Planning a huge holiday meal for family and friends can be quite an ordeal. Heck, planning dinners during the average work week can be a hassle, so when you’re hosting a slew of people during the busy holiday season, you’d better put some extra time into planning, preparation, and organization if you don’t want your dinner to be a complete disaster. Although you probably have some notion of the amount of work that has to be done and at least a few menu items your guests will expect, still it can’t hurt to get the ball rolling early in order to avoid any major snafus at the eleventh hour. Here are just a few tips that should help to ensure your holiday feast goes off without a hitch.
Plan and shop early. Once you have an idea of how many people are coming to your holiday meal you can begin planning the menu and shopping for items you’ll need. This is important for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, traditional items may sell out as the holidays approach. If you wait until just a few days before your feast to pick up meats, pie crusts, and other items, you may find them out of stock at your local market, leaving you scrambling to hit other stores or plan a new menu. Additionally, however, you’re bound to miss something and you want to make sure you still have plenty of time to pick up ingredients that you accidentally forgot to put on your initial shopping list.
Cook and freeze ahead of time. There are several holiday dishes that can be cooked days ahead of time, refrigerated or frozen, and then thawed and reheated at the time of your feast. Although you probably don’t want to cook the main dish this way, many desserts can be stored for a few days, as well as side dishes, which could last several days in airtight Tupperware, making your job on the day of the family gathering a lot less stressful.
Dole out tasks. There’s absolutely no reason to go it alone when it comes to holiday meal preparation. Since everyone is going to enjoy the meal, everyone can pitch in to get it made. Ask guests to bring side dishes, drinks, or desserts, or compel them to whip up whatever creation they’re known for (like Aunt Gertie’s apple pie or your sister’s green bean casserole). Those who volunteer to come early can help you with food prep the day of, and anyone who doesn’t cook can take kitchen duty after the fact, cleaning dishes and bagging leftovers.
Make a seating chart. If you’re hosting a large group, the last thing you want is a confused scramble to get the best seats. Plus, you know that certain people shouldn’t be seated together if you want to avoid the discomfort that has plagued previous holiday affairs. So set up your tables a day or two ahead of time with a seating chart in mind. This will give you plenty of time to arrange the table just so, set every plate, utensil, and decoration just where you want it, and place name cards where you want people to sit so that everyone enjoys your holiday feast.
Try new recipes beforehand. If you’ve found some incredible new recipes on RecipeChart.com, it’s in your best interest to try them out ahead of time. This will let you know how much work they are and how good they end up tasting so that you can determine whether or not they’re worth making for your special holiday feast.