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Last-Minute Thanksgiving: How To Knock ‘Em Dead At The Office Potluck Without Killing Yourself

Photo: Cavan Images (Getty Images)

So, it happened. You completely forgot that your office was throwing a Thanksgiving-themed potluck. You got the email months ago but didn’t pay much attention to it because it was “so far away.” Well, the party is today and you’ve got nothing to bring. Your smarmy cubicle neighbor Brett has been bragging so much about his homemade cornbread stuffing that you would think it was covered in gravy made from unicorn tears or something. Carol in HR won’t stop talking about how her turkey meatballs are “the moistest they’ve ever been” and you are mere few hours away from striking out in front of your bosses and co-workers. Nothing says “I’m not a team player” like forgetting to bring food to an office party.

Photo: Ben Duffy (Mandatory)

We’ve made a simple graph to help you figure out just how awful (or great) your last-minute choices are. The vertical axis is “Effort/Expense” and the horizontal axis is “Seasonal Appropriateness.” There are many things you can bring that might wow the crowd but make absolutely no sense at a Thanksgiving party.

High Effort But Seasonally Appropriate

The most seasonally appropriate and highest effort items are the tried and true: stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie, and of course the turkey itself. Odds are you won’t be bringing any of these coveted dishes. Your lack of preparation guarantees that. If you can somehow duck out during your lunch hour and whip up some mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese (even if it’s Velveeta), you’ll be an office hero, and nobody will know that this morning you didn’t even realize that there was a Thanksgiving cornucopia awaiting you after work. But do you really want to be such an overachiever?

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High Effort And Seasonally Inappropriate

There is a way to stop your coworkers from believing that you are a thoughtless robot who doesn’t care about their rumbling bellies. Sushi, no matter what time of year, is always a crowd pleaser. Just get a big platter of different varieties and your office mates will forget that you are more concerned with Words With Friends than their feelings and emotions. Another great option is tamales, quesadillas, tacos, or any other Mexican dish. You can just order it, pick it up, and throw it onto the table. It might be met with quizzical looks from your co-workers, but everyone loves nachos. The same goes for any other food that can be ordered and delivered in under 45 minutes (Chinese, Thai, Indian, even pizza). As long as it’s food and it’s tasty, your coworkers will forgive you because it looks like you tried even though you really didn’t.

Low Effort But Seasonally Appropriate

If you want to add something to the party that is seasonally appropriate but doesn’t require you to buy ingredients, follow directions, and then cook something, there’s always alcohol (as long as your office allows it). A nice bottle of wine or six-pack of beer is a guaranteed way to put a smile on your office mate’s faces. Pumpkin beer, Oktoberfest brews, and/or winter beers are a guaranteed win. You can also just grab a can of cranberry sauce. You’ll probably look like a complete jerk, but at least it makes sense seasonally. A happy medium is a can of ready-to-bake crescent rolls (as long as your office has an oven). Everyone loves crescent rolls. They’ll completely forget about your total lack of caring.

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Low Effort And Seasonally Inappropriate

Now, if you’re a complete slacker who stumbled into the office only to realize that everyone else brought a seasonal dish to pass, you’re in big trouble. You need to do something quick or risk becoming the office pariah and Ken in HR already holds that title. You can stop by the break room and grab a bag of chips, pretzels, or crackers and toss it onto the table and hope nobody notices. Or, you can buy a few bottles (or cans) of soda or juice and do the same. If you empty out your wallet for 100 vending machine treats, your office mates might not even realize how terrible and selfish you are.