7 Holiday Meal-Planning Tips You NEED to Prepare a Feast

7 Holiday Meal-Planning Tips You NEED to Prepare a Feast

Save yourself from stressing out in the kitchen this holiday season with these easy tips.


By: Lorraine Allen

Getting ready to host for the holidays is exciting, but also daunting. From meal planning to shopping, prepping, and cooking, if you’re serving a holiday feast for a crowd, you’re taking on a lot of extra work and responsibility. But fear not: These tips can make this process more fun and way less stressful for you, and allow you more time to enjoy the best part of the holiday, the meal, and all the people you’re serving.

1. Plan your meal way ahead , even if you don’t have the entire menu exactly picked out. Just thinking of a basic game plan, beginning several weeks before, and writing it down, helps a lot.

2. Know exactly how many people are coming. Get invitations out early and follow up on the RSVPs like a hound dog. You need to know this. If you’re having 6-8 people, odds are you’ll fit around your usual family dining table. If you’re expecting 12-20 guests, or even more, you need to consider not just extra amounts of food to serve, but also the seating arrangements, whether you have enough chairs, cups, plates, serving dishes, and even warmers so things don’t get cold before mealtime. Consider putting kids at a separate small table with stools. If you need to, ask neighbors if you can borrow folding tables and chairs. You can always serve a buffet and use disposable dishes, flatware, and paper napkins, but you still need seating. No one wants to eat a holiday feast standing up, after all.

3. Guests with food allergies or dietary restrictions? Find out early on! This is crucial. If the situation is too complicated (or life-threatening) for you to take on safely or manageably, in addition to everything else, don’t feel bad. Talk to those guests about their needs and let them know which dishes you can make that will be safe for them, and which items might be much harder for you -- like desserts if someone is diabetic or has egg allergies, or bread if they are gluten free, for instance. Offer them the opportunity to bring something SAFE to share for that part of the meal, if they wish.

4. Research recipes that are well reviewed and basic (unless you’re a master chef), and try them at least a week before the holiday to make sure you like them. Many foods can be frozen once prepared (see no. 7 below), so nothing will go to waste. If it’s delicious, you can just reheat it on the holiday!

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5. Make a master grocery list early on , including every ingredient for every dish you plan to make, at least two weeks before the meal, once you know the number of guests. Some ingredients always overlap between recipes, so you can buy more bulk this way, and save money too.

6. Shop early for ingredients that will keep. There are so many ingredients you can buy well ahead: any food canned, dried, frozen or shelf-stable, including staples like pastas, herbs, spices, seasonings, oil, vinegar, coffee, tea, dried fruit, grains, flour, sugar, butter, shortening, cream, broth (for soups, stews, gravy, and sauces), frozen vegetables, piecrusts and fruit, cookies and crackers, olives, cheeses and cured meats, and even many fresh foods like onions, garlic, potatoes, root vegetables, and so on. By shopping ahead, you’ll cut down the last-minute items you’ll need, such as your meat or other protein, and you’ll be able to start prepping and even cooking and freezing dishes in advance, a little at a time, in a more manageable, stress-free, and enjoyable way.

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7. Cook, prep, and/or freeze dishes in advance. When cooking for the holidays, there is nothing more worthwhile than planning, and prepping ahead. Most dishes served during holidays, just like most dishes served in fancy restaurants, are just as delicious when either fully or partially made ahead. Soups, stews, stocks, sauces, and even baked goods like breads, muffins, cupcakes, and pies – almost anything you need to make, except soft things like whipped cream or frosting – can be kept fresh refrigerated for up to four days, or frozen up to a month. Simply reheat before serving the day of your feast. For pre-made dishes you want to crisp up, like polenta or roasted potatoes, for example, lay them flat on a roasting pan in a hot oven, or in a hot skillet on the stove. Cooking ahead will leave you with far less stress and more time to relax this holiday season. And what is more magical than that?

What are your go-to shortcuts for hosting big holiday meals?


Lorraine Allen is a writer, and mom and personal chef to one spunky 6-year-old girl with severe food allergies. You can enjoy their delicious recipes and follow their amusing family cooking adventures at Feeding Lina.

Image ©iStock.com/IS_ImageSource


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