Hosting a holiday dinner in your home can be a very stressful time. There are so many things that need to be done, and often times you feel like you are running a one-woman show.
I have hosted several holiday dinners in my home, and I know first hand that if you aren’t prepared ahead of time, you’re in for a crazy, high-stress day. By the time dinner rolls around, you’re so worn out and exhausted that you can’t even enjoy your dinner or your guests. After the guests leave, there is often a mess to clean up as well, so you either have to stay up half the night cleaning up the after-mess, or wake up to it in the morning. Not fun.
Over the years, I have learned a few tips and tricks to host a stress-free holiday dinner, and I’d love to share them with you!
1. Make Lists – Preparation is absolutely necessary for a stress-free holiday dinner, and making lists is a very easy way to get yourself prepared and stay on track. I usually make a list of the different dishes I want to make, a grocery list, a list of guests, a list of the foods guests are bringing, if any, a list of things I need to do around the house to make it guest-worthy, etc. I try to get as many things done as I can in the days leading up to my dinner.
If you don’t have lists written out, often times you will forget important things, and end up wasting time and money in the end. Lists are really great because they give you a guideline to follow. You can cross things off the list as you get them done. This is also a great motivator. When you don’t have a list, you feel completely overwhelmed, and don’t see an end in sight. There is something so rewarding in crossing things off a to-do list!
2. Prepare Foods Ahead of Time – If there are foods on your menu that you can prepare ahead of time and freeze, do it! This will save you so much time later on. Things like cookies and cakes, and vegetables can be prepared ahead of time and thawed or reheated the day of your dinner.
3. Ask Your Guests to Bring Something – There is nothing wrong in asking your guests to pitch in for your holiday dinner. Most people would be glad to bring a dish to share with everyone. They are probably just thankful that they don’t have to whip up an entire meal by themselves! So, see what people would be willing to bring, and let them bring it!
4. Utilize All Your Available Kitchen Appliances – When you are cooking a large meal, often times things get hectic because you have several dishes that need to be cooked at once, and you only have one oven. Make sure you are utilizing all of your available kitchen appliances to get things done faster. A lot of dishes can be cooked in the slow cooker, toaster oven or microwave. You could free your oven up even more by deep-frying your turkey!
5. Deep-clean Your Home a Week Before Guests Arrive – There’s nothing more stressful than trying to clean your house while also preparing a large meal. You can save yourself a lot of time and energy by giving your home a deep-clean a week before your guests arrive. This is the time when you should clean those often overlooked areas (Read: The Five Places You’ve Never Thought to Clean – And Your Guests Will Notice), wash your floors, wash linens in guest rooms, clean out the refrigerator, etc.
If you get those things taken care of ahead of time, you’ll just have to do a quick clean-up of your home the day before your guests arrive. That is when you’ll put away any clutter, vacuum, sweep floors, give the bathroom a quick wipe-down, etc.
6. Load Your Dishwasher as You Dirty Dishes – Before you even start cooking, empty your dishwasher. Then, as you are done with dirty dishes, toss them in the dishwasher. This will leave your counters clean, and create less work for you to do later. If you don’t have a dishwasher, try to wash dishes by hand as you are done with them. It will only interrupt you for a minute, but it will save you plenty of time later on.
Empty your dishwasher before you sit down to eat your holiday meal also. After guests have finished eating, you will be able to toss their dirty dishes right in the dishwasher, and go spend some time with them.
7. Less is More – This is not the time to make that fancy schmancy recipe you saw in that magazine that uses 100 different ingredients and takes 3 hours to make. There is going to be so much food available to your guests, that they likely won’t even realize that you spent all that time and effort making that one dish, and you’ll end up feeling disappointed when it’s overlooked. Save those kinds of dishes for a more low-key dinner, when you can serve that as the main dish and people will really take notice of it.
Keep holiday dinners simple by making dishes with only a few ingredients, and that don’t take a long time to prepare.
8. Decorate Ahead of Time – If you plan to decorate for your holiday party, decorate ahead of time. Try to use decorations that can stay up in your home weeks prior to your party. Make or invest in a pretty fall or winter themed centerpiece for your table. Decorate the mantle above your fireplace. Add a few beautiful decorations to your coffee table and end tables. Make or purchase an inviting swag for above your dining room entryway. You don’t have to go overboard with decorations. Adding a few pieces here and there will be plenty to make your guests feel welcome.
9. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help – If you have a close friend or family member that you think would be willing to help you out, then by all means ask them to! It’s amazing how much easier cooking and cleaning gets when you add in a second pair of helping hands. If you want, give them a lovely scented candle as a thank you gift!
10. Set Your Table the Night Before Your Dinner – Setting your dinner table with plates, silverware, glassware, napkins, centerpieces, etc. the night before your dinner will save you a lot of time, and create less stress on the day of your dinner.
I hope these tips will help you to have a stress-free holiday dinner this year!
Do you have any tips for hosting a stress-free holiday dinner?
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