I love to attend parties and BBQs, but potlucks stress me out.
I want to bring a popular item, but when I take a shrimp cocktail or a pre-made fruit tray, I run the risk of breaking my budget.
Instead of overspending or taking a cheap but awkward casserole to this year’s Labor Day BBQ, make one of these delicious and affordable dishes.
The prices below reflect the average cost of name-brand items at my local King Soopers in Colorado Springs, though they might be slightly different at other stores. Save even more money by going generic or couponing!
Here are my favorite potluck options, all of which clock in at less than $8. For recipes, check out Pinterest or this list of awesome snacks.
1. Deviled Eggs
Every partygoer I’ve ever met loves a good deviled egg.
A dozen eggs costs $2.29, and you probably already have mayo, vinegar and mustard in your fridge.
2. No-Bake Cookies
Cost: $3.71 or less
The likelihood you’ll find these ingredients in your kitchen is pretty high: oats, butter, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and peanut butter.
If you don’t, they’re pretty cheap. Oats are $0.95 for three cups, butter costs $1 a stick, sugar is $0.62 for two cups, cocoa powder is $o.39 for 2 tablespoons, vanilla is $0.18 per teaspoon and peanut butter costs $0.57 per half cup.
Everyone loves these cookies, and they’re quick and easy to make.
3. Pickles on a Stick
Unless you’ve recently been to a Renaissance festival, it’s probably been awhile since you’ve had a pickle on a stick.
At my local grocery store, a gallon jar of giant pickles costs $5.89 and a pack of skewers costs $1. There’s something wildly fun about eating something off a stick, and everyone will remember your dill-icious contribution.
4. Infused Lemonade
Cost: $1.98 + the cost of fruit (use whatever’s on sale!)
Something about the word “infusion” adds excitement to any treat. It’s amazing what a handful of fresh limes, strawberries or peaches can do to turn average powdered lemonade into something exciting.
To make it even more exciting, if you have kids, why not set up a free lemonade stand? They’ll love having something to do at the party and grownups will get a kick out of your family’s creativity.
A $1.98 can of Country Time lemonade will make eight gallons of base, then add your chosen (and cheap) fruit and let it soak.
Does the host have a fire pit? Take the makings for s’mores!
Since Hershey bars can be expensive (unless you have a coupon), bring a jar of Nutella instead. People will love the twist on the classic recipe, and it’s a fun, affordable option.
A box of graham crackers costs $2.50, a bag of marshmallows is $1.29 and a jar of Nutella is $3.49.
Everyone loves bacon, and it goes with everything. At an average price of $5.99 a pound, why not fry up a package to serve alongside all the other tasty options? (Bacon s’mores, anyone?)
7. Iced Coffee
Cost: $7.28 per gallon
Brew up some coffee (a half-pound of pre-ground Dunkin’ Donuts coffee costs $3.99) and serve a carton of half-and-half on the side (a quart of Land o’ Lakes is $3.29).
This cool caffeinated beverage will make the other guests feel they’ve received a $3 Starbucks treat and cost you very little.
8. A Game
If you’re really broke, ask the host if you can bring a game with prizes instead of a food item. Your friend will likely be glad to pass on some of the party planning to you! Dig out that cornhole, croquet or ladder golf set from the garage.
For prizes, think of a White Elephant game and do a little decluttering around your home. They’ll be great conversation starters with people you don’t know well (where did that Harlequin romance series come from? Why did you own a life-size cardboard chicken?).
Your Turn: What popular, but cheap items have you taken to a potluck party? What will you take to your Labor Day picnic?
Eva Daniel is a radio producer who lives with her husband, two boys and puppy in Colorado Springs. She has a passion for saving money and loves to scrimp on clothes by shopping at thrift stores so she can splurge on overpriced lattes.