For some of us the thought of hosting a large family dinner is a daunting ordeal. However, with a bit of thoughtful planning we think you can turn this harried affair into a calm and enjoyable experience.
First you need to decide how many people you are hosting, will it be a formal sit down meal or buffet, adults only or kids too? All of these factors will determine the menu and how you serve the meal. All critical to determine as soon as possible so you can start planning the event. For example, if it is going to be buffet you won’t need to set a formal table plus you might choose to do turkey sandwiches instead of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy – it is much easier for people to manage a sandwich on their lap than a turkey dinner with all the fixings. Plus sandwiches are more family friendly – everyone can make their sandwich to their own liking, even picky kids!
Send out your invite at least three weeks prior to the date and ask your guests to RSVP at least one week before the date. This will give you plenty of time to finalize seating and food quantities. Next you need to plan the meal. Do this as soon as possible in case your guests offer to bring something. We suggest you decide what they can bring so you can control what needs to be warmed up or kept cold. Most of us have limited oven and fridge space so meal planning is critical. A large turkey is all most ovens can hold at one time! Our recommendation would be to have your guests bring a salad or dessert. Most salads can be left out on the counter for a short period of time so you won’t need to worry about trying to fit something else into your fridge or oven at the last minute. If the dessert needs to be warmed up it can go in the oven after you get the main course out. Plus if the guest needs to do any finishing touches on the dessert it can be done while you are clearing away the main course.
Next make a schedule. Seriously!!! Trust us this is the key to enjoying the day and ensuring you get to enjoy dinner with your guests. For help click on this link to access Martha Stewart’s planner. Planner
Two Weeks Prior:
- Plan the meal – stick with your tried and true recipes. This is not the time to try out a new recipe – it will only add to the stress. When choosing the recipes you want to use pay attention to the oven temperatures and times. If everything you choose needs to be cooked at different temperatures you might have a problem! We highly recommend that you have some items that can be cooked ahead and reheated.
- If you are planning to have a fresh turkey place your order with your butcher.
- Make sure you have all the necessary cooking and serving utensils. Nothing worse than going to put your turkey in the oven and realizing that you don’t have a roasting pan big enough!
One Week Prior:
- Take your table linens to the dry cleaners to have them cleaned and pressed.
- Order your floral arrangement.
- Polish your silver.
- Pick up beer and wine. If you are short on fridge space, use a cooler for beverages.
Three Days Prior:
- Pick up the groceries. You may want to wait to get the fresh fruit and vegetables you need until the day before.
Two Days Prior:
- Prepare make ahead food. Mashed potatoes can be cooked the day before and reheated very easily. If you are making pies you can at least make your dough ahead of time and freeze it or better yet roll it out and place it in the pie plate and then freeze. Cranberry sauce can also be prepared in advance.
- Pick up linens from dry cleaner.
- Set your table.
- Pick up your floral arrangement.
- Finish making food that can be made ahead of time.
- Prepare a schedule for tomorrow! Determine when each item needs to be made and cooked. Make sure to schedule time for you to get ready!
The Day of:
- Follow your schedule that you made the day before!
- Remember to pick up ice for the beverage cooler if you are using one and chill the beverages.
- Run your dishwasher and empty it before everyone arrives. This way you are ready to load as soon as the meal is done.
While the turkey is cooking sit down and enjoy a glass of wine before your guests arrive! Now hopefully you appreciate the work of planning ahead.