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Thanksgiving Potluck Tips & Table Printables

Holidays Just For Fun

Planning a Thanksgiving gathering is a lot of fun but can also be stressful, especially if you’re organizing for a crowd. Our friends over at SignUp.com are sharing these 9 Great Tips to help you celebrate more and stress less — no matter how many friends, family and community members will be joining you on Thanksgiving.

1.     Make a Plan
Decide the time and date, type of potluck (set dinner time or open house concept, for example), how many people will be invited, and make a list of what will be served and items you need.

2.     Choose a Menu
Decide if you want to request specific dishes (such as green bean casserole and pumpkin pie) or if you will create categories for people to choose from (such as appetizers, side dishes, entrees, dessert, drinks, and paper goods).

Requesting specific items will help ensure you receive everything you expect, but if you let the guests choose the category you may end up discovering your new favorite dish! As long as you limit the number of items requested for each category you don’t have to worry about six people showing up with cranberries and no one bringing the stuffing.

3.     Calculate how Much Food you Need
There is almost nothing worse than running out of food at a party, and having an over-abundance of food is wasteful. Here are some serving suggestions so you can plan accordingly:

Appetizers/Snacks (TIP: Include both heavy and light options for people with different appetites):

  • Finger foods: (like mini-quiches, deviled eggs, or stuffed mushrooms) Three or four per person per hour before the meal.
  • Crudités: About eight pieces per person.
  • Dips: (like hot artichoke or crab dip, cheese dip, or salsa) Approximately 1/3 cup per person.
  • Chips/Crackers: 2 ounces per person.
  • Cheese: 1-2 ounces per person.


  • Soft drinks: 20 oz per person.
  • Beer: 1.5 per person.
  • Wine: 7.5 oz per person.
  • Water: 18 oz per person.
  • Ice: One 30 pound bag for every 10-15 people.

Bread/Rolls: 2 per person.
Soup: 1 cup per person.
Salad: About 1 cup per person.
Side dishes: About ½ cup per person per dish.
Meat or Main entrée: 6 ounces per person.
Starch: (potatoes, pasta, rice) 5 ounces per person.
Dessert: 1 1/2 servings per person.


4.     Ask for Help
Instead of taking on all of the responsibilities yourself, divide the list and get everyone to pitch in.

Use SignUp.com to organize who is bringing what, remind your guests, and keep track of the menu so that you can relax and actually enjoy the party. Participants sign up on their smartphone or computer, choose their contributions, and receive automatic reminders. There are even ways to keep track of your guests’ food preferences and sensitivities.

For those who don’t cook, you can add slots for volunteers to help set up before the party and clean up during and after.

5.     Share the Details
A successful potluck depends on good communication. SignUp.com makes that simple so you can send a message to all attendees, a selection of people, or one person.
Automatic reminders mean you don’t need to worry about confirming with each guest individually.
Things to consider:
  • If parking is an issue, let guests know where to park, or ask people to carpool.
  • Check to see if anyone has a food intolerance or allergy, especially if it is a severe one like a nut allergy.
  • Ask if anyone is bringing an item that needs to go in the oven before serving.
  • Remind guests to label all cookware, and to bring any special utensils that may be needed.
  • Stock up on some inexpensive take and toss containers for people to bring home leftovers.

6.     Plan for Emergencies
Have a “just in case” bag stocked with extra napkins, paper towels, toothpicks, tape and a permanent marker for labeling containers. You can add extra snacks like crackers, chips, and nuts just in case you’re short of food, and a few dollars in case you need to ask someone to make an ice run. 

7.     Set the Mood
Decorations don't have to be fancy. Fall leaves and small pumpkins make beautiful centerpieces; Mums are perfect floral accents. A visit to Pinterest will give you more decoration ideas than you ever thought possible. Best of all, you can add those items to your SignUp.com list so that other participants can share in the fun!

Remember the music. Create a playlist and ask guests to add their suggestions or go to streaming sites like Pandora or Spotify and choose a curated Autumn station that matches your musical style.

And don’t forget the kids! Design a fun area for the kids to color, play games, and enjoy special kid-friendly treats.

8.     Label It
Another essential ingredient for the perfect potluck is to have clearly labeled food and drinks. Give your guests peace of mind in knowing which dishes meet their dietary restrictions. Make sure the dishes that contain nuts or other common allergens are clearly marked. Click HERE for cute printable food cards and labels.

Signup.com Thanksgiving food labels

signup.com Thanksgiving food labels

9.     Say Thank You
When the party's over, hand out a little bag of cookies as a thank you. Remind everybody to grab their dishes and utensils and any leftovers they want to take home. Then put your feet up and relax after a party, well done!

Looking for more ideas? Check out SignUp.com Potluck SignUp Idea Center for SignUp sheets, event reminders, and checklists to ensure your potluck runs smoothly. The whole idea of a potluck is to take the stress off of everyone, especially the person coordinating.

Tags: Thanksgiving Fall party printables


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