal watermelon slice totes, keeping drips and spills to a minimum!

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