16 Ready-To-Eat Groceries You Can Bring To A Potluck

We've all been there before — you eagerly accept the invite to a potluck, whether it be an office dinner, Friendsgiving, or a family barbeque. You know that everyone has to bring a dish to share with the group, and you make a mental note to whip up something delicious well before the event. Next thing you know, your potluck is tomorrow night, and you have zero idea what you're going to bring to eat.

If you find yourself in this position, don't panic! Homemade meals and desserts aren't the only dishes you can bring to a potluck. There are plenty of ready-to-eat food items you can quickly snag from your local grocery store that are sure to impress. The general rule of thumb is to bring something that requires minimal assembly time and can be easily added to a table full of other dishes for easy grabbing.

From some more obvious choices like cheeses and meats for a charcuterie board to prepared foods you may not have thought about, here are the best ready-to-eat groceries to purchase for your next potluck.


A staple item at any potluck is bread. Flaky croissants, buttery dinner rolls, you name it, there's likely to be some sort of bread option at the table. There are so many different types of bread that you may even want to get more creative with your selection. Grab a ciabatta or some focaccia if you're feeling more adventurous!

Head to your supermarket's bakery section and you'll find fresh baguettes that are great for hosting cheese and meats, or can easily transform into garlic bread with a bit of quick preparation. Croissants with butter or jam are always a crowd pleaser, and buttered dinner rolls are a potluck favorite. Just make sure that your hosts or other guests aren't gluten free, and you'll be set.

You can also find high-quality frozen dinner rolls at most grocery stores that taste nearly the same as homemade rolls. It may be a good idea to get to the event early, pop the rolls into the oven, and quickly assemble them on a serving plate.

Cheese and crackers

This one's a little broad, but an assortment of cheeses with crackers is a no-brainer for a potluck. It adds healthy fat and protein into the meal, and plus, who doesn't love cheese?

While you can certainly find a pre-packaged selection of cheeses, it can be more fun to mix and match different kinds yourself. Variety is the key if you're adding cheese to a charcuterie board. You'll want to make sure you have an aged cheese, like a cheddar or gouda, a soft option, like brie or camembert, and finish off the spread with a firm gruyere or manchego.

Before heading to the supermarket, you may want to research popular cheese brands and determine which ones are the best quality. Cabot cheddar cheese is always a reliable option, and it's never a bad idea to grab President's award-winning brie.

While there are seemingly endless ways to finish off a charcuterie board for your potluck, crackers are an inexpensive option to enhance the layout. Even if you have bread on the board, crackers are great for spreading soft cheeses, like brie. Of course, some grocery store crackers are better than others, and Triscuits or Ritz are a safe bet.

Deli meats and sides

If you plan to bring cheese to a potluck, why not go one step further and provide a selection of deli meats for the group? Charcuterie boards, a mix of cured meats, cheeses, and other savory snacks, are wildly popular at social gatherings. Guests can mix and match their favorite meats and cheeses before moving onto a heavier, fuller meal. Plus, there is ample opportunity to make your board aesthetically pleasing for plenty of Instagram photos.

There can be a lot of debate about the best meats and cheeses to choose for a charcuterie board, but you can't go wrong with the classics — salami and prosciutto.

Presentation is key for displaying these cured meats and other bites, especially at a potluck. You may want to splurge on a nice charcuterie board to display the meats, cheeses, and other sides and really shine as a potluck guest.

Include some delicious sides to the board to wow your fellow guests. Marcona almonds or dried fruit, or even some green beans and artichokes add a little something extra to the meats.

Nuts or trail mix

This may not be the most exciting addition to your potluck meal, but nuts or trail mix are convenient additions to the spread. It's easy to grab a handful of them as you're socializing, and they aren't likely to spoil your appetite for the more decadent dishes. To make this a bit more aesthetic, you can place some mixed nuts into decorative small bowls and arrange them in the empty spaces on the potluck table.

In terms of which nuts to purchase, almonds and cashews are generally well-liked. If choosing the selection of nuts yourself stresses you out, not to worry! At almost all supermarkets, you'll find an array of trail mixes. These often go beyond just nuts to include chocolate, raisins, and granola, so make sure you check the label carefully to see what's inside.

Brands like Planters and Back to Nature offer some of the better trial mix options out there, and are readily available in many grocery stores. Some other brands skew heavier on the chocolate side than nuts, so keep an eye on the ratio if you'd prefer the protein over sweets.

Fruit salad or veggie platter

Whoever said potluck food can't be healthy? It may not be as exciting of an addition as a Buffalo chicken dip or chocolate-y brownies, but fruits and vegetables can be a much appreciated snack at a potluck, especially if the other dishes are heavier.

It's no secret that pre-cut fruit at the grocery store is insanely expensive. It also has a shorter shelf life and is generally of lower quality. So, if you have the time to prepare your own selection of fruit, you'll save a few bucks and can breathe easy knowing you aren't taking any chances with additional bacteria or preservatives.

Combine a few of your favorite fruits for a simple fruit salad — watermelon, blueberries, kiwi, grapes, you name it! And, as with most potluck offerings, you can serve it in a favorite dish or bowl to make it even more presentable.

