Stress-Free Holiday Meals!


Set up your kitchen for maximum functionality

  • Create activity zones so you can complete a task without crossing the kitchen

  • The longest counter space should be for food preparation with all the tools, cutting boards, mixing bowls, etc., within arm’s reach

  • Store serving pieces all together, plates together, etc.

  • Use wall space to hang tools, paper towel holder, etc., and consider mounting a hanging pot rack or shelves – get everything you use frequently in easy reach

  • Use the inside of your cabinet or pantry doors to hang hooks, mount a dry erase board or calendar, or even a magnetic spice organizer

  • Maximize your storage space

  • Sell or give away tools, appliances and dishes you never use

  • Put those wedding presents you only use when that company comes on a high shelf or out of the kitchen entirely

  • Use drawer dividers, lazy susans, etc., to group like items and provide easy access

Do as much as possible ahead of time

  • Set the table, polish silver, and set out what serving pieces will be needed for each dish

  • Make ahead and freeze any dishes that reheat well

  • Plan your outfit the week before – make sure it fits and doesn’t need dry cleaning

Make it a team effort

  • Enlist the help of others attending – Can they make a dish? Help you clean the house? Bring great music or a pretty centerpiece?

  • Can you have a joint celebration with a neighboring family or some single friends? One turkey feeds a big crowd. (By the way, do you have to cook a full turkey? A turkey breast or spiral ham are also delicious and much easier.)

  • Get kids in on the action – they can help decorate, set the table, be your sous chefs and help clean up afterwards

  • Save time and effort using store-bought food and box mixes and dress them up a little – e.g. The Cake Mix Doctor is a great resource for delicious but easy desserts.

Focus on relationships

The people coming to your house really just want to see you, especially after the last couple years. They would rather have quality time with you than have the most perfect meal in a perfect house. As Shauna Niequist says in Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes, “As a host, you set the tone, and you set it right away. It’s so easy to get carried away with an ambitious menu, and then spend the whole night flinging things around your kitchen and being annoyed with your guests for having the audacity to try to talk with you. Terrible plan. Everyone would rather have a simpler meal and a happier host.”


Greet everyone at the door with a smile and a drink in your hand and it will immediately put them at ease. If you are enjoying the day, your guests are much more likely to enjoy it, as well. Do what you can and let go of the rest!

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