How to get ahead on holiday prep.
We have a lot to cover today, so let’s get right into it, we’re talking holiday party prep. This is part two of what I thought would be a dyad on the topic. But turns out I have so many thoughts…so we’re lookin’ at a trilogy, folks! Find part one here. And stay tuned for part three next week—we’ll be diving into my tips for the actual day of your big event.
The Fresh Letter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
As a reminder, I’m hosting Friendsgiving in just a couple weeks, so I’m guiding you through the actual steps I’m taking to get ready for that.
But I think these steps are very applicable to any large gathering, holiday or otherwise, that you might be hosting this season. As a refresher, here’s my planning overview:
We covered invites, tablescape planning, and menu planning last week. And by popular demand, here’s a link to my actual planning spreadsheet so you can click around, take a look at the recipes I’m planning to cook through, and get a better idea of formatting. I was surprised by the number of people who were interested in the detailed spreadsheet—you’re all a bunch of cooking and entertaining nerds—I’ve found my people!
Okay, let’s get into Steps 4-6:
Step 4: Write Your Execution Plan
What: This is a step by step plan to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible in the days leading up to your event and on the day of the event itself.
When: 1-3 weeks out
Tips: This one’s a doozy, I’ve got sub-tips!
Do as much as you can ahead of time. According to my Friendsgiving plan, I’m not doing any actual cooking on the big day. It’s all reheating and finishing touches!
And get started as early as you possibly can. If a dish on your menu plan is freezer friendly, take advantage! Just be sure to build the thawing time into your execution plan.
If you struggle to stay on track with timing, make your day-of plan down to the hour or even minute.
And if you have trouble knowing where to start, work backwards. Ask yourself, “what’s the last thing I need to do before guests arrive?” Then go from there.
Set yourself up to finish all your prep work at least an hour ahead of guests arrival. Believe me, you’ll want that buffer hour, whether it’s to get yourself dressed and ready, or because making your salad took a little longer than expected.
Step 5: Grocery List
What: That’s right, writing your grocery list is a separate activity from doing your grocery shopping.
When: 4 days-2 weeks out
Tips: Take inventory of your pantry, freezer, and fridge larder before you write your list, then once you’re sure of what you already have, get started. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: break your shopping list down by section to reflect the layout of your grocery store. I typically do: Produce, Protein/Dairy, Pantry, Freezer. And don’t forget to include the amount/volume of each item you’ll need on your list. I also like to include any items I plan to have on my tablescape—like florals and tea/taper candles—on my grocery list. This goes in a Misc. section. Here’s a peek at a section of mine:
Step 6: Grocery Shop
What: You have your list ready! Now go forth and shop.
When: 2-4 days out
Tips: Do this at least a couple days in advance—a grocery store the day before (or heaven forbid, day of!) a big holiday is a special kind of hell. And don’t forget your list!! Do your best to shop one section of the store at a time, which should be easy, since you wrote your list that way.
If this all feels like major overkill, then for you, it may be! But I’m such a huge believer that the best host is a relaxed host, and doing all this pre-work is what helps me feel calm, cool, and collected on the big day.
And as I mentioned, I know many of you find it enjoyable (and possibly even helpful!) to see all this nitty gritty behind the scenes work in action. Again, I’m so glad, I feel like I’m among detail-oriented-Type-A-is-an-understatement-Virgo-and-Capricorn-placement friends. Yay!
So, my friends, I’ll leave you with steps 4-6 today. Stay tuned for our little wrap up next week, and until then, wishing you a lovely, well-fed, detail-oriented week ahead.
With love and a tip of my chef’s hat,