Are you having guests over for Christmas dinner? Do you get overwhelmed with preparing a big meal for extra people and with foods you may not make on a regular basis? If you get to the end of your holiday gathering and you're exhausted, and you feel like you haven't spent any time with your guests, and you never want to host another holiday dinner, then you need this post :)
Today I'm sharing a few tips to help you plan for any holiday meals you'll be serving. Some of them may be things you already do and some may be new ideas. But hopefully having these tips all in one place, just before your holiday dinners, will help you be super prepared and be able to enjoy your time with your guests, rather than having a meltdown in your kitchen!
1. Decide what food and beverages you plan to serve
If you host Christmas dinner every year, you probably have some traditional foods you always make. If you decide you want to shake things up a bit and try some new recipes, then add those to your list as well. You may want to try them out before the actual day just so you know how to make them, how long they take to prepare and cook, etc. You don't need unexpected "surprises" when you're preparing a big meal!
There are lots of free printable holiday menu planning lists on Pinterest. Here are a couple of my favourites.
2. If any of your guests are bringing food mark that on your list
For many family gatherings, family members will expect to or offer to contribute to the meal. Always say yes! You have enough preparation to do, so allow your guests to participate in the meal by bringing part of it. Make sure you know what they are bringing and what cooking or refrigerating will be required before the meal.
The easiest is to have guests bring side dishes, rolls, salads, or desserts so they don't have to be in your kitchen heating or making their food, and getting in your way, or sharing your oven/stovetop space. Foods that don't require heating or refrigerating/freezing are best since your appliances are usually working overtime during holiday meal preparation. But if your family member has a particular food they always make, then be grateful and work it into your preparation.
3. Plan when you will cook each part of your meal
Some of your meal will need to be prepared right before serving, but some things can be made in advance. If you can cook something in advance and just reheat it before your meal, it will reduce the amount of time you have to spend in your kitchen the day of your holiday meal. That means more time with your guests! Desserts are one thing that can often be made in advance. Some salads can be made 1-2 days before (not leafy kinds but heartier ones are fine).
My mom and dad usually cook their turkey the day before our family's holiday meals. Then they carve and slice it and put it in a large casserole dish with some gravy over top of it. They cover it with foil and refrigerate it. Then they just reheat it on the day of our meal. It really simplifies the meal preparation on the day of our holiday meals, especially now that they have a much smaller kitchen.
We celebrated our family Christmas dinner this past Sunday and I snagged this picture of my parents' sliced turkey in their fridge.
Whatever food you can prepare in advance will help you stay calm and organized in the kitchen as you prepare your holiday meal. You can use this free printable to help you with your planning.
4. Make a shopping list
Both the printables above have a place for a shoping list. It's really important to have EVERYTHING you need for every part of your meal ahead of time. You do NOT want to be running out on a holiday, trying to find a store that's open, and that has what you need. That's time you could be spending with your guests, and time you're not spending preparing your meal. Not good.
Go over every recipe and record every single ingredient. Check what you already have on hand... don't assume you have enough of something or that it's still fresh. If there's anything questionable, buy more, even if it's just as a back-up if needed.
5. Have a back-up plan
Speaking of back-up foods, it doesn't hurt to have some of those! You never know what might happen with either your food or something that a guest brought. Have something in your freezer or fridge that you can pull out and quickly prepare and serve if necessary. Think about what your back-up foods could be and add those to your grocery list.
6. Keep it simple
Holiday meals have a lot of traditions associated with them, and things can get pretty complicated sometimes. But, wherever you can make a decision that will help simplify what you need to do on the day of your special dinner, do it! Here are a few posts with tips to help you simplify.
10 Tips to Simplify Holiday Entertaining from Andrea Dekker
How to Plan a Stress-Free Holiday Party from Organizing Homelife
I hope these printables and tips will help you plan your holiday meals. I want you to be able to stay calm and be organized so you can enjoy your holiday with your family and friends!
If you're looking for other holiday organizing ideas, check out previous posts I've written on the subject in the Organizing tab at the top of the page - choose the Christmas submenu. Or check out my Christmas Organizing board on Pinterest.
Do you host a holiday meal at your home? What do you serve? How do you stay organized? If you're usually stressed with the preparations, which of these tips do you think will help you most?
Here are all the posts in the 12 Days of Being Organized for the Holidays series!
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