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If there is one thing that stresses me out  about the holiday season it’s office holiday parties. These parties drive me insane.

Don’t get me wrong. I like having an afternoon off of work to hang with co-workers and eat, drink and be merry.  Even if the party is in a building conference room that’s been decorated with a certain lack of taste by a well-meaning co-worker rather than a “real place”, it’s still a nice thought. Since my state has faced serious budget cuts and we had our salaries cut 2 years ago, morale is low.  Like REALLY low. Holiday parties try to build back some of that morale and give us a chance to relax.

But my problem with holiday parties is this—there are too damn many. In the next 3 weeks, I will have 3 separate parties at work. And each one is a pot-luck. This where my problem begins.  To be clear, I do not expect my bosses to pay for our holiday parties nor do I have a problem with a pot-luck. I like to cook and bake. I enjoy both activities far more than I should.  However, when I have to shell out money for three different parties as well as devote precious time that I truly do not have to baking for each of these parties, I start to get a bit edgy.  Especially when I get 1-2 days notice.

I like to contribute to pot-lucks.  I also like to keep my budget within reason. To deal with the finances of 3 pot-lucks in 3 weeks, I’ve employed the following strategies:

  • Bring desserts. Desserts are actually my specialty so making them is fun for me. What’s also nice about bringing desserts is that they’re significantly less expensive to make than main dishes. I have a few desserts that I use and the ingredients typically cost less than $10 total.
  • Purchase ingredients throughout the year when they’re on sale. Most of the desserts I make for pot-lucks involve cake mix in one capacity or another. Throughout the year, cake mix goes on sale for $.89-$.99 per box. I usually keep 3-4 boxes of cake mix on hand because of these great prices, so when it comes to pot-luck time, I only have to pick up one or two items.
  • Use what’s on hand. In addition to having cake mix on hand, I usually have the ingredients to make buttercream frosting as well (I make my own frosting. It’s super easy and tastes way better than what comes from a can). This means I can slap together cupcakes or a cake on a day’s notice.  This comes in handy if I don’t have time to run to the supermarket to pick up Reese’s Pieces or candy melts.
  • Use seasonal ingredients. On the off chance I’m out of cake mix and other baking staples, I’ll try to locate a recipe online that uses seasonal ingredients like pumpkin or apples or gingerbread.  This helps save money and keeps with the theme of the parties, too.
  • Offer to bring items no one else wants to. Pot-lucks are a time for people to show off their cooking and baking skills. Since I know mine are stellar, I don’t feel the need to show off (that much). So, sometimes I’ll offer to bring things like soda, plates and silverware, napkins—things that can be bought for relatively cheap at the grocery store or the dollar store across the street from our building. These things are a huge necessity and no one ever wants to bring them. I have no problem assuming this responsibility.

For me, pot-lucks also bring about the issue of food waste. During a season when we’re often asked to donate food, it hurts my head to see the amount of food that gets wasted during these events. Many people often overestimate the amount that needs to be made and while some people will bring leftovers home or leave the leftovers at work for people to eat the following day, I’ve seen my share of food get thrown out. This happens less with desserts. Selfish as it seems, it eases my conscience to provide a dessert that I know will not go to waste.

I appreciate the effort that goes into organizing an office holiday party. I welcome the idea of a pot-luck. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to spend a fortune feeding people I only speak to once or twice a month.

How do you deal with office pot-luck holiday parties?

Article publié pour la première fois le 12/12/2011

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