Mom’s Simple Secrets for Holiday Meal Planning Success
Mom is a certified expert at everything—but especially holiday meal planning. Here are some of her best secrets for a stress-free Christmas dinner.
Are you hosting Christmas dinner this year? Fear not. Holiday meal planning doesn’t have to be stressful! We went straight to the pros—Mom and her friends—for their best no-fuss ideas to put holiday stress on the back burner. For more tips, check out our holiday handbook for hosting Christmas like a boss.
Make a list and check it twice
Make your meal plan and grocery list a month or so in advance. Then, as the holiday gets closer, check in with your list frequently to make sure you’re not forgetting anything. Need some extra help? We put together a holiday shopping list for you!
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Be a super-saver
Making lists in advance lets you scope out sales on the items you need to buy. You can get all of the nonperishable items weeks ahead of time. And, you can split up the shopping to avoid one very expensive trip to the grocery store. Shopping at Costco this year? These shopping tips will save you a ton of money.
Prep a few dishes in advance
There are holiday dishes that can be made in advance, frozen for a week or two and popped directly into the oven when it’s go-time. Think casseroles, dressing, pies, mashed potatoes, gravy, dinner rolls and even unfrosted cookies or cheesecake. Get our complete guide for how to prep, freeze and defrost your favorite holiday dishes.
Double up on the appliances
Have a second refrigerator and oven—really. My grandma has a second full kitchen in her basement, which makes it easy to prepare holiday meals for more than 25 people. Here are more cooking tips we learned from Grandma.
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Try a potluck party
You cook the main dish—a turkey, roast or ham—and ask everyone else to bring the appetizers, sides and desserts. Everyone feels like they are a part of the celebration and it’s easier on the host. Need some inspiration? Check out these holiday potluck recipes.
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Pre-wash your dishes
If you’re planning to use the fancy dishes or pulling out extras to accommodate a crowd, wash your dishes and stemware a few days in advance. It’s one less thing to worry about!
Use your slow cooker
Make use of the slow cooker to save oven space. It’s the perfect vessel for many side dishes, soups and beverages. Here’s our Test Kitchen pick for the best slow cooker for all your favorite low-and-slow recipes.
Serve a Honey Baked Ham
A Honey Baked Ham is the best $100 I spend around the holidays, and it’s much cheaper than catering an entire party. You don’t even have to cook it! Add a few sides, ask your family and friends to bring appetizers and desserts and you’re all set for a holiday meal everyone will love. Even better? All the tasty ways you can use the ham leftovers.
Label your dishes
A few days before Christmas, my mom will put scrap pieces of paper in all her serving dishes that say “salad” or “green beans” so she knows what goes where on the big day. Labels also make it easier for guests to lend a helping hand. Work it into this holiday hosting timeline and checklist.
Prepare salad dressings, vinaigrettes, sauces and dips the day before and chill overnight in the fridge. By the way, these are our favorite dip recipes.