Hosting a Christmas meal is an exciting and fun thing to do, however, it takes hours of planning, preparation and work. The key to having a stress-free day and a successful meal, is to plan well in advance. You need to take every detail into account as they are many things you may not anticipate or think about.
Here are a few tips for planning for a stress-free day:
Think about the basics
Start by considering and making a list of all the basic things you’ll need. How many are coming? Do you have a big enough seating area/chairs? Will you have enough pots, pans and other cooking equipment? Will you have enough crockery to serve everyone – plates, bowls and silverware? Make a plan to borrow from friends or family if not.
Make sure you think about fridge & oven space
One of the things you might not think about before it’s too late is whether you have enough fridge and oven space. Chances are you’ll run out of space in your fridge, so do a big clear out ahead of time, throwing away anything that you won’t need. Bear in mind you can store many things that you put in the fridge in a cool, dark cupboard instead.
One of the most important things is to make sure you have enough oven space! Particularly for the turkey. If you don’t, you can always ask someone else coming to cook it at home and bring it with them. As well as the turkey you’ll need to fit in all your sides. Time your cooking carefully and make sure everything will have time and space to cook and come together on time (and still be warm!) Bear in mind your turkey needs to rest for an hour, giving you a free oven to cook everything else (side note: make sure you rest your turkey! It makes it juicy and tender).
Plan your menu
Make sure you plan your menu well ahead of time, checking if guests have any dietary requirements. Try not to overcomplicate things – you don’t need to kill yourself making 10 different dishes, pick a few and do them well. You don’t want to make things stressful for yourself and ruin your day.
Make sure you plan for all the extras as well – the condiments like mustard, cranberry sauce, cream etc. In a mad dash of cooking you don’t want to realise you’re missing something. Do a through stock take before hand to avoid any last-minute panics.
Don’t worry about trying to make all the food from scratch yourself. Using pre-made and supermarket food is unavoidable, and is a life-saver! Don’t be embarrassed and try to do everything yourself.
Plan your budget carefully
Hosting a Christmas meal can often turn out a lot more expensive you might have initially thought, so plan everything out carefully. You can share the cost by asking guests to bring something with them, like a side dish, dessert or even the turkey. This will mean you spend less money, and less time, as well as have a varied and different menu.
Prepare what you can ahead of time
Try and get as much of the tedious and time-consuming prep work done the day before so you have less to do on the actual day. Peel your vegetables and spuds and prepare anything else you can. You can even make a few things weeks ahead of time and freeze them -. cranberry sauce, stuffing and bread sauce all freeze very well.
Write down a plan for the actual day so you know what order you need to complete tasks in and avoid any timing issues.
Think about your table decorations
Plan how you’re going to be decorating your table a few weeks before and that you have everything you’ll need. Make sure you consider practical things like the center pieces etc. aren’t too high and everyone has enough space. Lay out all the seasonal goodies like crackers and choccies for everyone.
Plan the entertainment
Everyone loves Christmas games so make sure you have a few ready for after dinner festivities. Also think about having some music playing in the background during dinner – this will help create a festive atmosphere.
You only way you’ll get through the day in one piece is to delegate. Enlist family members to help – get someone to do the table, the drinks etc. so nothing goes overlooked. Don’t be shy to ask guests for a hand in the kitchen as well – Christmas is all about delegating and making everyone feel involved and like they’re contributing.
Ask guests to serve their own drinks
Set up a self-serve bar so you don’t have to worry about topping up drinks (preferably out the kitchen so that you have enough space!)
Wash up as you go
Try to keep the kitchen clean and do the washing-up as you go. This will prevent pile-up and save space for prep and cooking. If you can, delegate someone as dedicated washer-upper, or get people to take it in turns).
Don’t forget to enjoy yourself!
Don’t get caught up in the rush, but try and stay relaxed and calm. The day is all about enjoying being with friends and family and relaxing – and that includes you, too.