In this episode I want to help you make hosting the holidays as stress free as possible with some of my favorite stress saving hacks. I have hosted a lot of holidays throughout my years, and I have learned some lessons, and I’m sharing them with you. My very best tips for hosting, cooking, and planning those big meals for lots and lots of people and how you can do it all with less stress and way more peace.
This will help:
👉 Those who are dreading the stress of holiday hosting
👉 Put more peace into your holiday planning
👉 You focus less on the dishes and more on the memories
In this episode:
4:15 Setting Your Holiday Intention
6:00 Ditching Perfectionism Mindset
8:26 Plan the Menu and Schedule Ovens (trust me)
11:10 What Can You Do in Advance
16:09 Letting Kids Be Involved
20:21 What and Where Can You Simplify
SETTING YOUR HOLIDAY INTENTION
The very first thing that we are going to talk about is starting with your intention.
What do you want this holiday to feel like? What do you want it to feel like for you? What do you want it to feel like for your immediate family? The people who are at home in the trenches with you getting all this ready? I’m serious. I want you to really think about how you want it to feel because one of the biggest mistakes that I made early in my hosting years is that I never stopped and thought about it from my experience or my families. I was so wrapped up in creating an amazing experience for my guests that I made it kind of miserable for the rest of us leading up to it. I realized those are not the feeling and the memories I wanted to be creating. So when it comes to intention, think about the lead up and your family at home as well as the overall experience.
This one is for all my perfectionists out there. We need to acknowledge and recognize that everything does not have to be perfect.
If you cringe at the idea of things going wrong and being judged and feeling like it wasn’t perfect, remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, some of the best memories are going to come around the mistakes — the mishaps bring the laughter. They bring the thing that everyone is going to remember and talk about for years and years.
Think of your favorite holiday movies. They all start with something going very wrong. Whether it was leaving your child at home when you cross the ocean, or the dog eating the turkey, or whatever it might be. Everything doesn’t have to be going perfect to have a perfect holiday.
Isn’t that amazing to think about? Everything does not have to go according to plan to still have a perfect holiday. Dinner does not need to be served on the dot. Now that we are embracing that things might not go exactly according to plan, we can be ready for whatever comes.
That doesn’t mean we’re not still going to try to do everything in our power to make things go as smoothly as possible. But I never go into anything ever believing it’s all going to go according to plan anymore because when does that ever happen? Almost never. So if we just shift and tell ourselves we can roll with whatever comes our way, we’re going to make holiday hosting as simple and stress free as possible.
PLAN THE MENU AND SCHEDULE THE OVENS
The first and probably the most important thing we need to do if we are hosting a holiday is plan the menu. Figure out what you are making, what you can delegate, and have a plan. That plan should include scheduling your oven. And what I mean by that is sometimes we plan a menu and we don’t think through how many things need to be cooked in the oven. Especially when we’re hosting a big event, we really have to think about the oven space.
I have double ovens and I also have a portable oven. (This is the exact one I have and it works great for ham!) That means I can have three potential places where I’m utilizing oven space. The portable oven is probably gonna have the ham in it and then another one might have a roast, or maybe we can smoke the roast outside on the barbecue?
You will know what you’re cooking and where by scheduling the ovens. I am also making sure that I know when each thing needs to be going and the timing of it, because that can be where a lot of frustration comes in. When you realize, “Oh my gosh, I need to get pies in and side dishes in, and I need to roast things, and I need to bake things, and I need to cook things that take a really long time and there’s not enough ovens to go around.” So schedule your ovens. Trust me.
WHAT CAN YOU DO IN ADVANCE
I have learned that one of the biggest things I can do to set myself up for a more peaceful and enjoyable hosting experience is to do as many things in advance as possible. Don’t leave setting the table until right before guests arrive. You can be like my sister and set your table DAYS (or maybe a week) in advance.
Another thing I love doing is hosting a chopping party. We all know there is a lot of prep work that goes into hosting. The saying: many hands make light work is so true in this case. Invite some friends or family over, turn on some music, enjoy each others company and chop and prep away.
Also there are usually a ton of dishes that you can make ahead of time. Desserts, casseroles, etc. are great to get prepped and ready to make the day of hosting as simple as can be.
