Family gathered around table for Thanksgiving

Let’s be honest, if you’re hosting guests for the holidays life can be incredibly joyous, but sometimes stressful! Between airport pickups, grocery shopping, decorating, and whatever else there is on your to-do list, time can get away from you. Below I’ll guide you through the steps of planning one of the largest holiday headaches: the menu. Take a look (and take notes) so you can spend more of your energy enjoying time with family than stressing about it.

Clearing Out the Pantry

We all know those out-of-towners who wake up before anyone else and scour the kitchen for something (re: anything) to eat. You can only hope they don’t reach for one of the special ingredients for Thursday’s feast! Or worse, find some of those out-of-date ingredients that have been long forgotten. Last thing we need is a sick house guest. Start off your holiday prep by cleaning out the pantry; toss anything out of date or anything you know you won’t use before expiration. Post purge, organize your items in a finders-friendly way. Make sure items are easily visible and arranged in a way most can understand (breakfast items on top left, snacks top right, etc.) See my refrigerator organization post here for more tips on food categories and segmentation.

Planning the Menu

Something I prefer to do when creating a menu is starting with the big meals first. Will there be a big family dinner on the first night? Any birthdays or anniversaries? And of course, don’t forget the main event. I like to serve my favorite or most anticipated dishes during these “special” occasions for the obvious reasons, but it also helps me plan out the other meals we’ll be serving! I don’t want to make my grandmother’s infamous mac ‘n cheese twice in one week, or two different green bean casseroles. If you’re in a creative slump, think of different themes, proteins, and main dishes you want to serve. Do your guests have any dietary restrictions? How about family meal traditions? These are also great ways to get your creative mind working on a cohesive menu. Still stuck? Pinterest to the rescue!

Thanksgiving feast

Menu Management

It’s a given that life will be busy with guests in town. Planning out each meal helps limit the chaos because you can shop before your guests arrive. I like to put each day’s meal up on the fridge so there are no surprises. The last thing you need is Uncle Rob complaining that he’s not in the mood for Italian (although who am I kidding? Has there ever been a human in the history of ever who’s not in the mood for Italian?) Short on prep time? Don’t forget the best part about having guests over (especially if they’re family): extra hands! Ask your sister-in-law and nephew for help. It’ll give them the opportunity to feel included, helpful, and give everyone a chance to bond. Just turn on some feel-good music, lay out the recipe and all the ingredients (which will be beautifully organized in your pantry at this point), and don’t get too down on yourself if dinner is served 10 minutes late because you were busy dancing around the kitchen ☺ After all, the holidays are about making memories!

The holidays can be stressful if you allow them – so stand your ground! By preparing your kitchen and menu (because food is the universal language of love), you are planning for success. What are your favorite holiday meals? Have any other tips for hosts this season? Let us know!

Looking forward to hearing from you,