15 Helpful Tips for Stress Free Holiday Meal Planning

Having friends and family over for holiday meals is one of the best things about the holiday season. This time is a wonderful, but can also be stressful for many.

Do you have enough food, are any extra guests coming, does anyone have dietary restrictions, the list could go on and on. So to help with all of the hustle and bustle, here are 15 helpful tips for stress free holiday meal planning.

1. Make Simple Meals and Large Meals

Holiday Meal

Cooking for a lot of people can be overwhelming, so make it simple. Decide what you want your main dish to be and work from there. Another reason to keep it simple is dietary restrictions. It’s easier for someone to know if they can eat if the meals are simple.

If you are worried about cooking a larger meal, don’t be. Leftovers are sometimes as good, if not better, than the original meal. If you have too much food leftover, hand it out to guests as they leave or create a whole new meal the next day for lunch,

2. Make Easy Recipes You Are Already Familiar With


Trying out new recipes is always new and exciting, but around the holidays, this can be stressful if you don’t know what the outcome will be. It’s best to stick to traditional family favorites around the holidays.

Not only are classic recipes like sweet potatoes and root vegetables for side dishes delicious food, they will take less time to cook if you are familiar with them. Less stress around the holidays is always the main goal!

3. Prepare Your Holiday Meals Ahead of Time

Calendar - Holiday Meal Planning

Preparation is the key to making this holiday season as stress free as possible. You can come up with a game plan about a month ahead of schedule to take some of the burden off of menu planning. Take a holiday menu planning trip to your grocery store to see what you need to stock up on.

This holiday meal planning tip will save you a ton of time when the big event happens and allow you enough time to enjoy the preparation of the meal instead of it being a burden.

4. Get a Final Guest List at Least Two Weeks in Advance

Guest List

Knowing who is coming to your holiday dinner is one of the best ways to combat stress around the holidays. Finalizing a guest list will not only help you plan for your get together, but will help you determine what kind of gathering you will have. For example, do you want to have a large holiday party or an intimate dinner with a smaller crowd. Both can be a lot of fun, but they have a completely different way of planning.

5. Host Your Dinner at a Local Restaurant


Large holiday parties can take place somewhere other than the home. Renting out a space at a local restaurant will ensure that there is enough room for a larger crowd. You can enjoy yourself with friends and family without the stress of preparing the meal or cleaning up afterwards.

Another perk to having a holiday meal at a local restaurant is meal choices. Many restaurants cater to specific diets such as vegan diets or special dietary needs.

6. Have Your New Year Party Catered.

New Year Party

The big holiday dinners are over and now it’s time to bring in the New Year. You decide to host a party but don’t want to mess with the food prep, have it catered. There are a number of catering companies available including most restaurants who would be happy to take the chore off of your hands.

Some companies offer perks such as free delivery and setup. Catering requires little planning on your part, just figure up how many guests you have coming and your are ready to place your order. When food is catered, they usually provide the warming devices and cutlery to go with it. The food can stay for quite awhile at room temperature giving you the chance to have a good time. In little time with a quick phone call, the party planning will be taken care of with less work on your part.

7. Place Your Shopping List Order with a Local Grocery Store

Grocery Order - Holiday Meal Planning

Whether you are hosting a Thanksgiving dinner or a Christmas dinner, there are always groceries that need to be purchased. Let the grocery store take a little shopping trip on your behalf. Most grocery stores now offer a shopping service for customers. You can go online or call over the phone and send them your grocery list order. The food is pulled off of the shelf and either picked up by you or delivered by the grocery store.

This awesome feature will take the stress out of grocery shopping and be one less thing you need to put on your mile high to do list for the holidays.

8. Utilize Kitchen Appliances Properly

Household Appliances

Utilizing the appliances and oven space that you already have in your kitchen is a great option for less stress this holiday season. If you have a main dish such as prime rib cooking in the oven, throw some cold water in your slow cooker and start on a side dishes.

The more you can prepare at the same time, the easier the end result will be and the less you will have to worry about everything getting cooked and ready to eat together without getting cold.

9. Plan Out Your Holiday Table Setting in Advance

Table Setting

Some people completely overlook this aspect of a big holiday meal, but it is a really good idea and puts the final meal together when the holiday style is determined beforehand.

Planning this out will give you the right amount of table setting for the meal and will give you a chance to come up with a perfect for you seating arrangement to spread holiday cheer on the big day.

10. Add Healthy Meal Plans to Your Holiday Dinner

Healthy Meals - Holiday Meal Planning

Healthy eating around the holidays is best done with delicious recipes that everyone loves. Healthy meals can often be everyones favorite recipes if prepared and cooked properly.

The holidays will bring its share of sweet treats, it wouldn’t be holidays without them, but the addition of a few more healthy treats will help boost the immune system so the sugary stuff won’t affect us all as much.

11. Stock Up On Pantry Items Ahead of Time

Pantry - Holiday Meal Planning

With some careful planning and a stocked pantry, you are in for a holiday stress free meal. Stocking up on things beforehand can really combat the “I forgot to pick that up” scenario that has many people running to the grocery store when its a madhouse on Christmas Eve.

Many delicious meals are cooked with some staple ingredients that you can buy now and not have to think about later. Some items to stock up on are cranberry sauce, salad dressings, green beans, pie crust, and maple syrup to name a few. Having these things in the pantry will give you plenty of time to focus on the meal planning and just having a good time with your friends and family.

12. Cook Together as a Family

Cook Together as a Family

Have your friends and family members lend a helping hand for the big meal. This is the time of year when everyone wants to be surrounded with the ones they love. Everyone together in the kitchen not only makes the meal preparation that much better, but it gives everyone a chance to hang out and talk.

Christmas celebrations were meant to bring people together. While someone is cooking the main dish, someone else can be preparing side dishes or baking some Christmas cookies.

The end result is a meal that everyone had a hand in cooking while sharing stories and making memories.

13. Get the Kids Involved with Meal Prep

Get Kids Involved in Cooking

Children like to be around the adults when the holidays are present, but sometimes they don’t feel like they have a purpose. Give them one! Not only will you get a little help in the kitchen for things like holiday cookies, but you get to have fun spending time with them.

You and your kids will have a great time preparing sweet treats while possibly starting a new holiday tradition in the kitchen.

14. Prep Dishes Ahead of Time

Apple Pie - Holiday Meal Planning

Prepping food ahead of time can be a great way to save so much time on the actual holiday you are preparing for. There are several things that can be made ahead of time. Things like pumpkin pie and apple pie are great examples.

Take a day or two a couple weeks in advance to prepare the pies then freeze them. The night before the holiday, let them sit out on the counter to thaw out. Then bake the morning of the holiday dinner. You have a fresh pie ready to be enjoyed!

15. Have Fun With Your Holiday Plans

Have Fun with Friends and Family

Way too often, when planning a holiday meal, people can become stressed and it takes some of the joy out of the Christmas holidays. So many times, when Christmas Eve rolls around, the only thing you can think about is the big meal the next day.

Don’t let holiday meal planning run your entire life this year. Have fun with the ones you love and remember that they are the most important thing this holiday season. Even if your holiday table doesn’t look like something social media worthy, the love you share with the people sitting around it is the main decoration.

I hope these helpful tips will help you with holiday planning this year. Enjoy the holidays!

To get the kitchen ready for holiday cooking, check out this article, How to Clean a Self Cleaning Oven Manually.

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