How to Host a Stress-Free Holiday Meal

Updated 11/5/18

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. I can serve a delicious meal AND enjoy myself!

6 steps to help you plan a stress-free holiday meal so you can actually enjoy your day.

1 | Plan your menu in advance

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a step I’ve glossed over in the past. Sure, I knew we were eating turkey for Thanksgiving, but I didn’t think through all the sides ahead of time. Instead of shopping sales or prepping food ahead of time, I was left doing everything at the last minute. Planning the menu for your holiday meal allows you to save money, time, and stress.

2 | Delegate responsibilities

Just because you’re the hostess, that doesn’t mean you have to do everything. Once you plan your menu, ask 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. I’m not super confident about making gravy so I always put my dad in charge of that task.

If you have a large group, be specific about what they should bring so you don’t end up with repeat dishes. It’s not hard (or unreasonable) to send an email asking guests to tell everyone what they plan to bring.

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.

3 | 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.

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.

4 | 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.

5 | 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, delegate as many of  these tasks as possible to family members. You can find some beautiful inspiration for your Thanksgiving table decor HERE.

6 | Plan outfits & lay them out the night before

If your holiday gathering is completely casual, 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 a child (not that this would ever happen in my house lol.)

What are your tips for a stress-free holiday meal?

Five tips for a stress-free holiday meal.
Share with a friend:

7 Budget-Friendly Thanksgiving Tablescapes

The holiday season is coming up quickly! There are so many wonderful Christmas decor ideas cropping up everywhere that it’s tempting to skip over Thanksgiving, but I like to hang onto the fall decor just a little longer. A beautiful Thanksgiving table makes the meal feel so much more festive. Costs can add up quickly when you consider the food, drinks and decor so today I’m sharing some simple, budget-friendly Thanksgiving tablescape ideas.

Budget-friendly ideas for Thanksgiving tablescapes.

*Please pin from original sources.

First up is a table from Jenn at Clean & Scentsible. The pumpkins in various sizes and shades of white accentuate the brighter pops of orange and red. The striped runner anchors the centerpiece and brings in all those lovely fall colors as well. Tip: hit your local grocery store or Trader Joes the day before Halloween for super cheap pumpkins!

Jen from The Chronicles of Home uses a mix of natural elements to create a beautiful jewel-toned Thanksgiving tablescape. Don’t you just love the artichokes?? Simple painted mason jars are filled with stones and branches that can be collected around your yard. The oranges and the moss add a burst of color that compliment the more subdued colors of the jars and artichokes.

Sophia uses Baby Boo pumpkins and short white pillar candles for her centerpiece. You could place the pumpkins and candles directly on a table runner if you’re without a baguette board like Sophia used here. Some greenery snipped from trees or bushes would bring in the green accents on a plain burlap runner.

Who else is loving copper this fall? Lauren from Bless’er House has a gift for styling and always creates the most beautiful tablescapes. I love this Thanksgiving tablescape that she designed using spraypainted candle-holders and chargers found at the dollar store. It looks amazing, but isn’t a budget-buster by any stretch.

Nina Hendrick is a blogger that I came across more recently and I absolutely love her style. I like the simplicity of her fall tablescape from last year. The berries on the branches add a pop of fall color and the chargers ground the white plates to the lighter color of the table. I adore the sprig of rosemary on each place setting.

The next idea isn’t a full tablescape, but I love what Katie from The Casual Craftlete did to transform these little pumpkins. Add in some candlesticks or pillar candles in a hurricane vases and you’d have a great centerpiece for a Thanksgiving table.

Laura Kate from Lady & Laura Kate designed her first Thanksgiving tablescape for her square kitchen table and I love the small pops of color against the neutral background. I have a serious thing for boxwood and the little sprigs on each plate with the tags are so cute!

So much inspiration for a beautiful and welcoming Thanksgiving tablescape! It’s going to be hard to decide which ideas to adopt for my own table 🙂

Share with a friend:

Turkey Pie – The Ultimate Holiday Comfort Food Made Easy

One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the leftovers, am I right?? My aunt taught me how to make this super easy version of a classic comfort food. A lot of people call it Turkey Pot Pie, but that name bothers me for some reason so we just call it Turkey Pie. You can also make this dish with leftover roasted chicken and it’s equally yummy.

Wondering what to do with all those yummy Thanksgiving leftovers? Turn them into a quick and easy turkey pie.