WHERE CAN YOU SIMPLIFY
Those of us who love to host can definitely get caught up in the magic and presentation of it all. I love and live for a good presentation, but that can for sure add unnecessary pressure and stress. So a few things I have done to still make an impact, but keep my sanity are keeping a simple tablescape. A little greenery and candles is a classic look that always looks good and is quick and easy to pull together.
But just because I am going for simple, doesn’t mean I’m not going for impact or for a wow factor. I will admit right now that I will re-plate any food that a guest brings to another dish that fits into the aesthetic I am going for. Nothing is worse (to me) than a beautifully set table with matching dishes and a big old Tupperware container. So I started a collection years ago of white serving dishes. That way I can quickly just swap the food onto a new tray and ta-da, a beautiful presentation without a ton of effort. I’ve done this for years and my guests think it’s a funny quirk and tease me a bit about it, but it’s also easy for them because they don’t have to worry about what dish to bring because they know I’m just going to re-plate it anyway!
And speaking of dishes, in the days leading up to my hosting I keep our meals and dishes so simple. I’m pulling out freezer meals, or we are grabbing takeout and avoiding making messes in the kitchen because I really just don’t want to worry about anything else in the 24 hours before hosting.
STOP AND ENJOY
I wish you the most incredible holidays. I hope they are filled with joy and peace and so much laughter that your stomach muscles hurt. And with that, make sure you pause in all of this planning to think about how you can curate and create that meaningful experience. What fun games could you have in place that would make the holiday even more special, even more fun, even more memorable. How can you get the entire family playing together?
There are so many incredible easy games. In fact, in the show notes, I’ll share a few of my favorites.
I hope that if you are hosting this year, this has helped you. If you have any friends, family, your sister, your sister-in-law, someone who is hosting this year, send them with a note that tells them how much you appreciate them for hosting, how incredible they are, and that you wanted to share this because they are amazing. And this episode made you think of them.
LINKS YOU’LL LOVE:
Games for the Family:
Spot It – https://amzn.to/3G7gWk0
Uno Attack – https://amzn.to/3fVdG0m
Ticket to Ride -First Journey – https://amzn.to/3tkooAz
Skull King (Ella’s favorite and our family go-to) https://amzn.to/3EgV8Qr
Spinners (my current favorite) – https://amzn.to/3WSFPpu
Ticket to Ride (Paysen’s favorite) – https://amzn.to/3Tp6Rlh
Mormon Bridge — this is a card game (Adi’s favorite) here’s a video
This game goes through seven rounds (or 14, if you’re ambitious). The first round, you deal one card to each player, second round, two, and so on. Deal out the cards based on the round you are on, then turn the top card of the remaining pile over. That suit is trump for this round. Start by assessing your hand to determine how many tricks you think you could take. Then, on the count of three, everyone holds out on their fingers how many tricks they think they will take. The score keeper records this number.
The player to the left of the dealer starts, and whatever suit they play is the suit that has to be matched. If you don’t have that suit, you can slough off any card, or play a trump if you have one and want to play it. The highest card (or highest trump) takes the trick. At the end of the round, you get 10 points if you make your bid, and 10 points for each trick you took. If you don’t make your bid, you lose 10 points for each trick you took that you didn’t want/didn’t get.
For All ages & with other families
Telestrations – Party Pack – https://amzn.to/3NWu4tR
One Night Werewolf (this is our current fave with big groups and it has an accompanying app) – https://amzn.to/3A6ivuq
READ THE TRANSCRIPT:
[00:00:00] This episode is brought to you by 12 Days of Gifts, and that means I’m bringing this episode to you. So every single year, and I think we have been doing this for like 14 years. No, that seems like too many. We’ve been doing it for a really long time, and what it is, is I bring 11 incredible businesses, business women together with me.
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[00:02:56] leah: Welcome to The Balancing Busy Podcast. I am Leah Rele, and today we are talking about hosting for the holidays and how to do this with a little more piece. I want to help you make hosting the holidays a stressed. Free as possible. I have hosted a lot, a lot of holidays throughout my years, and I have had some that have been high, high stress, just not good.