For another healthy snack, try sharing a crudité platter with the group. Wash and prepare some of your favorite veggies, and throw ranch or another dip into the center of your platter or serving bowl. Typically, you can find these platters prepared at the supermarket, but it's relatively quick and easy to create one on your own.

Chips and dip

Okay, so this isn't the most inventive or creative snack to bring to a potluck, but think about it — have you ever been to a social meal without some form of chips and dip? We didn't think so!

After you've made sure that you won't be the tenth person to bring chips to the party, it's time to narrow it down to which brand you're going to choose. The snack aisle at the supermarket can be overflowing with choices. While popular chip brands like Cape Cod and Doritos are sure to be eaten by the crowd, they're not necessarily the best for dipping. Tortilla or pita chips are much better for pairing with the dip of your choice.

Now for the fun part — picking a dip! Everybody loves a classic like salsa or guacamole, but why not spruce things up a bit? Head to your nearest Trader Joe's for some really amazing dip options. We're huge fans of the chain's 5-layer dip, a delicious blend of black bean hummus, guacamole, pico de gallo salsa, sour cream, and a four cheese blend. Their garlic spread dip and pub cheese are also great for parties.

Shrimp with cocktail sauce

A fan favorite at social meals, shrimp and cocktail sauce adds a tangy kick to a potluck. You can generally find pre-packaged shrimp cocktail platters at the grocery store, but like with most pre-packaged dishes, it may be more expensive than creating your own.

If you've got a bit of time before the event, opt for a large package of frozen shrimp and a bottle of cocktail sauce. There are several different ways to get your frozen shrimp ready, depending on your timeline. With a day before the event, you can pop the frozen shrimp into the fridge to thaw. If you're running short on time, submerge the bag in cold water for 45 minutes. If you need the shrimp even faster than that, you can put the shrimp directly into a bowl of cold water for 10 to 20 minutes, and voila! You're good to go.

The shrimp may seem like the main event here, but it's important to supplement it with a quality cocktail sauce. If you aren't making your own, a Hoffman House or Crosse & Blackwell sauce will certainly do the trick.

It's standard to present the dish in a rounded platter with a circle in the middle for the cocktail sauce. Guests can graze on the shrimp while chatting, and before you know it, those shrimp will be long gone!

Rotisserie chicken

Odds are you've wandered by a prepared, heavenly smelling rotisserie chicken at your local grocery shop once or twice. The aroma is enough to catch your attention, and the affordable price has probably piqued your interest as well. In fact, the price tag can seem too good to be true. The cost is due in large part to the fact that grocery stores often repurpose the raw chickens that are about to expire into the appetizing rotisserie chickens you see in the aisle.

Whether it's for a potluck or for regular everyday dining, grocery store rotisserie chickens are nothing to turn your nose up at. Chains like Costco serve up affordable, mouth-watering rotisserie chickens of a whopping three pounds that can easily serve a large group of people.

If you're concerned that breaking down an entire chicken may be a burden for you or the potluck host, not to worry! Just follow this hack to cut your rotisserie chicken and those pieces will be separated quickly and easily.  


It may be thinking a bit outside the box, but hear us out! Bringing sushi to a potluck is a pretty clever idea. The bite-sized pieces make it the perfect food to casually grab while chatting with coworkers or friends. Plus, in terms of prepared grocery store food, it's a rather elevated choice.

While you may be wondering if you can really trust grocery store sushi, the answer, in most cases, should be yes. Especially if that sushi is coming from Whole Foods Market, which has been ranked as the best grocery store for sushi. In most cases, store bought sushi is relatively fresh. It may not be quite as tasty or flavorful as the selection at your local sushi spot, but it's easy to grab in a pinch and much more affordable.

If you don't know too much about the other guests' culinary preferences, it's best to stick to some simple rolls like a California roll and shrimp tempura roll. However, if the other guests are sushi lovers, opt for a slightly more extravagant alternative like a dragon or unagi (eel) roll. To make things even easier, a lot of grocery stores offer large sampler platters with a great variety of sushi rolls.

Frozen appetizers

Frozen appetizers are an absolute lifesaver when it comes to potluck meals. There are so many varieties of tasty treats and snacks that you can buy. All you've got to do is pop them in the oven and then arrange them on a tray — it couldn't be easier!

As with anything, we do have our favorite frozen appetizers. We're huge fans of Totino's pizza rolls, a cult classic snack in delightful bite sized shapes, and mozzarella sticks, one of the most iconic breaded appetizers around. Other frozen options, like jalapeno poppers or spanakopita, are hard to measure up to their homemade counterparts.

Trader Joe's frozen food aisle is packed with unique and unexpected appetizers, like pork soup dumplings and black bean and cheese taquitos. No matter where you grab your frozen apps from, it's a good idea to take the temperature of the potluck host and other guests to see what items are already aplenty and what the table could use some more of. If there aren't many other cheesy dishes, for example, you'll know that mozzarella sticks are sure to please.