A little background… my husband and I started dating in October so it wasn’t long before the holiday season was approaching. To avoid an awkward conversation about whether we should spend Thanksgiving together, I simply made plans to visit a friend in San Francisco. The weekend before Thanksgiving, my then-boyfriend invited me to dinner at his house with a couple friends. When I arrived, I discovered that he had cooked an entire turkey dinner ON HIS OWN so that we could still celebrate Thanksgiving together. It’s one of my favorite memories!

After my sweet husband had made such a sweet gesture, I wanted to return the favor by whipping up an easy turkey pie with the leftovers. The beauty of this recipe is that you can sort of throw in whatever you have left from a turkey dinner.

Super Simple Turkey Pie

2 – 2 1/2 cups shredded turkey or chicken (cooked)
2 pre-made frozen pie crusts, thawed
1 cup corn (frozen is fine and doesn’t need to be pre-cooked)
1 cup peas (frozen works too)
1 1/2 cups pre-cooked potatoes, cut in 1 inch chunks
1 1/2 – 2 cups gravy (you can use store-bought if you don’t have any leftover)
anything else you want to throw in such as onions, carrots, celery (all pre-cooked or frozen work best)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 and take your pie crusts out of the freezer. Let them sit while you round up and prepare the other ingredients – shred the turkey/chicken, chop veggies, cut potatoes.

2. Use one of the pie crusts as the base for your pie. They usually come in a foil pie plate which will work just fine.

3. Put the turkey and veggies into the pie crust and pour the gravy on top, mixing gently with a spoon or fork. Be careful not to tear the crust.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving leftovers with this quick and easy recipe for turkey pie.

4. Carefully remove the other pie crust from its tin plate and lay it on top of your pie, pinching the edges to seal them. Try not to tear it, but don’t stress if you do. Just sort of pinch it back together. It doesn’t have to look perfect to be delicious!

Use store-bought pie crust to turn your Thanksgiving leftovers into a deliciously comforting turkey pie.

5. Put the pie plate on a cookie sheet and put it on the center rack. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. The crust should be a nice golden brown. I sometimes turn on the broiler for just a few minutes at the end to make it crisp up.

Take your Thanksgiving leftovers to the next level with this simple recipe for turkey pie.

Hello yummy deliciousness!

Share with a friend:

Thanksgiving Kid’s Craft Packs

My kids have been a little restless lately. They’re a little harder to entertain. They’re a little more sassy. And they are driving their mama CRAZY. Time to do a little Pinterest exploration and find some activities that will not only help keep us busy, but get us excited for Thanksgiving too!

turkey craft for kids

One of my fave sources for kids activities is No Time for Flash Cards. If you want to do a project or craft or activity of any kind with a child of any age, it’s a great place to look. I found a couple for Turkey Day that I thought would be easy enough for both my kids (22mos & 4 1/2yrs).

Handprint Turkey

toddler-handprint-turkey-craft

How cute is this?? The supply list is short and the prep time is minimal. Check it out in detail here.

Turkey Counting Craft

turkey-counting-craft

I put together the supplies for this one, but didn’t make the counting sheets. I’m not sure if I’ll just leave it as a craft or use it to practice counting. Either way, it works. Find the full scoop here.

paper plate pilgrim craft
I originally found this cute paper plate pilgrim craft at easypreschoolcraft.blogspot.jp but the link no longer works 🙁  I cut out the pieces to be put together by my four year old daughter. She can also do the coloring and draw the face. I also designed a paper plate Indian since the story we read about the first Thanksgiving includes how the Indians helped the early settlers to survive.

 

Crafty ideas are great, but having the supplies ready to go at a moment’s notice is even better. If boredom sets in, it can take a long time (in kid minutes) to find all the supplies and do any necessary prep work. I did some quick and easy advanced preparation and now I have a few craft projects all set to go.

kids turkey craft

I traced a small bowl for the turkey body and drew the faces with a sharpie (try not to be too overwhelmed by my artistic genius) and I glued on the little red waddles so they would be authentic. I cut out a stack of multi-colored feathers that can be glued on to make an easy, but cute craft.
Hello, girls!
turkey craft cutouts
I cut a bunch of Christmas trees from green felt to be decorated with supplies we already have (glitter glue, foam stickers, etc.) I think my fancy four year old will really enjoy decorating her own mini trees.
christmas tree craft

How do you keep boredom at bay for little ones?

Linking up to…

Becoming Martha

Share with a friend: