Thanksgiving is almost here and you might be in sheer panic that you haven’t done a thing yet! For some of you, this could be your first holiday dinner. Perhaps you volunteered or maybe you got selected. Either way, it’s time to get ready NOW.
If you follow this simple checklist you still have time to prepare and “shine” as the perfect host or hostess. Planning is essential for hassle-free entertaining.
- Plan the menu. Review your inventory to see what you already have. Make a detailed grocery list. Check the liquor cabinet and be sure it’s stocked with the basic favorites. Consider pairing red or white wine with your various courses.
- Prepare the table. Setting the table the night before is a huge timesaver and can reduce some of the pressure of doing everything on the same day. Select the plates, tablecloth, napkins, platters, and serving utensils you will need. Have a seating plan in mind and have an accurate count of chairs to accommodate your guests. Have extra folding chairs on hand and be ready for that “surprise” visitor. Just in case.
- Organize the platters. To ensure that you have enough service for both the dinner and the appetizers, use post-its or sticky notes to keep you organized and pre-label the platters for the nosh, main entrée, and for each side dish. Match the appropriate utensils for each one. This simple step can make it easier for eager helpers to lend a hand when food needs to be transferred from the oven and plated. They can simply follow your plan. It’s a seamless system.
- Schedule the Prep. Deconstruct the big picture and prep as much as you can the day before or morning of the dinner. Chop and slice as many ingredients you can in advance to alleviate the overwhelm. Prepare ice and continue to bag and freeze.
- Eliminate the last-minute. I find that the most chaotic time of hosting is that 15 minute window right before the guests arrive. Light the candles. Turn on the music. Prepare the bar accompaniments (shakers, wine openers, stirrers, etc). Pre-slice lemons and limes. Fill the ice bucket. Chill the wine. Have extra bowls and platters handy for guest gifts. Anticipate. Be mindful that when the doorbell’s ringing, and your guests are flooding in, they’re likely to arrive with armfuls of delectable treats, pies, bottles of wine, flowers, and maybe even a hostess gift to open. Trust me, at that hour you don’t want to be running around searching for the perfect sized cake plate, platter, nut bowl, or vase.
- Keep notes. Check off each task as it is completed and keep this as your automated checklist from now on. Create a “holiday” folder and jot down this year’s menu. Weigh in on what worked well, what was a huge hit, or not so much. Write it all down. Modify for next year. Eliminate having to remember it all for the next time you entertain.
- Clear Spaces. Having company over is a great motivator to straighten up your home. It’s a great incentive to clean up some cluttered spaces that you would have otherwise avoided. Remember to clear some additional space in the hall closet to accommodate your guest’s coats and jackets.
At the end of the day, of course you hope that all the food tasted great, but recognize that’s not why they came. Family and friends sharing good times together is far more memorable than any culinary faux pas.
Hosting a holiday can be hectic and sometimes stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. You should enjoy it all too and be as happy as your guests! It’s likely that a “happy” host/hostess is probably a prepared and organized one. So are you getting ready?