Question about potlucks and leftovers

Question for those here about potluck etiquette vis-a-vis leftovers, and who gets what and when.

After a potluck if there are leftovers, who gets them? The host or the owner of the dish?

Should the host ever be obligated to offer the owner of the dish the opportunity to take back their own leftovers without first keeping said leftovers for themselves.

Is it ever rude for the owner of the dish to request to take their own leftovers if the host does not first offer them such an option?

Your thoughts?


Whenever I entertain, potluck or not, I ask if any guests want to take leftovers home. It’s never occurred to me that someone would feel obligated to leave me a share of what they themselves brought. But I would think it was weird if someone took back leftover wine or beer.


When I take part in a sweet table at a Greek wedding or baptism, or a Pittsburgh cookie table, bags or boxes are made available for everyone to take some of the dishes they like home. I’ve seen this at Russian New Year’s Parties where homemade food was brought to a banquet hall , too. People take a selection of leftovers they like home.

When I’ve taken part in a potluck with 40 to 60 people in an Italian ski club, in Canada, inside a hotel party room where there was no host, most people take a few things they like as leftovers, and the people who brought X or Y often took back their remaining leftovers to their condos, to eat the leftovers over the next day or 2. Leftover cheese, porchetta, prosciutto and salami from the potluck were made into sandwiches for the bus trip home, made on fresh baguette purchased at then bakery at Tremblant , handed out to everyone on the bus. That is a ski trip that has been happening for 49 years, so they have had time to work out the formula that works.

Sometimes plates of leftovers are made for the staff at nursing homes when there’s been a party.

I generally leave leftovers from foods I brought to a party with the host. If the host really doesn’t want to keep them, I bring them home.

If it’s a food I like a lot, I make a double batch and keep some at home , or don’t bring all of whatever I made,to the potluck, so I never feel possessive about leftovers.

I thought it was gauche when my cousin’s partner took home beer he brought to a wedding reception, but didn’t drink, a reception at a private residence which was partly potluck (but not BYOB). He should have left it for the hosts.

I suspect some cultures might roll differently than others.


I always make enough that there’s some left for me (at home). I’ve always assumed what I bring will remain with the host(s). If they want to do,e it out, that’s fine with me. I’ve given up all ownership when I walk in the door. I’d also never take back anything I brought. If it’s alcohol and isn’t opened/consumed, then it’s a housewarming gift.


Same here. I often save the edges and imperfect pieces for myself.

Mind you, the people who do take back what they brought have become topics for weeks of gossip in my circle.

One friend was nicknamed the 2 Egged Bandit because she came to a Cookie Exchange bake day where several women were baking at a hostess’ house over the course of an evening, with a dozen eggs, flour, butter, etc, and took 2 unused eggs home, rather than leaving them with the hostess. :rofl::rofl::rofl:


I run a local food group & organize a regular potluck, with our 3rd (or 4th? I lost track TBH) coming up this next Sunday.

My most recent contribution, a Tuscan soup was decimated, but before everyone left they asked if peeps wanted to take some leftovers before they took theirs home. I’ve also made a plate of everything on two occasions where a couple of participants had fallen ill and couldn’t attend, and took it over to their house afterwards :slight_smile:

When we host a potluck at home, things run similar.


I think of the leftovers as “belonging” to the maker. It was a dish to share, not a gift.

Of course if the host really liked that dish it would be nice to offer them the extra to keep, but not everyone wants a fridge full of random bits.

Potluck is based on potlatch, which has an interesting history.


My take is/was to leave leftovers at the hosts. OTOH, the priceless heirloom Tupperware comes back! (priceless 'cause it has the matching lid!)


I guess the better question is should the host ever have to ask whether the guest wants to take back their leftovers?

Or is it rude for the host to simply assume that the leftovers are theirs to keep because they are the host.

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I’ve lost so many nice pieces of Pyrex because I felt weird asking for them back, then it felt too late.

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As a host, I think it’s nice to ask whoever brought X if they’d like to take it home.

Also nice for the guest to ask the host if they’d like to keep all of the dish, before packing it up to take it home.

Make no assumptions.


This I totally agree with.

As a host, I ask the guests if they want plates to go based on all of the offerings (which I’ll wrap on paper plates). It’s a group based meal, and each member is entitled to to-go plates of all of the leftovers (IMHO).

This has always worked in the past, and allowed all guests to take their empty containers home with them. Can’t ever recall any guest that didn’t react positively to this.


Good topic. There are different kinds of potlucks, so I do think the answer changes based on the context of the gathering.

A group of close friends occasionally does a potluck where everyone cooks. I assume what I’m taking is going to be left there — I’ll sometimes cook a bit extra and keep a portion at home for myself, because I’m not anticipating bringing my leftovers back. The host/hostess went through the trouble of hosting and all that entails, so I think it’s only fair that they get to keep whatever they want of what’s left at the end (if they want it, which they don’t always).

For less intimate groups (book club, wider groups of friends / acquaintances / interest circles) I do think people expect to take home what they brought. If it’s easily shareable (cookies, apps) maybe people will take a bit of other people’s stuff. But there’s no implicit obligation to a host in the same way.

When I host, I ask people if they’d like to take home something — whether what they brought or what I made.

I don’t consider alcohol or other beverages part of the take-home part of any evening — you leave what you brought.

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I agree this.

It really depends on context.

People who throw potlucks in lieu of dinner parties are getting to entertain while passing on much of the work and cost to their guests. The least they can do is give their guests their leftovers.

At every office potluck in which I’ve participated, each participant takes home their leftovers.


Interesting perspectives.

I only bring up this question because of the following.

Our friend hosted a potluck, and everyone brought their own dish.

At the end, the host simply cleared the leftovers and packed them in their own fridge, cleaned our serving plates and returned our now-clean and empty serving plates.

So our question – not saying there is a right or wrong here – is whether the host should have asked us first before saving the leftovers for themselves?

We had no intention of taking back the leftovers per se but was just curious if it was proper for the host to assume that.

As with so many things in this great big world, communication is everything. On both the host’s and the guests’ part.

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Obviously that’s not the popular opinion here, but there is some truth to it.