We know that Thanksgiving will be here before we know it. Do you go somewhere else to celebrate or do you have Thanksgiving dinner at your house? Maybe you are planning to celebrate at your house for the first time. How do you know where to start?
Ask Yourself 3 Questions Before Planning Your Holiday Meal
The difference between taking the time to really plan your holiday meal, and flying by the seat of your pants, is that the first way will typically result in an amazing dinner and a great time with family and friends. The second way, not so much. You’re bound to feel the stress, frustration and quite possibly end up serving a less than splendid meal. Failing to plan wisely will inevitably lead you to spending way beyond your budget, in both money and time. In order to avoid this undesirable outcome, there are three points you must focus on; your time, your guests, and your skills.
How Much Time Do I Have?
It’s quite likely that the first time the phrase ‘time is money’ was uttered was during preparations for a holiday gathering. Being aware of how much time you have to prepare your holiday meal is of the utmost importance. If you don’t get a good idea of how much time you can spend on the feast, you could end up having to skip parts of the menu. Or you could end up spending extra money to change your menu to speed things up to fit the time you have. So, be completely honest with yourself when you figure out how much time you have. No, you do not possess super powers. It’s better to get that straight right now so you aren’t trying to magically bend and stretch time later.
Yes, you have to realistically figure out how much time you have. But, there’s more. You also have to know how much time the food takes to go from store to table. If you have ten hours you can spend to prepare your holiday feast, and the menu takes twenty hours to shop, cook, and serve, something’s got to give. If you think you can squeeze twenty hours worth of food preparation into ten hours, then you are a magician and don’t need any help from me! However, if you’re not a magician and you’re still going to try this trick at home, it’s quite likely you will find yourself rushing around spending valuable time trying to gather ingredients to substitute for menu items you wanted to have but ran out of time to prepare. This could put a huge burden on your time, your money, and your sanity. Don’t make the mistake of under-estimating how much time it takes to prepare for your feast and celebration.
What Do My Guests Want And Need?
You would think this is a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how something so simple can make such a big difference in the way your holiday feast turns out. For instance, do your guests like to snack, mingle, chat, and then snack some more? If so, why not focus on that approach rather than a huge sit-down meal? After all that nibbling and mingling, if you lead your guests to a big seven course dinner, you may be putting a halt to the fun and putting your huge meal away untouched. However, if your guests are the kind who like to come in, sit down, and dig into a big meal, then by all means skip all the appetizers and get your meal on the table. This keeps you from wasting money preparing a bunch of snacks when it’s the meal everyone is looking forward to anyway.
Knowing your guests also means knowing their likes and dislikes. This doesn’t mean you have to cater all your dishes to individual tastes, but try to reach a general consensus so you don’t feel like you’re running a restaurant, or spending money like a restaurant. Skip the rosemary potatoes if your guests are lukewarm with their responses when asked. And, yes, I did say ask. It’s quite appropriate when you issue an invitation to a dinner to ask your guests if they have any preferences, dietary needs, or even allergies. Go ahead and be specific and tell them what you plan to have on the menu and if anything could cause a problem. It’s all part of being a good host.
Where Do My Skills Fit In?
There is nothing more frustrating than trying to cook an over-the-top meal and dumping it into the trash just because you reached way beyond your skills. Avoid creating culinary disasters by knowing your abilities. You don’t want to spend a lot of money, or time, on a holiday meal that is a vision of loveliness in the foodie magazine but has no basis in reality in your kitchen. The holiday meal is no time to experiment. Find trusted recipes and use them. If you want to try something new, stay within your range of skills and try them out beforehand if possible. If you’re the least bit nervous, stick with what you know. Your guests will always appreciate your tried-and-true dishes.
By being aware of your time, knowing your guests, and being true to your skill set, not only will you have a great holiday meal, you will also keep your budget intact. And that all leads to a fun, relaxing holiday celebration for everyone, including you!