Hosting family dinners for Thanksgiving, Christmas or even a Sunday dinner can be overwhelming and stressful- but it doesn’t have to be. Sitting around the table, sharing stories over wholesome tasty food is part of our heritage that should never be lost. Host a holiday dinner with less stress and more joy with our meal planning secrets.
I started hosting family dinners when we first moved out together. We couldn’t wait to make a large family meal from scratch like our mothers always had. I had learned a few tips and tricks from her, but somehow it was still completely overwhelming.
The worst part, is something always went wrong and I was to stressed to even enjoy the food. It’s been a good 10 years now of hosting holiday family dinners and some Sunday family dinners that I’ve learned a few things, to make it more enjoyable- even with babies and kids!
It wasn’t until I hosted a Thanksgiving Lunch, as the Home Economics Teacher, for our whole middle school that I realized I had a few secrets up my sleeve that needed to be shared! Here are a few of my secrets that need to be shared!
HOST A HOLIDAY DINNER – SIMPLISTIC MENU
Keep it simple by following a basic holiday dinner menu. The more fancy and new recipes you try at the same time but end up in total disaster. Stick with a few things you’ve done before or experiment before hand.
A simple holiday dinner only needs to really consist of the following.
A Main: Roast Beef, Pork Roast, Ham, Turkey, Duck, Leg of Lamb or Roast Chicken
Apple Cider Roast Pork Shoulder
Sides: Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Vegetables, Salad, Peas, Buns, Stuffing
Dessert: Pie, Trifle or Crumble
Decide the date send invites well in advance.
Decide on your meal plan, the amount of servings you’ll need and print your recipes ahead of time.
Write your grocery list- Make sure to bring it to the store and shop a few days early in the morning for less of a hustle. After standing 45 minutes in line with a toddler on a Friday afternoon before Thanksgiving- I learned this!
Write everything else down too, what decorations and table setting you want, a simple white mason jar as a centrepiece, how many cups, and plates you’ll need. Decide on simple entertainment, maybe you want to do a family game, or watch a festive holiday movie together.
Review your list, and be honest with yourself, are you keeping it simple? Go ahead and scratch three things off your list. Or change those fancy new dishes you want to paper plates for less dishes. No one really cares!
DELEGATE AND ASK FOR HELP
When help is offered, wether to bring a plate or to help with dishes- then say YES!
I’ve found it’s much easier to receive help when you’re prepared ahead of time with what jobs you might delegate. For example, you might ask someone to bring fresh buns, wine, or come early to play with the kids or to set the table and wash dishes.
Don’t forget to double check the day before, and to ask family during the event to help you.
This also goes hand it hand with learning to ask people to NOT help! For example, I had to learn to politely tell family members that hanging out in the kitchen while you cook is not helpful.
Put the men in charge of the main dish- sorry not sorry, for some reason My husband and my father always do better if they are participating!
PREPARE HOLIDAY DINNER AHEAD OF TIME
The more you plan ahead, the more you can prepare ahead including your food. It’s much easier to stay stress free and enjoy your company when you’re not in the kitchen all day.
Up to a Month Before
Prepare Pie Crusts and Freeze
If making a pumpkin pie make puree ahead of time and freeze, or can your own apple pie filling and apple butter for a simple throw the pie together desert.
Peel and chop all the vegetables including carrots, celery, potatoes, beets, yams and put them in remeasured bags in the fridge for the recipes you’ll be using,
Start defrosting the main meat
Clean up the kitchen and empty the dishwasher to make sure you’re ready go for easier prep the day of and clean up.
Have a simple breakfast and lunch that doesn’t require making a mess in the kitchen like pre made muffins or soup. Or skip lunch and save room for the big feast!
Starting to make food ahead of time makes a big difference in preparing the meal. You don’t want to be worrying about 6 different recipes and timing at the same time or you’ll simply go crazy and you won’t have fun.
Use an Insta Pot to make your Mashed Potatoes– huge time saver!
Or make mashed potatoes ahead of time and freeze
If you’ve forgot to defrost your turkey, learn to how cook a frozen turkey here!
From your leftovers, make broth, a pot pie and a Shepards pie. Having a plan ahead of time for your leftovers makes saving leftovers and clean up a breeze.
Meat and Vegetables
Throw the left over meat, drippings, bones and vegetables into the insta pot or crockpot. Fill with water and some basic seasonings like salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme then turn on the soup setting.
At the end of the night, or the next morning depending on if you’ve used an instant pot or crock pot, separate the broth from the bones and vegetables using a colander.
Freeze the broth in 2 cup measures to use in later recipes
Shred and mash the vegetables and meat, separating all the bones. Using the left over pie crust from above, make a pot pie for the freezer or dinner the next night.
Mix the leftover gravy with the meat and vegetables from the instant pot and fill a lasagne pan. Spread the leftover mashed potatoes over the top. If there are leftover sweet potatoes mix with the mashed potatoes first and then spread over the meat and vegetables. Sprinkle with parmesan or mixed cheese.
Wrap in serán wrap and tinfoil and freeze. Defrost and bake at 350 for an hour.
BIG SECRET FOR HOSTING A HOLIDAY DINNER
The best way to ensure a stress free holiday meal is to just relax. The worst advice I feel I always get when I’m stressed 😉 Hopefully my secrets will help you feel better prepared to ease your anxiety and help you …relax!
Be prepared to let go of your expectations. It takes years to master a holiday meal! That’s why your mother or grandmother was so good at it! The presentation does not need to be pinterest worthy. If you need to have a glass of wine or take a quick nap before the guests arrive.
Remember that the holidays are about spending time together and enjoying each others company.
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