Potlucks are an awesome way to spread the burden of feeding a large crowd out to everyone! We've rounded up our favorite dishes to share that don't cost a fortune!

We love getting together with friends and family! Since hosting groups can become quite costly, we also love the idea of potlucks so that everyone can help contribute to the party meal. If you're invited to a potluck or you're hosting yourself, we've got you covered on cheap foods that will keep everyone well-fed without breaking the bank. Let's dive into some budget-friendly and oh-so-delicious potluck ideas that will have everyone asking for seconds (and thirds)!


Here are our top choices for appetizers and snacks to share on a budget!

  • Colorful Caprese Skewers: When it comes to potlucks, presentation is key! Whip up these delightful Caprese skewers with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, and basil leaves. Drizzle some balsamic glaze for an extra touch of flavor and a beautiful pop of color. It's a simple, elegant, and healthy option that'll be gone in seconds.
  • Sweet ‘n' Salty Caramel Popcorn: A potluck isn't complete without something sweet! This sweet ‘n' salty caramel popcorn is a treat that everyone will be reaching for. It's easy to make, budget-friendly, and incredibly addictive. Simply pop some popcorn, drizzle it with homemade caramel sauce, sprinkle a pinch of salt and voila – a winning snack is born!
  • Party Pitas with Dips: Turn the humble pita bread into a party sensation! Slice pita bread into triangles and toast them in the oven until crispy. Serve with an assortment of dips like hummus, tzatziki, and spinach-artichoke dip. It's a delightful medley of flavors that won't disappoint.
  • Sweet Potato Fries with Dip: Sweet potatoes are often budget-friendly and can be turned into delicious fries. Bake them until crispy and serve with a dipping sauce like honey mustard or garlic aioli.
  • Cucumber Canapés: Slice cucumber into rounds and top them with cream cheese, a small piece of smoked salmon, or some cherry tomatoes. These refreshing canapés are not only budget-friendly but also perfect for warmer weather.
  • Bruschetta: Toast slices of baguette or any crusty bread and top them with a mixture of diced tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Bruschetta is a fresh and flavorful option that's always a hit.
  • Stuffed Mushrooms: Button mushrooms can be an economical option for stuffing. Prepare a filling with breadcrumbs, herbs, garlic, and cheese, then stuff the mushrooms and bake until golden brown.

Remember, creativity is key when it comes to affordable potluck appetizers. Use seasonal and budget-friendly ingredients, and don't hesitate to try out different flavor combinations to make your appetizers stand out!


If you're contributing to the main dish portion of the potluck, here are some options that are filling but won't cost a fortune to supply the ingredients for!

  • BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches: Pork shoulder or butt is an inexpensive cut of meat, and slow-cooking it with BBQ sauce makes for tender and flavorful pulled pork. Serve it on rolls or buns with coleslaw for a satisfying main dish.
  • Vegetarian Chili: Beans and vegetables are cost-effective and can be transformed into a delicious and hearty chili. Use a combination of kidney beans, black beans, corn, tomatoes, and spices for a flavorful vegetarian option. Our favorite Shelf Cooking chili tips are all in this blog post!
  • Baked Ziti: Pasta dishes are always crowd-pleasers, and baked ziti is no exception. Mix cooked ziti with marinara sauce, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella, then bake until bubbly and golden. We have a great Shelf Cooking recipe here!
  • Quiche: Quiches are not only affordable but also elegant. Use eggs and milk as the base, then add in veggies like spinach, mushrooms, and onions, along with some cheese.
  • Baked Chicken Drumsticks: Chicken drumsticks are often cheaper than other cuts of chicken. Marinate them with your favorite spices and bake until crispy and juicy.
  • Veggie Quesadillas: Quesadillas are not only affordable but also a great way to use up leftover veggies. Fill tortillas with a mix of cheese and your choice of vegetables, then cook them until golden and melty.
  • Potato Soup: Creamy potato soup with bacon or ham, topped with shredded cheese and green onions.
  • Vegetarian Lentil Stew: A hearty and budget-friendly stew made with lentils, vegetables, and flavorful spices.
  • Macaroni and Cheese: Creamy, cheesy mac and cheese is always a hit at potlucks, and it's an affordable option too.
homemade baked ziti, from Shelf Cooking


There are so many great prep-ahead dessert ideas for contributing to a potluck! Here are some great options that transport well and satisfy that sweet tooth!

  • Rice Krispie Treats: Classic and simple to make with just a few ingredients: Rice Krispies, marshmallows, and butter.
  • Brownies: Fudgy or cakey, brownies are always a crowd-pleaser and can be made from scratch or using a mix.
  • Lemon Bars: Tangy and sweet lemon filling over a buttery crust, dusted with powdered sugar.
  • Banana Bread: A classic and affordable treat, great for using up overripe bananas. Over favorite banana bread recipe is here!
  • Oatmeal Cookies: A comforting and cost-effective option with ingredients like oats, butter, sugar, and raisins.
  • Chocolate Dipped Pretzels: Simply melt chocolate and dip pretzel rods, then let them cool for a sweet and salty dessert.
  • Pound Cake: A dense and rich cake made with basic pantry ingredients like flour, sugar, eggs, and butter.
  • Jello Salad: A retro dessert made with flavored gelatin, fruit, and whipped topping.
  • Crispy Rice Treats: Similar to Rice Krispie Treats but made with other cereals like Cocoa Krispies or Fruity Pebbles.
  • Mini Fruit Tarts: Use pre-made tart shells or phyllo dough, fill with pastry cream or whipped cream, and top with fresh fruit.
  • Chocolate Pudding Cups: Layer chocolate pudding with whipped cream and crushed cookies in individual cups.
  • Ice Cream Sandwiches: Buy cookies and ice cream to create quick and yummy ice cream sandwiches.
  • Mini Cupcakes: Bake a batch of bite-sized cupcakes and decorate them with frosting and sprinkles!

You might want to consider any dietary restrictions or allergies when choosing a dessert for the potluck. Since there will likely be multiple different dessert options at the potluck table, you don't need to provide full-size desserts. Mini options are perfect!

We hope you found something fun and affordable to whip up for your next potluck get together! Don't forget to tag us on Instagram @ShelfCooking with any of your Shelf Cooking creations; we love to see what the community is making!

Happy Potluck-ing!

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