Though it feels like summer just ended, the holidays will be here before you know it. And there’s nothing worse than being unprepared for the big meals ahead. Thankfully, we’ve created a useful timeline to help you get organized, stay stress-free, and easily reduce waste in the kitchen. Plus, this free printable holiday meal planner can be a useful reference as you go about meal planning. Whether this is your first time cooking for the holidays or you’ve been doing it for years, this plan will help you prep for the holidays in advance so it’s as easy and seamless as possible.
One Week Before the Holiday: Create Your Menu
At this point, it’s time to scout online recipes for meal ideas and finalize holiday meal plans. Depending on the gathering (is it a dinner party or an all-day buffet?), you may want appetizers, an entree with sides, a salad, and perhaps even a dessert. You also may want to plan any drinks you’d like to make or buy — wine, spirits, non-alcoholic cocktails, coffee, and/or tea. Here’s a few ideas to help you get started using a Stasher.
Once you have your menu established, create your shopping list. Psst: This is the time to print your holiday meal planner! It’s generally easiest to group the list in order of where you find it in the grocery store — so put all your produce together, for example.
Three Days Before the Holiday: Go Shopping
Let’s go on a shopping spree! Don’t forget to bring your holiday meal planner (which should include your grocery list) to ensure you grab everything on your menu. If you’ll be doing any bulk shopping or farmers market hauls, bring along your Stasher bags and bowls, too.
Depending on what your holiday menu includes, you may need to stop at several stores, so plan accordingly. It’s easy for shopping to become less eco-friendly, so consider batching your trip into one instead of multiple and being mindful of waste. Organize your list by where you will be shopping: the grocery store, farmers market, wine shop, or wherever else. For more tips on being a conscious consumer during the holidays, here’s our guide.
Two Days Before: Meal Prep
With just a couple days to go, it’s time to prepare for the meal. Start with items that can be made or chopped ahead of time, like hearty vegetables, soup bases, and pie or sour doughs. If you’re making a more traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, now is also the time to defrost your turkey or meats. Save more delicate produce like apples and avocado, which turn brown, for the day of.
The Day Before: Prepare Food
The special day is almost here! Everything that can be done now should be, meaning it’s time to peel potatoes, cut off the ends of string beans, chop onions, roast beets, and prepare your favorite holiday food and sides. You’ll also want to make moves on your mains (ahem: proteins). Brine the turkey or marinate the meat, soak beans, marinate tofu, or whatever aligns with your menu. Completing these steps now will make cooking your protein tomorrow simple.
You can also make any dips or salad dressings today, as often they get better once the flavors settle a bit. Just hold off on making guacamole beforehand as the avocado will brown.
Finally, don’t forget to take a look at your to-do list outside of the kitchen. Do you need to set the table? Clean the house? Some of this will have to happen tomorrow, but maybe there are things you can check off in advance and, at the least, delegate who will be responsible for them.
The Day Of: Start Cooking
You’ve made it! Refer to your holiday meal planner as it will help you stay on track without getting stressed. Start with the things that take the longest, like cooking a turkey. Outline what food can go in the oven at the same time, and which order you will use the oven for. It’s also most efficient to have items cooking in different areas at the same time, so be sure to utilize everything in your kitchen — the oven and stove top, a toaster oven, a grill, etc. A rule of thumb? Figure out your serving time and then work backward, ensuring a bit of a buffer.
Plate up any appetizers and dips, and throw together your salad to keep in the fridge while items are baking in the oven. While items are in the oven, you can start to assemble a cheese plate or any other platters, and keep them in the fridge until your guests arrive or until you are ready to serve.
The last few minutes are for the final touches — roast or reheat veggies, check table settings, and enjoy! Savor your efforts and focus on gratitude for the meal and your loved ones. And if you have leftovers (arguably one of the best parts of holiday meals), there are endless ways to enjoy them with the help of our Stasher reusables.