15 Ways to Prepare a Stress Free Holiday Meal

Written by Mary Lutz

L1130812.JPGCreative Commons License photo credit: davitydave

This Thanksgiving was the most relaxing as far as the meal preparation goes that I’ve ever experienced, so I wanted to share the steps I took, so your next Holiday meal can be stress free as well.

1. Plan ahead. Kind of obvious I know, but it’s probably the most important. I started with an Excel spreadsheet and figured out what we were having and who was bringing what. I printed out copies for those involved in bringing other items.

2. Print out or find the recipes you are going to need to make your favorite traditional or newfound not-so- traditional dishes.

3. Shop for sales in your grocer’s weekly ads. I started shopping for my Thanksgiving Feast about 3 weeks ahead of time, as items I needed went on sale. Saved a TON of money!

4. Purchase extra take-home containers or storage containers for your guests and for your leftovers. You will appreciate this suggestion at clean up time!

5. Speaking of leftovers, make room in your fridge ahead of time by cleaning out old items or using up any other leftovers you have now.

6. Get your house ready ahead of time by cleaning a little each day, about 10 or 11 days out. I made a complete cleaning schedule here for some guidelines that I followed this year.

7. If you have time, start preparing what you can the night before; refrigerate or cover till it’s ready for warming or serving. I didn’t have time the night before Thanksgiving, but we were not having dinner until 6, so I started the morning of. I made the pie, side dishes and peeled the potatoes, and put them in the fridge. Then I got the turkeys (yes I made 2) ready and popped them in the oven. Then I arranged the tables and set them, and did a little Holiday decorating. Then I took a 2 hour break!

8. If you’re doing a mountain of mashed potatoes like I did, you probably need to start cooking them about an hour before the turkeys are done.

9. If you have space in your oven with the turkey, you can start warming up your already prepared side dishes about ½ an hour to an hour ahead of time, depending on how many you have and how much space you have.

10. Use throw away table clothes and plates. I found decorative ones on sale and it made a huge difference during clean up!

11. Use candles for centerpieces. They are relaxing by nature and not as expensive as flowers.

12. When the guests start to arrive, assign them specific tasks, so they feel useful and they’re not lingering around the kitchen, stopping your production, especially during the last few minutes.

13. If you have young children coming, assign a specific play area, at least until after dinner. This is especially good if your house is smaller or if you are going to have a lot of guests. Since we moved the table out of the small dining room into the larger kitchen area, we used the now almost empty room for toys and tots.

14. When the meal is complete and it’s time to clean up, get out those extra storage containers you bought ahead of time. Start filling them up and doling them out! Try to only keep the leftovers you know your family will eat over the next couple of days.

15. If you have to, leave the dishes till the next day, and relax and enjoy the time with your family and friends! We had 3 dishwasher loads and one is still in the sink! Game time was much more important…lol.

I hope you will be able to use some of these suggestions to help you have a nice, relaxing Holiday meal now and in the future!

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