Countdown to the Perfect Holiday Dinner

The holiday season is a time to enjoy the company of friends and family. It is a time to celebrate and be thankful, but if you are hosting the party or dinner you may feel a little stressed out this time of year. I remember when I hosted my first Thanksgiving Dinner with about 15 of my closest friends and family to entertain and feed. It was scary to say the least. After a couple of years hosting the annual Thanksgiving Dinner for a large group as well as organizing and co-hosting several other large parties and events, I have picked up a few tricks that might just be what you need to make being a host or hostess a piece of cake!

2 Weeks Before The Event: Plan Ahead

Being organized goes a long way to ensuring a smooth gathering. From the decorations to the food you can’t go wrong if you have the road map to success. A couple of weeks before your big day plan out the menu and decide if your guests will be responsible for certain signature dishes or if you will handle it all yourself. Do not be afraid to allow guests to bring something, but just be sure to stay on top of what everyone is bringing so you don’t end up with too many servings of stuffing! If you know that your guests can’t cook if their life depended on it, ask them to bring a nice bottle of Zinfandel or Chardonnay wine, which goes great with turkey. Make sure you have what you need for cleaning, decorating, cooking and serving. Make a grocery list of needed items and get to shopping. Leave food out a this point. No need stocking up on perishables way in advance! Also, pick up some of those disposable ziploc containers to put leftovers in and send with your guests after the event, so you are not stuck with too many leftovers.

The Weekend Before The Event: Time to Clean

Cleaning is no fun for anyone, but it is a necessary thing to do if you want to convince your guest that you are an organized and clean person. If you can afford a cleaning service by all means do so, but be sure to book the service in advance since it is a busy time of year. You will need to start the weekend before the event, if you are like me and you have to tackle the cleaning yourself. Start with de-cluttering and organizing papers, toys and other things that are laying about. Put everything in its place, away from the eyes of your guests. Clean the bathrooms and the kitchen (always good to cook in a clean kitchen). Save your vacuuming and hard surfaces dusting for the day before. Ignore bedrooms where guests won’t go unless you expect to give home tours.

2 Days Before The Event: Go Shopping

Go grocery shopping for your food items and any last minute items. Buy everything you will need and check that list twice. The only food item you should have purchased prior to this day is a turkey that needs thawing. Set up tables and chairs if necessary. You can also start decorating if needed.

1 Day Before The Event: Cooking and Last Minute Touches

Go ahead and make anything that can be made the day before.. For example, desserts like cake and pie can be made in advance. This is also the day you need to vacuum and dust to give the house a nice clean sheen.

Day of The Event: Panic

Just kidding about that panic part. Really today is the day you get cooking. Start early so that most everything is ready when guests arrive. Make sure you send your teenager or husband to the store for ice. Light a festive scented candle so your house smells great, and put on some background music that is not too loud. You want your guests to be able to talk to each other. When the early guests start to show up, you should put them to work if they ask how they can help. Guests are great at doing things like opening the wine and getting the appetizers out and ready. Just don’t ask them to take the trash out for you! When the other guests start to arrive give them a glass of wine or cold beverage and relax. Enjoy yourself because you did a great job and no one cares if the rolls are burnt because they are too full off your awesome sweet potatoes to notice.

Decorating Made Easy:

• If you have more then 8 guests, skip the nice china and go for disposable plates. You would be surprised how nice those plastic plates can look, and you don’t have to wash them! Trust me – you are going to be too tired to want to wash anything after the day is done.

• Decorating comes down to 2 things: A nice tablecloth and a center piece. I am a fan of several smaller centerpieces since I think one large one gets in the way of the guests being able to converse over how awesome your turkey is! A wide crystal or wooden bowl with small pumpkins and gourds or colorful apples is always nice or opt for seasonal fresh flowers in small vases.

The Recipes To Save The Day:

Slow Cooker Stuffing (because you need the oven for other things!)

Freezer to Oven Turkey (This is a great video recipe by Nadia G from Bitchin Kitchen)

How to Make Mashed Potatoes (Step away from the processed powdered stuff!)

Get more great Thanksgiving tips and tricks at the Thanksgiving Center on


written by: Kelly Noble

Kelly Noble is the Relationship Manager for, a foodservice equipment and supply provider that also specializes in industry education. She has been an avid wine drinker and home cook for over 8 years.

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