Get started on menu and guest list preparations with this easy guide
By Arianne Cohen Posted October 21, 2010 from Woman’s Day; November 1, 2010
If holiday hosting has fallen on your shoulders this year—hey, we can’t all have a gorgeous dining room or Top Chef-worthy cooking skills—it’s time to start preparing for the gaggle of hungry guests. Word of advice? Break. It. Down. Below, see an outline of helpful planning tips—like streamlining your food spread and figuring out which groceries to pre-purchase—for pulling a beautiful party together without breaking a sweat.
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Week 2: People & Food
Plan the Menu
Decide what you want to serve at all holiday meals or parties that you’ll be hosting, including Thanksgiving and Christmas meals:
• Appetizers and hors d’oeuvres
• Side dishes
• Breads and biscuits
• Main courses
• Drinks (alcoholic and non-)
Then list all the baked goods you want to make in the next eight weeks: cookies, bars and desserts.
Less is more—one good dish in each category is often plenty. And you can serve some of the same items at both holiday meals. Most pies, rolls and pastas, for instance, freeze and reheat well. “You want to do as little last-minute cooking as possible,” says Diane Rossen Worthington, author of Seriously Simple Holidays. So opt for dishes that can be made and frozen ahead of time, like casseroles, or dishes that can be made a few days before the meal and refrigerated, like cranberry sauce. Include ingredients you can buy premade, like pestos, compotes and salsas, whenever you can. Finally, list your dishes in the order in which they must be cooked: Far Ahead, 3 Days Before Holiday and Day of Holiday.
Plan Serving Pieces
Great food is useless if you have nothing to serve it in. Map out how you’ll serve (buffet or sit-down?) and which platter you’ll be serving each dish on. If you need to buy or borrow, arrange it.
Make Food Shopping Lists
Convert your menu into four shopping lists: a Far-Ahead Shopping List, a 3-Days-Before-Thanksgiving List, a Christmas Pre-Party list if you’re hosting a party, and a December 22nd List. Try using ZipList.com, which lets you keep an online shopping list linked with your phone and your family’s phones. ZipList understands abbreviations (“2 lg turkeys”), and also lets you search recipes and add ingredients to your list.
Invite Your Guests
Now’s the time to let people know if you’re having them over. “The further ahead you invite people, the more opportunity they have to attend,” says Pamela Eyring, president and director of the Protocol School of Washington.