Have you offered to host your first holiday meal? If you’re beginning to feel anxious and stressed, take a deep breath. The holidays are meant to be joyful and bright, not stressful and overwhelming. Cooking your first holiday meal can be a great triumph and it doesn’t have to be high pressure and unenjoyable.
If you’re ready to rock your holiday dinner, here are the top 11 ways you can execute your gathering flawlessly.
Make a Timeline and List for Executing the Meal
Preparing in advance for any aspect of the holidays is key. Preparation will help you avoid mishaps and create a plan for alternative solutions if something does go awry.
Make a timeline and list of everything you need in order to host the ultimate holiday meal. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I going to make?
- What ingredients do I need?
- Do I need to purchase any additional serving pieces or cooking utensils?
- Do I need extra seating arrangements for my guests?
These questions will help you begin to put together a grocery list as well as a timeline of when you need to complete each task. Your list will help you stay focused and organized.
You can do it all, but why should you? If someone asks if they can help, let them. The more hands you have helping, the more efficiently your preparations will be. Delegating the responsibility amongst your guests is important to assure you are able to accomplish everything you want to.
Prep in Advance
Are there any recipes you can cook in advance and then heat up the next day? There are several items you can prepare in advance – with chopping and washing your various ingredients included. This will help you stay on schedule and reduce the amount of work you have to do on the day of the meal.
Stick to Recipes You Know
Try not to get too creative with the recipes you select. Pick items that you’re comfortable making. No one has expectations that you will become a culinary genius overnight. Keep it simple. Guests will appreciate a few simple dishes made well over complicated dishes that are mediocre.
Start Early on Non-Food Items
Do an inventory of your serving dishes and utensils, cutlery, glasses and tablecloths a few days prior to your meal. This is a task that can even be accomplished several weeks in advance. Completing an inventory will help you determine if you need to purchase any additional items or borrow them from your friends and family.
If some of your serving pieces or glassware have been collecting dust in your china cabinet, a pre-event inventory is a great opportunity to identify this and wash everything. Spreading out your work makes the holiday dinner less overwhelming.
Do as Much as You Can the Day Before
You want your house to look amazing the day of your dinner. Setting the table and decorating your home the day before will give you more time to focus on cooking.
You may even want to enlist some of your family members to come over and help you make some decorations for the table. This is a great way to save money on expensive décor. Part of the holiday fun is the experience of spending time together to create a beautiful event.
Feel Free to Purchase Meal Items
You may assume you need to make everything by hand but it’s okay to purchase meal items. It may be too challenging to make three different pies, a turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and gravy all at once. Head to the store and select a few items that will be just as good pre-made and a simple appetizer or two to leave out for the family to nibble on.
Your local grocery store may have some decadent desserts or delicious sides your entire family will love.
Skip the Gourmet Appetizers
You’re already making a multi-dish meal, there’s no need to have heavy appetizers. Most likely, you will end up wasting food and time on things your guests won’t eat. If you want to make appetizers, stick with one dish or do a pre-made veggie tray.
Make it as simple as possible.
Ask Your Guests to Bring Their Favorite Dish
When delegating tasks, it’s okay to ask your guests to bring a dish or two. They will probably be eager to do so. After all, you’ve already offered to host and cook the entire meal. Ask each of your guests to bring their favorite dish or tell them what dishes you’d prefer others to make.
Not only will this save you time, but it will save you money.
Try Paper Plates
You may think it’s informal to use paper plates and napkins, but it will save you a lot of time on dish duty later in the evening. It will make your job ten times easier if you are able to throw away half of your dishes before the end of the night.
Surprisingly, paper plates come in an assortment of sizes and shapes. You don’t have to stick to plain white. Get creative and select paper plates that will compliment your holiday décor.
Relax and Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor
The holidays are about spending time with your loved ones. Make sure to enjoy the dinner you worked so hard to host. It’s important to not just open your home and cook but actually spend quality time with your friends and family.
Even if everything goes wrong and you end up ordering carryout, let it go. It will be a great story for the next holiday you host. After all, what’s the point of hosting a holiday meal if you can’t truly reap the fruit of your labor?
The Bottom Line
Hosting your first holiday dinner doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By involving your family and friends and planning ahead, your dinner will be a breeze. Remember, the holidays should be about creating memories. Focus on spending quality time with your loved ones and don’t stress about creating the perfect holiday meal.
With these simple tips, you will be able to enjoy hosting your first holiday dinner.
Do you have any advice for hosting a holiday meal? Please feel free to leave your answers in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!
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