Top 10 Tips for Holiday Meal Planning
Bring on the #Christmas Cheer and Ease of Cooking!
HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL BE ATTENDING?
This step requires invites and people to R.S.V.P so you know how many people will be attending. I suggest sending invites out in November so you can plan and prepare all of December. Handmade invites are always beautiful, but so is a phone call, or Evite email. Once you know how many people are attending, you can plan your meals and design accordingly.
I love making meals that people love to eat. Both because of the delicious factor, but also the nutrition factor and how it feels in the their body after they eat it. The food I choose to make, however, is generally not the typical holiday dishes. I bring my whole and healthy feel to everything I serve. This is important if I am hosting dinner, or if I am attending as a guest. I try to include every one and their preferences into the meals I make, while aiming to keep it as simple as possible. I have many recipes on my website you can search for, and Pintrest has copious amount of good meal ideas too! Start with your favorite ingredients or recipes and go from there.
The first step in being organized with the meals you want to make, is first to decide what you want to make.
I have 8 people attending Christmas Dinner this year. In knowing that, I have decided to make: Mashed potatoes, homemade bread rolls, mashed carrots, garlic green beans, large salad, veggie lasagna (1), organic meat based lasagna (1), homemade apple pie, vanilla ice cream, fresh fruit. For appetizers, I will have cheese, crackers, homemade hummus, nuts, and spanakopeta’s (cheese and spinach pastrty’s).
When you are thinking about what recipes you want to follow/make, think in terms of color! You want the plate to be filled with color and enticing to the eyes as well as the palate.
MAKE LISTS & STICK TO THEM
When you decide on the recipes you want to have as part of your Christmas Dinner, make sure to write it down!! I have a notebook that I like to keep my recipes and shopping list in. I also love these stickies that help me stay organized.
I make sure to have a shopping list ready for when it is time to go shopping. I include everything on that list that I need for dinner, appetizers & dessert. I also ensure that I stick to my list when I get to the store.
I write a shopping list like this: left column for odds and ends, and a right column for produce. This helps to ensure I do not miss anything on the list.
I go shopping as close to the day we set for the meal as possible. I generally make 2 trips to the store. The first trip is the ingredients I need for the meals I will make ahead of time (so in this case the lasagnas), the second list is for the last minute fresh vegetables, fruit or bread that is needed.
PREPARE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN BEFORE HAND
Days Before Dinner:
It really helps to make food in stages. I mentioned what I am making for Christmas dinner above. I will be preparing my lasagna’s 4 days before Christmas and stick them in the freezer (once they cool completely). In the morning of Christmas Dinner I will take them out of the freezer to de-thaw, and then cook.
I often prepare my sauces, dressings(salad) and dips(hummus) at this point. I love storing them in mason jars with lids for easy pouring the next day.
I also like to prepare my dessert. Whether that be cookies or pie, I like to make them before hand and store in freezer. They come out delicious and fresh just the same as if they were made the same day!
So this year I will make my apple pie filling and dough. I will put dough in fridge to roll out next day and put apple filling in a container in fridge.
I will prepare the night before by washing, peeling and dicing my carrots and green beans. I will wash my salad greens and dry them thoroughly before storing away.
I will also chop up my cheese, and wash all my cucumber, carrots, peppers and have them all together ready to be diced up quickly tomorrow. I also get out my crackers and keep them on the counter on their chosen serving tray.
Lastly, I set out ALL my ingredients to be ready to put together for the next day. For example, I will have a big salad bowl with a bag of cranberries and walnuts in it ready for me to use the next day. I also have all the ingredients I need to make my bread out and ready for me. I will also take out any spices I will be using and all the bowls and trays I will need to serve the meals. This helps tremendously in being organized and not have your head spinning the day of dinner.
Day of Dinner:
This stage takes practice with timing. I generally start to take out my non-perishable appetizers and put them on nice tray’s/bowls 20 minutes before people are to show up. And as soon as first person shows up I throw the spanakopeda’s in my oven to have them ready for guests. This happens just before I put on the lasagna’s. (of course, if your making turkey, that takes longer and will have to keep in mind that your oven is used up most of the day so having an oven appetizer might not be the best route for you)
I then start with what will take the longest and then work through the rest of the food. For example, I pop in my lasagnas and while they are cooking, I will boil my water for carrots and potatoes (I peel potatoes day of as they turn brown when exposed to air), prepare garlic oil for beans, take out salad, prepare my rolls, assemble my pie. I always leave grains and soft veg for the day of, so that they remain fresh.
