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1. Make-ahead meals and no cooking required appetizers
2. Planning a workable menu and advance preparation
3. Decorate for less
4. Setting up for success
5. Get what you really need

The holidays are officially in full swing which means although you may be having fun planning events for the family, creating your shopping lists, going to parties or special school events and starting some holiday baking, all that and so much more makes this a very busy time. Don’t get caught in all the stress of it but take time to enjoy. Share the fun experience with those you love. This holiday entertaining guide will help with 10 secrets to de-stress your holiday. Check out last week’s secrets of how Make Ahead Meals and No-Cooking Appetizers can save you time and sanity. This week it’s all about advance planning. A little work upfront is always worth the rewards later.

Happy Holidays!

10 Secrets to De-Stress your Holiday, Part 2

3. Plan a Workable Menu

For any dinner party, a properly planned meal is the key to success. It’s more than just what you want to eat or what’s in season and goes together. The key is to think about how it comes together and plan items that can be made in advance. If a menu has more than two things that have to be done last minute, I will choose other options as this can be too time consuming and stressful to take on as guests are arriving. Remember your job as a host is not only to provide food, but also to engage with the guests.

Whether you are setting up a main meal, appetizer buffet, or just desserts, it is important to keep in mind how much last minute preparation is required; slicing, mixing, assembling and garnishing all take time. You will want to have all the food ready at once, so be sure to plan accordingly, choosing mostly make ahead items, leaving only a few last minute preparation items. This is the number one downfall of most unorganized buffets and the cause of most stressed out hosts as items usually take longer than expected and are not ready when planned.

This also takes into account your cooking space. If you only have one oven, you can’t roast a turkey, bake potatoes, and heat a casserole all at the same time. Think logically about how much preparation, cook time and assembly is required for each dish and if you can manage all the work. If not – choose something else or ask for help. Spacing items out like this also makes the cooking more manageable by doing little pieces along the way, rather than getting tired doing all the cooking and cleaning in one day and then hosting a party.

These Ham and Olive Pinwheels are one of my favorite appetizers as they can be made in advance, they thaw quickly and they make a lot of pieces quickly with no last minute assembly.

Do you have a favorite make-ahead or minimal work dish? I would love to hear about it!

Ham and Olive Pinwheels

(Ham and Olive Pinwheels, make-ahead easy appetizers)

4. Pull Dishes in Advance

all your dishes

(pull all your dishes and serving items in advance)

This is a major stress saver. It takes a touch of advance planning that will make your life so much easier later. Pull all your serving dishes and utensils at least two days in advance. This way you are not running around looking for items while guests are waiting and food is hot. If you need to borrow or buy something additional, you have time to do so. Go one step further and label them to make dishing up food easy and set items on your buffet to make sure you have space for everything.

(set serving items out in advance to make sure you have what you need and enough space)

Have a little extra time? Fully set the table a day before so you can just focus on getting the food out.


(set the table a day before your party)

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