Meal Planning Tips
Planning a holiday meal at your home can be warm and wonderful, but it can also involve a lot of hard work, even if you’re not having a big crowd. Here are a few tips to keep the stress level to a minimum and keep you organized, so you can enjoy the holidays, too.
-- Plan your menu at least two weeks in advance and confirm your guest list. In planning your menu, be aware how much room you have in your oven and refrigerator. For example, a large frozen turkey can take up to five days to thaw in the fridge, and it can also take up the entire oven space while cooking. Plan for dishes that can be prepared ahead of time and reheated. Limit your menu selection to foods that you feel confident and comfortable preparing. The holidays are not the time to experiment with new recipes.
-- Set up a timeline to allow you time to shop, clean and prepare. For example, shop about 10 days ahead of time. Perishables such as fruits and vegetables can be bought five days before your event. At this time, plan your table setting. This gives you a chance to be sure you have a clean tablecloth, enough glassware, sufficient platters, etc. By doing this early, you have enough time to get the tablecloth cleaned and to fill in where necessary. Nothing is worse than finding you are three wine glasses short just as your guests are arriving.
-- Try to cook as much as you can ahead of time. Most side dishes and desserts can be prepared a day or two ahead and refrigerated. Most cakes and cookies can be made a month in advance and kept frozen. A cheese or charcuterie plate as an appetizer does not involve any cooking, and it's a great way to free you up to prepare the rest of your meal.
-- Set your table two or three days ahead of time.
-- Try to plan a menu that's easy to clean up. A buffet or a casual sit-down dinner will usually have fewer dishes because there are fewer courses.
-- Take a deep breath, and be sure to relax and enjoy your meal and your guests!