Focus on one thing at a time, and take it one step at a time with this step.
PICK THE RIGHT TUPPERWARE
Choosing the right Tupperware makes all the difference. I label each container with what will be going in it, and then keep the label on top until Christmas Day when its time to take out the pre-made food and finalize the meal. Having things organized in glass containers (and mason jars for sauces etc) makes things easier to find, and also preserved correctly for later use. Making meals 3-4 days in advance is a must, especially if having over 10 people over for dinner. Since you are preparing ahead of time, the proper Tupperware to store everything is an important component of the planning process.
PUT YOUR DAYS FOR PREP ON THE CALANDER
This is how you make it happen, by scheduling it! Write the day(s) for shopping on the calendar and the day(s) for food prep on the calendar. When you do not schedule time specifically for this, its far too easy to forget, feel rushed, slot in other plans, and be caught off guard when it comes to making your meals. You want to be calm, centered, organized, focused and prepared. This means you have to follow a system that works. Scheduling your days for shopping, meal prepping and cooking into your calendar ensures your success in making an epic meal. Remember, you want to have a healthy, happy and stress-free time cooking, cleaning, and prepping. This style of organization I am suggesting may be different for you, but its worth it if you want that quality time with family as well as ease and joy in the kitchen.
WHAT SERVING WARE / DECOR DO YOU WANT
An important part of the meal is what you will serve the food in, what the table will look like, and what will be on that table. You can use the servingware you currently have, or I personally love browsing Pintrest for inspiration of do-it-yourself servingware and decor.
I suggest looking to what you already have, and building upon it. Unless of course, you want to go with a specific theme.
KEEP IT SIMPLE SWEETHEART (k.i.s.s)
This does not have to be some extravagant meal (unless you want it to be). All it needs to be is nutritious, delicious and an enjoyable time with family around a Christmas meal.
Thinking ahead of time of some table topics can be fun and entertaining. Or think of what music to play in the back ground (if any). I often like to have a little gift for each person ready for them on their plate when they sit down. I also like to put a sticker on the back of some ones plate, and the person with that sticker has to either 1) say what they are grateful for, 2) tell a funny memory or 3) get a prize. This adds to the fun of the party for everyone. All these small, simple details, add to the vibe and atmosphere of your holiday meal.
When you aim to keep it simple, its far less easy to get stressed or carried away with mega plans. Whether its in our meals, or in our decor, keep it simple. Its the coming together as family and sharing in experiences that really matter.
DO YOUR BEST
When you put your heart into something people can feel it, they can taste it and they are grateful for it. Do not strive for perfection, strive to be real to who you are. Strive to do your best. That is all any one can ever ask for. Most people care more about the love, communication and memories that are made, more than anything else you may have on your walls or on your tables. Bring the love into your food, and let it pour out into the hearts of family and friends who attend. Let the love be palpable and I promise, everything else will fall into place.
Lastly, Trust yourself. Don’t expect to not make mistakes, but do set yourself up to have as much fun and ease as possible. The more you do gatherings like this, the easier it gets. So for now keep your mind set on the goal of a stress-free experience in the kitchen, meet yourself where you are, do the best you can and you will be proud of yourself and filled with happiness for the experience when you are done.
BLESSINGS TO GIVE & TO RECEIVE
Bless everyone and everything. Blessing is a way to keep things holy, and since this is a “holi-day” afterall, lets keep the blessings in action. This means that you can give through thought, word and action and not necessarily through “gifts” of form that are wrapped up. Aim to give only the necessary gifts, and to stay away from the “have to” gifts. You don’t have to do anything. Show up fully YOU and fully PRESENT with those who are there, and that is the greatest present anyone could ever ask for.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Its surprising how many people are happy to help, including those who come to partake in the party. Ask a family member to come early. Ask your partner to help you get organized. Even the kids can help you clean up the house! Let it be a team effort that everyone is proud of. This is how the blessings can settle in you and be washed through you to others. You deserve to receive, as much as it is a joy to give.
With all this being said, have fun. Enjoy your time. Do as much as you can, not too much, and let your cooking and planning come from the heart. I look forward to hearing your experiences of the Christmas Holidays. So please share in the comments below or on our facebook fanpage @wholeandhealthykitchen.
My Ella Baking Cooking with her Yia Yia