The holidays are a happy time of food, family and togetherness. But they can be stressful, too. Just ask anybody who's whipping up an entire Holiday feast for a crew of hungry diners! How do you plan one of these big meals with confidence? For many of us, it starts with being organized and having all of your ducks in a row, so that you can move forward calmly and steadily as you prepare for the big day. Here are some tips.
Start With a Clean Kitchen
For many of us, it's really important to stress the impact that a clean kitchen has on our psychology. We simply feel more able to do things better when we have a clean space. But there is a logistical component to this, too. Making the holidays or any big meal requires counter space. The more free counter space you have, the better you can arrange everything that you need to use during meal prep.
Organize the Fridge and Pantry
Even with a good clean counter space, you still might be scrambling if you have a refrigerator stuffed full of meat, produce, dairy and other perishables. There's a big difference between a mostly empty refrigerator with neatly labeled and stacked contents, and a refrigerator with old jams, jellies, sauces and everything else crammed into a limited space, with ancient food that should have been thrown out long ago and deteriorating ingredients leaking from bags and other packages. So clean your fridge and organize your pantry for more success during the holidays. As a side point, get the right jars and containers to store any leftovers or unused ingredients. In one of our past blog posts, we talked about the value of wide, shallow containers for refrigerating food. Keep this in mind as you go.
Stock Up on Baking Ingredients
Here's another great tip for organizing your holiday meal. Each dish that you’re creating is unique – that's obvious – but when you really think about it, it's surprising how many of these dishes share some of the same basic stock ingredients. Here are a few that you can use for everything from turkey and potatoes to corn, carrots and green beans:
With a full row of neatly labeled spices and other stock ingredients, as well as a sufficient quantity of broth or stock, you're ready to go! Also think about having the right baking smallwares for your holiday project. You may want some specially sized mixing bowls or other mixing equipment. Another key component is baking trays and silicone mats, which help you to get the most out of your oven. Making your oven work for you is a huge time-saver and labor hack for a calmer cooking session on the holiday.
Do Dishes As You Go
This one also makes a lot of sense for busy holiday chefs. It's all too easy to use a mixing bowl or pan or pot once, toss it in the sink, and move on. The problem? You guessed it – pretty soon, you have a sink full of nasty, messy dishes. Throwing dishes with residue on top of each other is the best way to create a hot mess kitchen that you really don't want to spend any time in.
The other side of the coin is that a quick rinse keeps everything much more sanitary and organized. Think about the difference in time investment – if you hose down that mixing bowl with flour and egg residue directly after you use it, it might take 5 or 10 seconds. Trying to wash that same bowl hours or days later might take 5 to 10 minutes of furious scrubbing and trying to get dried-on gunk off.
In addition, be sure to stock up on resources like kitchen towels so that you can easily wash and dry, set dishes aside neatly and preserve valuable space on your counter and in your sink. All of this will help you save time and effort as you prepare for one of the biggest meals of the year.