Holiday Meal Planning: Six Tips

Posted On: November 6, 2013

The holidays are a great time to reconnect with friends, family, even memories from holiday meals from the past. It’s a wonderful opportunity to recreate grandma’s stuffing or to pass down a closely guarded recipe to your loved ones. Gathering over a meal made with love and warmth can leave a lasting effect on a person; let’s just make sure we don’t leave a seat at the table for poor planning and stress! Here are some six simple, achievable steps to help you truly enjoy your holiday meal celebrations:

1. Know your guests

Keep track of how many people plan to attend so you can set your budget–and plan your place settings. To help you plan the menu, ask guests to let you know it they have food allergies or if they follow a special diet.

2. Stick to what you know

Food is the centerpiece of most holiday events. Whether you’re making three dishes or 10, stick to tried and true dishes. You’ll feel more confident and relaxed about the meal when you include recipes that work every time or signature dishes everyone loves. If you’re tempted to serve new recipes, test and taste them ahead of time before adding them to the menu. Complicated or exotic recipes often require more attention than you may be able to give on the day of the celebration.

3. Plan

Last minute shopping can be hazardous to your menu, your budget, and your stress level. During the holidays, markets run out of popular seasonal food items sooner than you think. You can safely buy many items early, taking advantage of the best selection. Here’s a general schedule for your shopping.

2-3 weeks before the holiday

• Order turkey, ham, seafood, or special cuts of meat like rib roasts.  Beetnik has lots of great choices.

• Order hard-to-find ingredients like exotic spices or specialty cookware and tools you can’t find at local stores.

• Check your cooking equipment and serving dishes and make sure that you have the right tools for each task.  Sharpen those knives.

2 weeks before the holiday

• Buy nonperishable items including canned goods, rice, chicken stock, cinnamon sticks, packaged stuffing, breadcrumbs, cornmeal, dried pasta, tomato paste, crackers, capers, liquor, soft drinks and baking ingredients.

• Buy frozen items like cranberries, vegetables and puff pastry dough.

1 week before the holiday

• Buy perishable items including eggs, heavy cream, butter, milk, cheese, and bacon.

• Buy hardier vegetables like onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, yams and hard squash.

• Check your pantry and make sure to restock basics like salt, pepper, olive oil and baking supplies.

1-2 days before the holiday

• Buy salad greens, fresh herbs, fruits, vegetables, bread and deli items.

4. Use what’s in season

Whenever possible, use ingredients that are in season. These items should be easy to find and in good supply at local markets. Seasonal fruits, vegetables, and herbs, will be at peak flavor, making each dish taste even better.

5. Save the best for last

Don’t dismiss dessert. It’s the last dish your guests will taste so make it memorable.  Pumpkin Cheesecake anyone?

6. Prepare ahead

Make freezer-friendly recipes like soups, stock, pie dough, bread dough, and cookies in advance. Be sure to allow adequate defrosting time in your cooking schedule. You can also assemble and refrigerate dishes like vegetable casseroles a day ahead and cook them the day of the party. Prepping ingredients in advance also saves time. Chop vegetables, wash and dry herbs and salad greens, and make fresh breadcrumbs the day before and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook.

Relax and give thanks! Peace.


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