Holiday Meal Planning Tips

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Holiday Meal Planning Tips

Hosting a holiday meal serves up a blend of excitement and anxiety. Instead of worrying about when to defrost the turkey or how to bake the perfect pie, use our holiday meal prep guide to take the stress out of your big day. Save time, stick to your budget and worry less! 

Benefits of Meal Prepping

By preparing ahead of time, you maximize the time you get to spend with your guests and minimize the chance of going over your holiday shopping budget with last-minute purchases. Here are some advantages to prepping in advance: 

  • Meal prepping allows you to spread out the workload over several days.
  • You can complete the time-consuming tasks (chopping vegetables) ahead of time.
  • Planning and prepping in advance can help reduce the stress that comes along with hosting.
  • Preparing ahead of time allows you to focus on the details.
  • You can taste and adjust before the big day.
  • There will be more time to make new memories with loved ones.
  • You will have more time to take advantage of sales and discounts.
  • Meal prepping often involves using fewer utensils and kitchen tools the day of which means less clean up.

One Week Before

Ask your guests about any food restrictions. Finalize your menu based on their answers and compile your shopping list, including extras like drinks, disposable tableware and even small decorations.

Budgeting tip: Choose recipes that contain seasonal produce, like apples, radishes and carrots, which are cheaper this time of year.

Time-saving tip: Arrange your shopping list according to the store layout, group items together based on categories such as produce to minimize the time spent hunting for ingredients.

Three Days Before

Go shopping!

Budgeting tip: Buy based on grocery store sales—for instance, if a recipe calls for potatoes, choose the ones on sale.

Time-saving tip: Shop early or late at night to avoid long checkout lines.

Two Days Before

Meal prep for your recipes. Chop vegetables, prepare sauces, bake pie crusts and defrost the turkey. Make a list of everything you need to make, including prep and cook times for each dish. Then, organize the big day with time stamps, ensuring a smooth flow of activities. For instance, schedule your tasks like mashing potatoes at 10 a.m. and putting the bird in the oven at 11 a.m.

Budgeting tip: Avoid using pre-made foods, like dressing or pies. It’s cheaper to make things from scratch.

Time-saving tip: Enlist friends and family to help prep. Turn up the holiday tunes and have fun! 

One Day Before

Continue baking, cooking and prepping what you can. Assemble casseroles and stash them in the refrigerator to bake tomorrow. Prep Jell-O molds. Don’t pre-make anything that could wilt or become discolored, like salad! 

Budgeting tip: Avoid expensive last-minute runs to the store by swapping for pantry substitutes. Forgot the half-and-half for a recipe? Milk or coffee creamer works fine! 

Time-saving tip: Assign kids small to-dos like setting the table for the big holiday meal or rolling out the biscuits. 

The Big Day

Wake up early to start cooking before your guests arrive. Consult your day-of list to stay on track. With oven space at a premium while the turkey or other meats roast, reserve your toaster oven for smaller tasks like heating rolls. Ask guests to help to plate appetizers or stir the gravy. 

Budgeting tip: Ask guests to bring dessert for the kids in advance. It saves money and prep time.

Time-saving tip: Warm make-ahead dishes, like mashed potatoes or dressing, in crockpots. Stir in milk or broth before serving to keep them moist.

With our holiday food prep guide, you can reduce food waste from overbuying and get everything to the table while it’s still hot. To save even more time and money this holiday season, compare rewards for our Members 1st Visa credit cards to find the best option, and do all your shopping with a contactless card.

Download our Holiday Menu Planner and Shopping List PDF to help you prep for the holidays. 


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