The holiday season turns into a stressful affair for a lot of people, whether they’re celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or another winter holiday.
For some people, meal planning is quite easy—but for others, hosting and planning a stress-free holiday meal seems quite unattainable. If you’re tired of the stress, follow these tips for planning a holiday dinner so that you can reap the rewards of a happy family stuffed with scrumptious cuisine.
Here are 7 top tips for planning a holiday dinner without stress:
1. Plan Your Menu
First things first—create a menu! Make sure you put items that you can reasonably accomplish and that you’ll find at least some joy in creating on the list. Don’t fill the menu out too much—it will just add stress and take away from the joy of the season.
2. Make a To-Do List
One of the best ways to stay organized is to make a to-do list. Instead of wasting time trying to remember all the tasks you need to do, make it easier on yourself with a list—or several. You should have a grocery store list as well as separate lists for each time of day. As extensive as this sounds, to-do lists will keep you much more organized and stress-free. These lists are important not only for the day of the dinner, but also in the days leading up to the dinner.
3. Create a Schedule
Just as important as to-do lists are schedules. The day of the dinner, do your best to stick to a schedule—but don’t panic if you can’t stick to it perfectly. Recognize that perfection isn’t possible and that you can only do what you can do. It’s especially important to keep that in mind when you’re creating the schedule: don’t overbook or overload yourself with too many tasks. Delegate tasks if you can, and if you can’t, then lessen the load by—for instance—only serving two appetizers instead of four.
4. Allow Time for Organization
Another way to help yourself stay stress-free and organized is simply to make time for organization. If you devote 15 minutes each day leading up to the dinner for cleaning, meal prepping, and decorating, you’ll find the day of the dinner much more manageable. Taking the time to organize your kitchen will also help—figure out what dishes and utensils you’ll need to make your meal, and try to clear space when the day comes.
5. Set the Table the Night Before
When it comes to the dining room, a lot of people stress about creating the most aesthetically pleasing dining space. As nice as that is, you don’t need to stress too much about going over-the-top. Keep it simple, and leave room for people to converse. In addition, set the table the night before so that you don’t have to stress about not having enough time to do it properly.
6. Only Choose Desserts You Can Make Ahead
When it comes to desserts, you have two options. Either have a potluck-style dessert table so that you can get all the best desserts without having to make them yourself, or only choose desserts that you can make the night before. For example, you can make Thanksgiving pies the night before or even two days in advance. Latkes can be refrigerated for up to eight hours, and you can also make Christmas cookies ahead of time. Plan those times into your schedule, and that stress will fall right off your back.
7. Have Containers for Leftovers on Hand
One of the most stressful aspects of holiday dinners is all the leftovers you have to make room for afterwards. This year, solve that problem by having leftover containers on hand for your guests. Whether you use inexpensive Tupperware containers or custom boxes, there are plenty of ways to hand off some of those leftovers to guests instead of squeezing them into your fridge.