A couple of years ago, when my parents moved across the country, I was left alone to make a holiday meal on my own for the very first time. Not being a very good cook and having no idea where to start I muddled my way through. Five years later and many holiday meals under my belt, I think I now have a pretty good system down that allows me to spend plenty of time with my guests and still serve a terrific meal.
A week or two prior to any holiday meal I’m hosting I sit down to do a little advance preparation. This makes all the difference to pulling off a successful event. I start with the recipe selection. I pay particular attention to recipes that can be made ahead of time. To cut down on last minute prep I also make use of my two slow cookers….one for Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes and one for Slow Cooked Sausage Stuffing (I don’t cook my stuffing in the turkey due to my son’s gluten allergy). In addition I almost always look for a dessert recipe that can be made well in advance and frozen leaving me with one less thing to do at the last minute. I’ll share my full holiday menu with you on Monday.
Once I have my recipes selected for the holiday meal I then sit down with my planner and schedule the advance prep tasks in where I’m able to. I don’t want to get stuck staying up to 2:00 in the morning the night before trying to get everything done. Dividing the tasks up into manageable portions so I’m not doing too much on any one day makes it a much more enjoyable and stress free process for me. Remember scheduling is key!
In anticipation of these additional holiday tasks I have throughout the week, I make a point of keeping the recipes for my regular weekly menu as simple as possible. Soup and sandwiches, breakfast for dinner, and quesadillas are all super easy ideas that aren’t time consuming. Be sure to check out my post for Easy Pre-Holiday Meals. I also highly recommend scheduling in a leftover night the day before a big holiday meal. You want to make sure you have your fridge cleaned out in preparation for all the new yummy leftovers you’ll need space for.
The holiday meal planner that I use makes my holiday meal prep process super easy. Feel free to print it off and use it as well if you’d like. You’ll see there is a space next to each day of the week to record tasks for advance prep work as well as a spot to tick them off as you get them done. That way when it gets to the big day there won’t be much left for you to do except sit and visit with your family and guests! Ahh now doesn’t that sound nice!! :)