10 Steps to an Easier Holiday Dinner


We believe everyone should enjoy the holidays, even the hostess, and these 10 steps will help that dream come true!

Do you remember in school when your name was called you would call out, “present”?  In other words, you were there, you were attending the class; you were available to participate in the activities of the day.  Well, I find that being the chief cook and sometimes bottle washer in the family, I have a tendency to miss out on some of the holiday fun.  I’m constantly in the kitchen both preparing and then putting out the hors d’oeuvres or I’m cleaning them up and preparing the meal.  Through all of this I sometimes feel I’m not in attendance at my own holiday!  (I just spent ten minutes looking for a photo of me working on the holidays for this paragraph and I couldn’t find one photo of me in the last 3 seasons.   Guess what?  I take the holiday photos too! So that’s my finger in the corner holding the spatula making the Thanksgiving beans…)

Well, this year I’d like that to change and here are some of the things I’m going to do to help make it possible for me to actually be present at my own holiday!


1. If someone offers to bring a dish to the festivities, I’m going to say “yes, thank you”!  Fortunately my Mom brings several of our all time favorites so I’m in pretty good shape here.  However, you are supposed to learn from this as well, so don’t be afraid to say, “Yes”!


2. Consider preparing as many dishes in advance as you can.  Our holiday mashed potatoes are made the day before and they sit in the refrigerator in the pan they will cook in until after the turkey comes out.  And, all the ingredients for my stuffing are chopped and sitting in baggies in the crisper just waiting for me to join them all together in our traditional bread stuffing.  So, I’m doing pretty well, maybe this year I’ll cut up all the veggies and cheese for the hors d’oeuvres to save that time on Thanksgiving.  (Just remember, don’t do everything the day before or you’ll still be tired on Thanksgiving!!)


3. Limit the number of side dishes you serve.  I know it’s hard to give up some of your traditional favorites.  But don’t fall for those magazine photos that show four or five different sides!  For heaven’s sake, once you load up your plate with turkey, how much more room is there on your plate?  Don’t you think two sides are plenty with cranberry sauce in a small bowl on the side??  Even three is doable but don’t go crazy!!


4. Order out! No, not everything…although…no, how about just the breads and desserts?  They are usually the toughest things to make anyways.  The last couple of years my husband has purchased a turkey bread which means it’s a leaf of bread in the shape of a turkey and everyone just loves how cute it is.


5. Use disposable roasting pans. I LOVE this idea.  Nothing is greasier and messier than the turkey roasting pan – YUK!  Depending on how big your turkey is, you might have to double up.  We always get a 20+ pound turkey and a single roasting pan won’t allow us to move a large turkey from counter to oven and back again without a spill or two.  Oh, the time this will save you during clean up!!

6. Pretty paper plates.Speaking of disposable, and remember, I am a proponent for green living, would you consider using lovely paper plates at least for the hors d’oeuvres and dessert?  It is a holiday and it might be a tossup whether using paper plates and recycling them is smarter versus washing all the extra plates!?

7. Soaking the baked on grime.  I think one of my favorite times of the holiday is the time spent in good conversation after the meal.  I don’t like to leave the table because the conversation tends to stop and people start getting up.  So, to lengthen your stay at the dinner table, try filling the sink with hot, soapy water and you can immerse the dishes that will give you the most trouble during clean up.  This then forces you to stay at the table while the dishes soak and could potentially shorten clean up time!


8. Have your storage containers ready and waiting.Take some time before the holiday to check out your storage containers.  You know, match up the lids with the containers, find them in the back of the refrigerator, or pick up a few new ones at the grocery store. (This is a good idea if you send leftovers with family members because you don’t have to worry about getting your good containers back!)  Then, while the table is being cleared, you can easily put leftovers in the right size containers!

9. Get the refrigerator cleaned and ready.  This is also a few days before the actual holiday.  This process will help you with the storage containers mentioned above.  You just might find some of them in the back of the refrigerator and you can clean them out and sanitize to be ready for the holiday.  This also makes room for the items that need to be stored in the cold before and after the meal!

10. My Mom always had club soda around for drinking, but it has other uses.  Holidays are days with crowded houses, running children, and plates and glasses moving all around the place.  These factors make holidays one of the biggest days for spills.  Have club soda on hand to pour over those spills and keep your carpets clean throughout the day!  This may not save you any time, but it will certainly save you from having to have your carpets cleaned after the guests leave!

Iguess we all know the point here, I just think we need to be reminded of what is important.  (I’m really just talking to myself here but if it helps you too, great!) The answer is: it’s your presence that is most important at every holiday.  Take time to sit down and enjoy your guests and the atmosphere and food you’ve created.  Today, the dishes can wait!



  1. says

    Thanks Shari, You made my day. The holidays always
    put me in a frenzy trying to get things together.
    Maybe I can keep my cool this year.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.


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