6 Helpful Tips for Managing Your Holiday Dinner

The holiday season is finally upon us. Between gift shopping, decorating and cooking, these next few months may seem more like work rather than a celebration of joyful times. If you are like most people, the mental to-do list that has plagued your mind seems to grow longer as the minutes go by. Maybe this is your first holiday away from your loved ones and you are wondering how to make it special for your family. Maybe your in-laws are coming into town and you would like to make their visit as stress-free as possible. While I can’t help you with the above scenarios, I can help you make sure that the culinary part of your celebration runs smoothly.
1. Declutter and Prepare Your Fridge and Freezer
This should start within the first week of November or December. Go through each of these appliances and toss out the following: any item that has expired (in your refrigerator), any item that you have had for more than a year (in your freezer) or any item showing signs of freezer burn. The idea is to make room in your freezer and fridge for the upcoming holiday meals.
2. Menu Plan
This activity should also start within the first week of November or December. After decluttering your fridge and freezer, make a list of all the items that are left. Prepare a menu based on the items that made the cut. Planning your menu early allows you ample time to make adjustments if needed, especially if you have family coming into town. I recommend having a daily plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the entire holiday week.
Make-ahead recipes such as this Creamy Cheesecake or this Beef Barley Soup
can be stored in the freezer and serve as a wonderful time saver.
3. Strategize and Plan How You Will Cook Each Dish for Your Holiday Meal
This should start two weeks before your holiday meal. Take each item on your holiday meal plan and make sure you know how to make each dish. Make sure you have the proper equipment to carry out production (for instance casserole dishes, loaf pans and serving bowls). Some recipes can be made in the slow cooker, while others can be cooked on the stove, in a convection oven or in a standard oven. Look over each recipe and make sure to check the times and temperatures of each recipe. Make a list or draw a chart if it helps.
4. Do Your Grocery Shopping Early
This step should be completed two weeks before your holiday meal. Based on your menu plan, start shopping for items early. Make a list of the ingredients you will need to buy. Non-perishable ingredients such as canned goods, stuffing and evaporated milk can be purchased a few weeks ahead of time. Remember to also check your local commissary for seasonal sale prices.
5. Prep Your Veggies and Meats Ahead of Time
This step should be completed at least two days before your holiday meal. If you have any vegetables in your recipes that need to be chopped or sliced, you can do this a few days before you plan to use them. You can also brown ground beef and boil/shred chicken beforehand as well.
6. Strategize and Plan Your Seating Arrangements

If your Aunt Irene does not get along with your Uncle Bob, make sure you sketch out where they will be able to sit during dinner. Make sure you have enough seating for both children and adults. If you prefer that the children eat at a separate table, make sure you have the space for two tables.
All of us here at Operation in Touch want to wish all of our readers a safe and joyous holiday season. Following these simple tips will ensure that your holiday dinner will be a stress-free occasion that everyone will enjoy!
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