How to Plan a Potluck Menu

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A potluck dinner party creates an eclectic menu for everyone involved. The point of a potluck is that everyone brings something to the table to create a large feast. Menus for potlucks often have themes, such as "Potluck Barbecue" or "La Petit Potluck" that designate what type of food to bring. However, you do not have to have a theme to get everyone together eating food. As the host, you plan the dinner and menu, so you want to get everyone involved and have a list of suggestions ready for guests who do not know what to bring.

Draw four columns on a piece of paper. Label the first column as "Finger Foods," the second "Entrees," then "Vegetable" and lastly, "Dessert." Draw a horizontal line halfway down the "Dessert" column and label "Drinks."

Number up to six slots for "Finger Foods," "Entrees" and "Vegetables." Number up to three slots for "Desserts" and one slot for "Drinks."

Brainstorm a list on another sheet of paper for potluck menu ideas. If you want a themed potluck, such as Italian, Mexican, Chinese or "Around the World," then browse cookbooks for the cuisine at a bookstore or library. For a general potluck, write down any items. For example, write ideas such as spinach dip, deviled eggs or salad for finger foods and appetizers. For entrees or main dishes, write down spaghetti and meatballs, chicken wings or eggplant parmesan. For vegetables, write down broccoli casserole or garlic mashed potatoes. In desserts, write cupcakes or apple pie.

Call friends, co-workers, volunteers, family members and neighbors to invite them for the potluck dinner. Ask each one what he would like to bring: a finger food, entree/main dish, vegetable or dessert. Balance out the five areas so that each food category has several designated cooks.

Give and take suggestions from each invited guest. If a guest wants to join but does not know what to bring, pick an item from your list of ideas. If they suggest an idea, write down what they want to bring next to their name. If you have a themed potluck, then be ready with suggestions specific to the genre of cuisine.

Ask at least one guest to bring a potluck item for health conscious or restricted-diet guests. For example, if someone is unable to eat meat, provide veggie-only plates so she feels welcome.

Type up a single page menu to print. Bold the title of the first section as "Finger Foods and Appetizers," then list all of the potluck items for that group. Hit "Enter" and label the next section, "Main Entrees," then list each dish being served. Do the same for "Sides and Vegetables," "Dessert" and "Drinks" sections.

Print as many copies of the menu as necessary for your guests. If you want to use a fancier type of paper, purchase marble or card sheet paper at an office supply store such as Office Depot, Office Max or Kinko's.