The holiday season is my favorite time of year, but it can be really stressful if you’re hosting dinner. Getting all the food ready to serve while it’s still hot and making sure all your guests are comfortable while doing it… that’s a daunting task! Over the past several years of hosting holiday meals, I’ve learned a few tricks to make the process go more smoothly. Not only does everything get done, but I actually enjoy myself at the same time.
Just because you’re the hostess, that doesn’t mean you have to do everything. Ask local guests to bring side dishes that can be reheated before dinner. Desserts and appetizers are a great option if you really like to have control over the menu. Give your kids cleaning duties. Even younger ones can help unload the dishwasher or run a vacuum before guests arrive. I’m not super confident about making gravy so I put my dad in charge of that task.
Prepare food ahead of time
Many side dishes can be prepared ahead of time and reheated prior to dinner without affecting the quality. Potatoes, stuffing, rolls and desserts can all be made a couple days ahead. Just be sure to account for reheating time to ensure you have room in your oven. Vegetable sides should usually be made the day of, but you can still wash and cut your veggies earlier in the day.
Make a timetable for day-of cooking
Write out your full menu, noting the oven temperature and cooking time needed for every dish. Figure out which items will fit in the oven and can be cooked at the same temperature. Then, counting backwards from the time you plan to sit down to dinner, determine when each item needs to go in the oven. With this masterplan in hand, you won’t need to worry about dishes not being ready in time or sitting out until they’re cold.
Set your table the day before
Iron your tablecloth and napkins. Lay out place settings and your table decor or centerpiece. Set up extra tables and chairs if necessary. By doing these tasks the day before, you’re freeing up your time on the big day for cooking and spending time with guests. If you need to use your table the day before a gathering, then delegate as many of these tasks as possible to family members. You can find some beautiful inspiration for your Thanksgiving table decor HERE.
Plan outfits & lay them out the night before
If your holiday gathering is completely casual, then you can skip this step. If you have a more formal celebration to attend or certain outfits in mind for your family, save your time and sanity by laying out these items in advance. Prepping ahead not only ensures that clothing is definitely clean and presentable, it also eliminates the time spent picking out clothes or debating choices with the wearer (not that this would ever happen in my house lol.)
What are your tips for a stress-free holiday meal?