Now that we’ve gotten past Halloween, it’s officially that time of year again—time to start planning for the major holidays. You’ve probably noticed the sudden influx of gingerbread coffee drinks and pumpkin muffins at every restaurant, coffee shop and grocery store in your neighborhood, which is always a pretty strong indicator that the major holidays are just around the corner.
The holiday seasons are exciting and special for most people—between family get-togethers and holiday parties, you’re guaranteed lots of fun company and, even more importantly, amazing food. And while simply showing up at someone’s house for a giant Thanksgiving dinner is easy, actually cooking for a crowd or prepping for a party is an entirely different story!
Cooking for and entertaining a large group can be intimidating and overwhelming, so if you’re hosting any sort of get together this holiday season, keep a few things in mind to keep your stress levels low and your holiday spirit high. The following entertaining and cooking tips can help you pull off any type of party without pulling out your hair in the process:
Planning ahead is one of the most effective ways to get organized for any occasion, but is especially important for events that require many different recipes, ingredients and other components. A couple weeks beforehand, compile a list of everything you’ll need and start shopping in small batches; this way, when the day of your event arrives, you won’t be running around like a crazy person or making dozens of emergency grocery store runs.
Cooking as much as you can the night before or morning of your get together is also an excellent time saver. Popping a prepared dish into the oven from your refrigerator requires much less effort than trying to cook and mingle with your guests at the same time, and allows you to actually enjoy your party.
Prepare for Easy Cleanup
Forget cooking—when it comes to the most time consuming aspect of any get together this holiday season, cleanup is the clear winner. Luckily, there are lots of different ways to minimize cleanup as you cook, meaning you’ll be able to avoid confronting a sink piled high with pots, pans and excessively messy dishes at the end of the night. One of the best ways to do this is to clean as you go; instead of tossing a utensil or bowl into the sink after you use it, actually wash it instead. You’ll be able to reuse the same tools over and over again instead of filling up your sink with twelve different spoons and knives, and you’ll have fewer dishes to wash at the end of the night.
Another way to avoid messes this holiday season is to spray your cooking utensils and dishes with cooking spray before using them. The spray will prevent food from sticking to your pots and pans, so you’ll have less scrubbing and scraping to deal with later. If you’re dealing with sticky ingredients, try spraying your hands, too, so you don’t start leaving dough remnants on everything you touch.
Don’t Overdo It
The key to easy entertaining is keeping things as simple as possible, from your table decorations to the actual dishes you prepare. When you’re hosting a get together, you shouldn’t be worrying about whether or not a new recipe will turn out okay or if you’ll have time to finish the calligraphy on everyone’s name card. Instead, stick to recipes that you’re confident about cooking and that you know will taste great. It’s always fun to try new recipes, so don’t be afraid to try one or two, but keep the rest of your spread basic and don’t attempt anything too complicated or time consuming.
In terms of decorations, less is more; people would much rather be able to easily see and speak to each other across the table instead of having to navigate between knick knacks or duck around massive floral arrangements.
It can be easy to get wrapped up in your own plans and vision when you’re hosting something this winter, but if someone offers you their help, take it! Delegating smaller tasks for your party or dinner doesn’t mean you’re incapable of doing it all on your own—it simply means you’re intelligent enough to not stretch yourself too thin. You don’t need to give up ownership of the main course or pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, but having relatives and friends bring salads, light appetizers or drinks will allow you to cross off minor things on your list while saving you time and extra stress.
Whatever you do this holiday season, don’t let the thought of entertaining friends and family make you nervous! If you plan ahead, take some shortcuts and arm yourself with a few useful tips, you’ll be able to pull off any holiday event with no problems at all.