Planning is a normal part of making holiday preparations. You plan the menu, how much food to prepare, and you probably plan ahead of time what to wear, along with other details. If you've never done it before, planning how you'll arrange your holiday table can be a huge time saver, and can really remove some of the pressure we all tend to experience on the day our loved ones arrive to share the holiday. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you you plan your holiday table settings:
Step one is get organized. Well in advance of the flurry of activity on the actual day of your gathering, step into the dining room and remove anything that's not holiday-related, then take stock of your dishes and serving pieces. Select which items you would like to use for the feast and try them out on the table. Use sticky notes to designate each piece with what it will be used to serve. By doing this, you can see what works and what doesn't, where certain dishes belong on the table, and you'll find out if you have enough serving utensils to go with platters and bowls, etc. To reduce the number of dirty dishes you end up with at the end of the day, use casseroles and other bakeware that are attractive enough to appear on the table, and if you plan on setting out pots and pans containing food, consider wrapping them in a holiday-themed, or otherwise festive tea towel.
Step two is plan a space to chill and serve wine. Use a tray table and situate it in the dining room beside the sideboard or anywhere it's easily accessible but out of the direct path of foot traffic. Place your ice bucket, corkscrew and glasses on the table and you're ready to go. You'll be saving space in the refrigerator and cutting down on the number of people who need to actually come into the kitchen, which will be greatly appreciated by those who are working on food preparations (namely you!). You can also plan on having a medium-large cooler situated somewhere in the room, but out of the way, which can be filled with ice and used to chill cans of soda and/or bottles of beer to accompany the meal if desired and for watching the football after everyone has finished eating.
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Use clever solutions to arrange the sideboard. Cake stands can be set out with serving dishes placed on them to provide extra room on the board, and if you happen to be expecting guests who aren't familiar with the foods traditionally served at your holiday gatherings, or if you're trying out several new dishes along with the old favorites, use attractive card stock to create labels for each dish so that your guests will know what is being served.
To reduce the number of people who have to be involved when it's necessary to pass condiments, or the bread basket, plan on having a group of items at each end of the table. Salt and pepper, gravy boats, butter, etc. are all good choices when planning on what sort of items to include in the separate groupings.
A valuable bonus tip is remember to keep any reusable takeout containers, empty margarine tubs, and other various containers which can be washed and stored to pull out at the end of the meal when it's time to package up leftovers to send home with those who might wish to enjoy some of your delicious food the next day. Also save the sturdy sort of shopping bags that have handles, to place the packaged up leftovers in so that they can be easily transported home. Finally, remember to have extra napkins, utensils, glasses and other supplies standing at the ready, and don't forget to clean out your fridge and freezer a few days before the event to make room for holiday specific foods and ingredients.
Follow this guide to help you prepare for the best holiday ever, and Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones, as well!
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