How to start a monthly potluck tradition in your neighborhood

Nov 29, 2011, 9:27 a.m.

Potluck dinners are making a comeback in neighborhoods all over the country. Since the economy is slowly recovering, many of us are looking to entertain again--but still stay on a budget. Gone are the expensive dinners out with friends and the catered fancy dinner parties. Many of us are turning to low-key entertaining, the kind where we can mingle with our neighbors and bring the children along. There's no better time than now to revive the classic neighborhood potluck dinner.

To have an amazing time at your neighborhood potluck party, you might want to have a bit of formal organization and save time with planning in advance. Here are ways you can organize a potluck dinner for your neighbors at your home:

Choose a theme for your potluck. The theme could be comfort foods, favorite foods from a different era, a specific culture or ethnicity of food, or finger foods. This list of themes could be endlessly creative and bound only by your imagination. Think foods that would be served in a certain novel or movie, or foods that your grandparents loved.Provide the meat or main dish. Ask your neighbors to bring a side dish, a salad or a dessert. Consider either supplying drinks of having your guest bring wine, sodas or a six-pack of their favorite beer to share. Ask your neighbors to bring an appetizer or dessert for everyone to share. In this case, the party is centered around picking from several kinds of food. To prepare your party, you only need drinks. Assign your neighbors different types of dishes. In the invitation, make note whether the guest should expect to bring an appetizer, salad, soup, dessert or other dish. You can also assign tableware, like cups, paper plates and utensils. Keep a list of who is bringing what types of dishes to your potluck so you don't have too many of one type.

No matter how you organize the potluck, request that your guests bring a copy of their dish recipe to share. When your guests share their recipes on the buffet table, it helps people navigate the food options without having to track down the cook of each dish to ask them for the dish ingredients. Plus, the guests can make a copy to take home!

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