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Being a frugal person sometimes puts me in an awkward position, especially when it comes to potlucks.
A potluck is an event where people bring their own dishes to share with others.
It’s supposed to be fun and stress-free. I personally love potlucks because I can make one dish but be able to enjoy a wide variety of dishes.
If the event is small (4-5 people), we know who will be at the potluck, and that everyone else will know what you bring.
You don’t want to look bad or stingy by bringing something cheap or not tasty.
However, when the event is big (20-30 people), you run into a public good problem.
A public good is a good that can be shared by anyone no matter how much or whether they contribute to making it.
In the case of a potluck, you can bring a $50 dish, but others may bring $1 bread or $ 3 cookies.
For a frugal person, $50 can easily mean a week’s worth of their groceries.
If you’re only into the fun, it probably doesn’t bother you a bit. But if you care about the division of labor, you probably think it’s unfair that you have to contribute more while others who bring less can enjoy the same outcome as you. This can easily ruin the fun you originally hope for.
I have been to potlucks where people dice up a pickle cucumber, put it in a bowl with diluted vinegar, and keep telling others how much they love it.
I have seen people bringing a tiny bowl of scrambled eggs, diced potatoes, or pasta that probably can’t even fill up one person.
I have also seen people bring an elaborate tray of grilled Korean pork ribs that tasted delicious. Some would bring two huge buckets of KFC chicken or 3-5 pizzas.
If you’re frugal and trying to feed your family on a one income, I think it’s totally reasonable to be budget-conscious. But sometimes when I look at the dishes brought to a potluck, I feel a little sad and disappointed.
Fried dumplings & chicken stir-fried with chickpeas – What I recently brought to a potluck
I was once guilty of this when I was a poor graduate student. I’d bring cheap dishes that would cost me less than $3.
Now that I’ve had a stable job, Mr. FAF and I are still paying off our mortgage for our future goals. It seems like there’s always a need to be frugal.
But Mr. FAF and I have decided not to embarrass ourselves at potlucks by bringing dishes that can feed only 1-2 people or that no one wants to touch.
If the two of us go somewhere, we will bring at least two dishes. For example, for Thanksgiving, we would bring a pumpkin pie and a Rossetti chicken we bought from the grocery store for $10.
Sometimes we also host hotpots at our home and invite our good friends. We also remind them not to bring anything since that’s when we just want to get together and thank them for their help.
Recently, I was invited to a potluck. I bought French bread and had some canned tuna in the pantry, so I made an appetizer and brought some pumpkin seeds together with it. You can also get creative with a lot of inexpensive ingredients. You just need to invest some time into the making of the food, and voila!
Tuna bread & tuna wraps
Deciding what to bring to a potluck is sometimes not easy. You want to bring something delicious that a lot of people can enjoy but won’t ruin your monthly food budget. Instead of stressing about it or deciding not to go at all, we can can try to cook a frugal but delicious meal.
Bread and rice together with a side dish can always make a low-cost yet fulfilling meal for everyone. If you don’t feel like cooking, a pie or Rossetti chicken at the grocery store can save you both time and money as it has helped Mr. FAF and me.
And most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy the good company. That’s what get-togethers are for.