Frozen pizza

While grabbing a pizza from a local restaurant right before the potluck is easy, it's also quite efficient to grab a frozen pizza while you're doing your weekly grocery shopping. There are seemingly unlimited varieties of pizzas out there now, and it may be a good idea to grab more than one so the other potluck guests can choose their favorite.

Not only are there endless flavors and types of pizzas, but there are hundreds of different frozen pizza brands as well. We wouldn't recommend grabbing a Celeste pie, since unfortunately the cheese is really not up to par. Amy's, Red Baron, and Stouffer's are perfectly acceptable options, and Newman's Own pulls ahead of the frozen supermarket pizza pack.

Whether you heat up the pizza at home or throw it in the oven at your potluck, be ready to cut the pizza up so the other guests can quickly grab a slice. You can even opt for the "party cut," slicing the pie into smaller, square-sized bites to make it even more convenient to share.


If you don't have a favorite local bakery or cafe, the grocery store is the next best place to pick up some pastries. Cotsco's bakery section is particularly beloved, with nearly 30% of people ranking it top among other grocery stores. Whole Foods, Aldi, and Trader Joe's all have great bakeries as well, offering up a range of fresh and decadent sweets. Your favorite grocery store bakery may have other surprising offerings you wouldn't expect, like frozen baked goods, day old bread, or even raw dough.

Danishes and scones are fairly popular pastries, and are typically the perfect size for each member of the potluck to indulge in one. Donuts can also be a fun item to bring to a party. Grab some apple cider ones for a fall or Thanksgiving potluck, or a chocolate sprinkle if you'd prefer a more classic option.

Unsurprisingly, Trader Joe's has some of the best grocery store pastry options — they really lean into seasonal desserts as well. Their cinnamon streusel coffee cake is delicious, and apple cranberry tarts are great for a cold weather treat.

Pie or cake

Pie: it's the comforting dessert that everyone (or, almost everyone) loves. The ideal dessert option for a Friendsgiving or any gathering at all, a store bought pie can be just what the doctor ordered.

You may be surprised at just how sweet and decadent a grocery store pie can actually be!  Pumpkin and apple are popular flavor choices (particularly for a fall gathering), but don't be afraid to buy a lemon, cherry, or chocolate pie.

It's not unlikely that some members of the potluck gathering might prefer a nice cake over a pie. In that case, it's just as simple to pick up and serves as a sweet finale to the meal. Depending on the vibe of your event, a classic vanilla sheet cake may be appropriate. Or, maybe you'd prefer to bring a rich red velvet cake or a creamy carrot cake. Either way, the other guests will appreciate the option to satisfy their dessert craving!

Prepared side dishes

Many grocery store delis stock a variety of prepared side dishes in the refrigerated section. Depending on the store's offerings, you may find items made to serve cold as well as pre-made sides that come warm or that you simply need to warm before eating. Some great cold dishes to look for in the deli or refrigerated section include coleslaw, potato salads, crab salad, tabbouleh, pasta salad, broccoli salad, and deviled eggs. 

If your tastes run to warm sides, know that stores tend to keep quite a few of those in the refrigerated section, meaning they'll need to be heated up before serving. However, you might be lucky enough to find a grocery store with a warm food bar or one that keeps sides warm to sell with fried chicken or other meats. Warm or warmable sides might include a variety of potato dishes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, and baked beans.

Sandwiches, subs, and wraps

Sandwiches are welcome additions to potlucks. However, given the way these events go, consider sandwiches that are small or sliceable. That way, potluck guests can fit them on their plates along with everything else.

If you're lucky, you may find some party trays of sandwiches, sliders, or sliced wraps that are already made up with parties or potlucks in mind. Half sandwiches are also nice if you buy several and arrange them on a tray. However, if your grocery store doesn't have any of these options, you could buy multiple wraps, subs, or sandwiches and cut them into smaller serving sizes yourself. Whatever method you choose, be sure to do a condiment check to see whether or not you need to provide condiments for guests to add to their sandwiches.

While you're at it, don't forget the frozen food section. That's where you'll find options like White Castle sliders and other frozen sandwiches that just need a few seconds in the microwave to be ready to serve. For a breakfast potluck, you might even consider buying frozen breakfast sandwiches and microwaving them right before eating time.

Prepared soup

Soup is a cozy option, especially if the potluck happens to fall on a cold or rainy day. However, we're not talking about warming up a can of Campbell's soup. While you're welcome to do that, we're thinking along the lines of more gourmet soups that some grocery stores sell. You may want to provide bowls or cups and spoons to ensure the soup is easy to consume.

Grocery stores with food bars like Whole Foods sometimes offer hot soup that you can ladle into a container and take to the potluck while it's still hot. You might also find cold containers of soup ready to buy from the refrigerated section of the store.

As for the exact type of soup, you could go with a standby like chicken noodle soup, chili, or clam chowder. For vegetarian-friendly fare, consider tomato soup, broccoli cheddar soup, minestrone, or butternut squash soup (though be sure to check the labels). For more adventurous crowds, look for something like lentil and spinach soup, gumbo, or even a pumpkin curry soup.