Secrets to Hosting A Stress-Free Holiday Meal

by Alli

I will never forget the first big holiday meal I hosted. I was twenty-something and living 950 miles away from my mom. Thankfully, she was just a phone call away. Since then, I’ve learned a few secrets when it comes to hosting a stress-free holiday meal

That long-ago holiday meal was full of surprises. It was my first time roasting a turkey and I accidentally left the giblets in one end of the turkey. Who knew they were inserted in both ends? I didn’t. Mom’s cornbread dressing turned out perfectly and the dumplings were on point. So, there’s lots more good than bad when I think back on that day. 

how to have a stress-free holiday meal

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Secrets To Hosting A Stress-Free Holiday Meal

Plan Ahead

Make a list – make lots of lists and check them twice or more. When it comes to hosting a holiday meal, it pays to plan ahead. If you wait until the last minute, the turkeys and hams are picked over in the grocery store. You may have to drive to several stores to find that can of cranberry sauce. Sadly, my family likes the canned kind the best. At least that’s one less homemade dish I have to prepare.

You will love my FREE Thanksgiving Planner! It’s so pretty and covers everything. You can print it here

Adorable Thanksgiving - Pretty Pintastic Party 11.18 - Thanksgiving Planner - Free Printable

Menu

While you’re making all the lists, plan the menu. Will you be cooking everything (I do)? If you’re hosting a potluck, make sure everyone knows what dish they are responsible for. 

My holiday menu rarely changes. Sure, I may add a different vegetable or side dish, but the main dishes stay the same. 

Cook and Clean Ahead of Time

Give the house a good cleaning a few days before you are hosting the holiday meal. Then, the day of, you can make sure the bathrooms are clean with fresh hand towels, toilet paper, etc. The kids can help tidy up the living areas and make sure their beds are made. 

Cleaning Supplies

I usually make all the desserts ahead of time. Casseroles can be prepared the day before and refrigerated until time to pop them in the oven.

For instance, I make my sweet potato casserole the day before. I don’t add the pecan topping until right before baking. I do the same with the cornbread dressing. I add more broth right before baking.

I also set the table, complete with a holiday centerpiece, the night before. It saves me so much time on the day of the big meal. I always use cloth napkins, china, etc. A holiday meal is a special occasion and my grown kids always pitch in and clean up afterward. 

Place Setting for a Christmas party

Cooking The Day of The Holiday Meal

For me, a stress-free holiday meal means a cooking timeline or a count down to dinner timeline. I keep the menu and timeline right beside the stove so I can know what time each dish needs to go in the oven.

Baking Cookies

Buffet Style Is The Way To Go When Hosting A Crowd For A Holiday Meal

I have a large family, so I usually serve holiday meals buffet style. Use the island or peninsula in your kitchen for the buffet. It’s so much easier! 

Holiday Buffet

Relax – The Real Secret to Hosting A Stress-Free Holiday Meal

Your guests can sense if you’re uptight and worried about the meal. Relax, everything will be just fine. If you’re relaxed, your guests will feel relaxed.

Remember when I accidentally left the giblets in one end of the turkey? I just jerked those babies out, disposed of them and no one was the wiser. At the time I was mortified. I can look back and laugh about it now! 

Some things will probably go wrong, but we don’t have to go wrong with them. Remember, holiday meals are all about getting together with friends and family, eating good food and making great memories. Relax, you’ve got this! 

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3 comments

Amanda Kolb November 13, 2019 - 9:15 am

I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year for the first time and I’ll definitely be using your tips! I love the Thanksgiving planner too!

Reply
Jenny November 13, 2019 - 9:23 am

I’m loving all of these ideas and I try to do as much as I can ahead of time. I love the cooking timeline because sometimes in the craziness, something can be forgotten. Super cute Thanksgiving planner!

Reply
Cherryl Ehlenburg November 13, 2019 - 11:56 am

Thank you for the tips! I remember my first several years of my marriage. I was always completely stressed out by the time the guests arrived. Over the years I have not only gotten better, but I don’t worry as much. I don’t know if my meals are stress-free, but there’s a lot less stress than there used to be!

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