Countdown to an Anxiety-Free Holiday

November 08, 2012

Countdown to an Anxiety-Free Holiday

Even the most daunting holiday get-together can be a breeze if you just know what to focus on—and when. Follow our holiday planning timeline to make it simple to pull your party together.

4 weeks before:

  • Determine the date and time of your party.
  • Create your guest list, and send your invitees the scoop. If you’ve got a big crowd, an online invitation service can make it easier to keep track of RSVPs.

3 weeks before:

  • Start thinking about the menu.
  • Decide on any special decorations—and start shopping for anything you need.
  • Make sure you have enough plates, glasses, serving dishes and flatware for your party.
  • Check that you have enough room at the table for everyone. Pick up folding tables and chairs if you need extra seating to accommodate everyone.

2 weeks before:

  • Pull together your recipes and finalize your menu. Don’t forget to plan for the bar, too. Make one big list of all the ingredients you’ll need.
  • Check your pantry against the ingredient list, and make your shopping list.
  • Make sure you have all the equipment necessary to make everything on your menu. If you’re making things outside your usual repertoire, make note of any less-common tools you  might need, such as pie weights or meat thermometers, and pick them up in advance.
  • Order your turkey, if you need to pre-order one.

1 week before:

  • Clear out anything old or unnecessary from your fridge, to make room for the party stuff. Try to “eat from the fridge” this week to use up what you have.
  • Shop for your groceries, including anything you might need for the bar.
  • Review recipes again, and figure out if any components (or the whole recipe) can be made or prepped in advance.
  • Start thawing the turkey, if it’s frozen. Allow 1 day for each 4 pounds of turkey.

3 days before:

  • Make a clean sweep of your house.
  • Deck your halls with any special décor.

1 day before:

  • Set the table so you’re ready to go.
  • Choose serving dishes for each item on your menu, and figure out where they will go on the table or sideboard. Put a sticky note on each dish to identify which menu item it will hold. Put out trivets for the hot dishes.
  • Cook any recipes that can be made in advance.
  • Do any advance prep you can—like chopping onions or peeling carrots.
  • Set up the bar (minus anything that needs to be chilled).
  • Review the cooking game plan for tomorrow, making sure that you note what times dishes need to hit the oven or the stovetop.

The day of the party:

  • Start your turkey cooking (in the oven, fryer or smoker).
  • Take one fast cleaning whirl through the house.
  • Cook or assemble any remaining dishes.
  • Get dressed in your best.
  • Put out your appetizers.
  • Enjoy your party!

Print this out and put it on your fridge for reference:  Printable PDF of Holiday Countdown.

What are your best holiday planning tips? Tell us in the  comments.

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