Preparing a large holiday
meal can be overwhelming and taxing! The key to a smooth running and relaxing
time is to have a plan of action. Yes, a list. A list is the key to making sure
all of the cleaning, shopping, prep work, cooking, etc. is done is such a way
that you donít have to back track, re-do, forget or visit the grocery more times
than necessary. In other words, how can I go to my own meal and not be frazzled
The first thing I do is
create a series of lists that encompass the entire meal. They include when I
plan on cleaning, the guest list, the menu, the ingredients I need and a time
line for the entire week before and the day of the meal.
The following is a basic
guideline to organizing the meal for Thanksgiving, whether you are cooking for a
few or a large gathering. Remember, it is never too early to create your
list(s). This ensures that all is ready and available without any last minute
- Create the menu:
include information about the service ware needed (i.e. Turkey- platter and
serving fork, gravy- gravy boat and ladle/pitcher, etc.), who is bringing
what part of the meal and what table ware is needed to eat and drink the
foods and beverages. Donít forget the butter and salt and pepper
- If you are sharing the
cooking responsibilities with others, assign their dishes as early as
possible. Make sure it is known whether they need to bring serving utensils
along with them (no last minute searching for service ware or platters)
- Review all recipes (can
be done this week) and create a detailed shopping list, including any
plates, cups, decorations, etc. and when they need to be purchased.
- Shop early for the
items that you can prepare ahead of time and then prepare them (i.e. cube
bread for stuffing and freeze, make pies or at least the dough and freeze,
cookie dough can be made ahead of time and frozen, etc.)
- Due to stores being
more crowded during the holidays, arrange time for shopping a couple of days
ahead of time. Then the few last minute items you may need to pick up will
only take a few minutes. I really work hard at avoiding stores close to the
holidays- such a time sink.
- Make a couple of meals
in advance, label and freeze. Thaw in the Ďfrig, heat and serve for a quick
meal during the busiest preparation times before the holiday. I keep a
container of homemade soup, lasagna, pulled chicken and cooked ground beef
in the freezer for times such as these.
- Tables, chairs, plates,
cups, etc. can be set up days before the event. I like to keep the day of
the feast focused strictly on cooking, cleaning up behind me as I go and
taking time to change and refresh myself before my guests arrive.
- Plan on finishing the
cooking Ĺ hour before the meal is to be served. I use this buffer in my
mind to allow me the extra time I may need for the last minute details to be
ironed out, such as finishing the gravy, welcoming family and friends, etc.
- Delegate, delegate,
delegate. Kids as young as 6 can peel potatoes and load the dishwasher. It
has been proven that children that help in the kitchen eat a wider variety
of foods. So, it is a win, win situation. There is extra help in the
kitchen, they arenít running under foot and they may be willing to try
- Keep a sink full of
clean sudsy water available at all times. It makes it easier to wash hands
and guests are more apt to pitch in and clean dishes.