We all know holiday planning can be stressful and this year, things will be very different. Whether or not you are hosting a large family or not, putting together a holiday dinner or party is not an easy task. To avoid wanting to pull your hair out and having sudden breakdowns, use the tips below to have a more calming and exciting holiday line-up. After all, holidays are a time to enjoy spending time with your loved ones and not one to be stressed about.

Here are some tips to set things up on the right track starting with planning.

1.Decide how you want to set the tone:

  • Things to consider:
    • Do you want it to be casual/laid back or formal/fancy?
    • Sit down, buffet, cocktail-style, family-style or pot-luck style?
    • Will alcohol be included or not? 
    • Will it be kid-friendly or adults only? Or a combination?
    • Time of Day: Will it be a day-brunch/afternoon feast/dinner?

2. Once you decide on the above, you can begin planning the types of food you want to serve. 

Curried Pumpkin Sweet Potato Soup

3.Next would be the time to figure out how many people will be there. Once you know this, you can calculate a budget and narrow down the specific menu items. Ex: serving stuffed chicken or pasta would be much less per person than serving a prime rib roast.

  • Here are some recipes that you can include in your menu:

Mixed Herb Pesto and Salmon Pasta Salad

Easy Roasted Moroccan Rack of Lamb with Honey-Olive Oil Feta

Curried Pumpkin Sweet Potato Soup

    • Iced Oatmeal Cookies: a vegan and gluten-free dessert to have because dessert is a must especially for the holidays!

Iced Oatmeal Cookies | Vegan + Gluten Free

4. Once you have your menu planned out, you can map it out and figure out a plan for yourself. No one likes to be running around last minute feeling like you are just hoping everything comes together, I’ve been there. Decide what menu items could be made ahead of time (many times I will prep things pumpkin the day or two before-things like chopping up vegetables or potatoes to be roasted, making dressings, marinades or spice rubs, mincing garlic or onions, etc. these little jobs can save A LOT of time come the big day.

This is also a good time to figure out how long everything will take to cook. Evaluate if there are multiple dishes that need to be in the oven at different temperatures: this way you can time the cooking so everything is ready at the same time. For example: if I know I have a roast in the oven, but I also have potatoes that need to be roasted at a different temperature, I will often par-bake the potatoes the day before so that when the roast is done I can put the potatoes in the oven to finish off in less time. 

5. Check Resources: Make sure you have enough dinnerware, silverware, serving dishes, pans, and any kitchen utensils you may need. This way, if you have anything you need to replace or purchase, you can have plenty of time to do so. Also, if you are having a large group, check to see how you plan to seat everyone. Perhaps ask friends or family who is coming to bring folding chairs/tables if you don’t have enough. 

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: People love to contribute! If you plan to feed everyone a full dinner menu, perhaps ask for a couple of people to bring appetizers or salads. If you decide instead to do a pot-luck—make sure that everyone decides ahead of time what they are bringing so that you don’t end up with 3 roasted broccoli and no protein. 

7. Set reminders:  Now that you have the day planned out, create deadlines, set reminders (I am a big fan of bulleted lists and phone alarms). Make a shopping list, and watch for sales! I will often buy things I can freeze or store for a couple of weeks if items I see are on sale. 

8. Reserve a little flexibility: Have back up plans. I have run into situations where I had an entire seafood dinner planned and I wasn’t able to get the seafood I needed. Perhaps the squash dish you want to make has ingredients that are out of stock etc. have a few backup plans! Prep the ingredients as planned and finally enjoy the big day!

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