If you're planning on being the Hostess with the Mostest this holiday season, here are several ways you can prepare for your festive feast in advance and get ahead of the game!

The holiday season is a time for joy, gratitude, and togetherness. However, for many of us, it can also be a season of stress and last-minute chaos, especially when it comes to preparing holiday meals. The good news is that with a little bit of foresight and planning, you can make the entire process much smoother and more enjoyable. In this blog post, we'll explore some PRACTICAL ways to start preparing for your holiday meals now, so you can savor the festivities with less stress!

1. Figure Out Your Menu Now

Thanksgiving food on a table, from Shelf Cooking

There's not much you can plan to do ahead without knowing what your holiday meal menu will consist of. So first, map out what you plan on cooking and serving. Also make a list of what you plan to ask any guests to bring. (One of the best ways to make hosting holidays more affordable is to make it a potluck!)

2. Get A Head Count

No shame in asking for early RSVPs for holiday meals! Knowing how many people you are cooking for is essential to making a shopping list and ensuring you have enough food for everyone!

Obviously it is better to prepare too MUCH food than too little, and holiday leftovers might just be the most coveted leftovers of all. But it's a good idea to ask your guests to confirm attendance at least two weeks in advance! (We have plenty of recipe ideas for leftovers, including turkey, ham, pie crust and even stuffing!)

3. Clean Out & Make Room In Your Fridge

This is a great time to go through your fridge and freezer and find any items that have expired or are near expiring! Toss the old, and find a way to use up anything that's shelf-life is limited. Make sure that all of your holiday ingredients plus the leftovers afterwards will have plenty of room to store and stay fresh!

pulling meat out of the refrigerator, from Shelf Cooking

Not sure how long most items last in the fridge and freezer? We put together this great blog post answering that question so you can quit wondering “how long does food last in the fridge?” and know exactly how long your food is good for!

4. Stock Up On Non-Perishables & Essentials

Start stalking the sales ads for your local grocery stores and be ready to pounce on any of their great holiday prices! If you can grab any non-perishables ahead of time and save yourself time in the grocery during the holiday week MADDNESS, do it!

Don't forget these holiday hosting essentials:

  • aluminum foil
  • disposable containers
  • disposable plates and cutlery, if that's your preference
  • dried spices and herbs (take inventory in your pantry first!)
  • cooking oils
  • nuts or dried fruits
  • broths
  • beverages

4. Make Desserts And Sides Ahead & Freeze!

Who says you have to prepare every dish on the big day! There are plenty of recipes that can be made days (or weeks!) in advanced, and frozen until the holiday. It's up to you if you'd like to pre-cook and freeze, or freeze the ingredient mixture one step before baking.

pumpkin pie, from ShelfCooking.com

Here are some classic holiday dishes that do fantastic when frozen and reheated!

  • Casseroles: Many casseroles can be assembled, baked, and then frozen for later use. This includes dishes like green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, and stuffing (excluding any liquid components).
  • Gravy: You can prepare and freeze gravy in advance. Reheat it on the stovetop or in the microwave when it's time to serve.
  • Soup or Stock: If you plan to use stock in your recipes, make a big batch and freeze it in portioned containers. Soups like butternut squash or pumpkin soup can also be made ahead and frozen.
  • Breads and Rolls: Many bread and roll recipes can be prepared, shaped, and frozen before the final rise. When it's time to bake, simply allow them to thaw and rise before baking.
  • Pie Crusts: Pie crusts can be prepared and frozen in pie pans. When you're ready to bake, simply fill the crust with your chosen filling and bake as directed.
  • Pies: Many pies can be assembled and frozen unbaked. Fruit pies, pecan pies, and pumpkin pies are good candidates for this. Just remember to wrap them well to prevent freezer burn.
  • Cheesecakes: Unbaked cheesecakes can be frozen before baking. Be sure to wrap them carefully to prevent any condensation.
  • Cranberry Sauce: Homemade cranberry sauce can be made ahead and frozen in an airtight container. Thaw in the refrigerator before serving.
  • Dessert Bars: Dessert bars like brownies, blondies, and date squares can be baked and frozen for later enjoyment.

When freezing these dishes, remember to use airtight containers, wrap items well to prevent freezer burn, and label everything with the date and reheating instructions. Thaw most items in the refrigerator a day or two before the holiday, and reheat or finish the cooking process as needed. Preparing dishes ahead of time and freezing them will not only save you time but also ensure that you have a variety of delicious and well-prepared items for your Thanksgiving feast.

Lastly, don't forget to take care of yourself during this busy time. Get enough rest, stay hydrated, and take short breaks to relax. A well-rested and stress-free host or hostess will ensure a more enjoyable holiday gathering for everyone! And remember, it is your day to enjoy too!

What else do you like to do to prep ahead for hosting large gathering? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Hosting!