[00:03:52] And then as I have grown, learned some of these lessons, I have had ones that felt amazing. I mean, so enjoyable, so good. So I wanna share with you my very best tips for host. For cooking and planning very big meals for lots and lots and lots of people and how to go about doing all of that. Now, the very first thing that we are going to talk about in this episode is starting with your intention.
[00:04:23] What do you want this holiday that you are hosting to feel like? What do you want it to feel like for you? What do you want it to feel like for your immediate family? So the people who are there on the ground. In the trenches with you getting all of this ready, and then for your extended friends, family, your guests who are going to be arriving, what do you want it to feel like for each one of you?
[00:04:49] I want you to really, I’m serious. Take a moment and think about what you want it to feel like for each of you. Because one of the biggest mistakes that I made early in my hosting years is I never stopped and thought about that. So guess. I was completely determined to make sure that my guests had a great experience, uh, but myself, my family, like my immediate family, um, no, I forgot to think about us.
[00:05:16] And it was pretty stinking miserable for all of us leading up to the day. And I realized that is not what I want. Maybe you have memories as a kid where your family always hosted and it just came with so much stress and turmoil. I have those same memories and. I started creating and living out that same cycle until I caught myself and realized it does not have to be like this.
[00:05:43] So let’s start with our intention. Let’s start by figuring out what we want this to feel like for each of those, those categories for yourself personally, for your immediate family, those who are gonna help you, and then for your. The next place we’re going to go is acknowledging and recognizing that everything does not have to be perfect for all of my perfectionists.
[00:06:07] If you just cringe at the idea of things going wrong and being judged and feeling like it wasn’t perfect, it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, some of the best memories are going to come around the mistakes. The mishaps that bring the laughter, that bring the thing that everyone is gonna remember and talk about for years and years.
[00:06:35] Think of your favorite holiday movies. They all start because something went very wrong. Whether it was leaving your child completely at home when you cross the ocean. Or it was the dog eating the Turkey or whatever it might be. Everything doesn’t have to be going perfect to have a perfect holiday.
[00:07:03] Isn’t that amazing to think about? Everything does not have to go according to plan. It doesn’t have to be perfect. To still have a perfect holiday dinner does not need to be served on the dot. Things are not going to go according to plan. They’re just not so that now that we know that, now that we are embracing, , things are not going to go exactly according to.
[00:07:33] So now that we know that we can embrace it and be ready for whatever comes. Now, that doesn’t mean we’re not gonna still try to do everything in our power to make things go as smoothly as possible. I mean, this is gonna be a very short episode if this is where it ends. I’ve got some tips to make it as smooth as possible, but I never go into anything ever believing it’s all going to go according to plan anymore because when does that ever happen?
[00:08:01] Almost never. So if I just shift and I say, Of course it’s not going to go according to plan, then I’m ready. When it doesn’t, then I’m feeling good, I’m feeling fine, and I can roll with whatever comes my way. All right. Now let’s get into making your holiday that you are hosting as simple and stress free as.
[00:08:26] The very first thing we need to do is plan the menu and plan the activities. What are you planning to do if you need to have activities, and what is gonna be the menu? So that’s always where I start. I plan out the menu and then delegate, divvy out some of that work out to other people that they’re going to bring, that they’re going to, That is gonna be the offering that they lay at your table when they come and enjoy.
[00:08:50] This amazing day with you. So plan the menu, delegate out. The next thing I like to do is schedule my oven. And what I mean by that is sometimes we play on a menu and we don’t think through how many things need to be cooked in the oven. You really have to, when we’re hosting a big event, we really have to think about the oven space.
[00:09:14] So I have double ovens and I also have like, Portable oven, I will post to exactly what I have in the show notes and Amazon link. And so that means I can have three potential places where I’m utilizing oven. Uh, the portable one’s probably gonna have like the ham in it and then, There’s gonna be one that might have a roast, or maybe we can smoke the roast that can be outside on the barbecue, something along those lines.
[00:09:40] And then I’ve got these oven spaces, but I’m scheduling the ovens. I am making sure that I know when each thing needs to be going in the timing of it, because that can be where a lot of. Frustration comes, is realizing, Oh my gosh, I need to get pies in and side dishes in, and I need to roast things, and I need to bake things, and I need to cook.
[00:10:00] Things that take a really long time and there’s not enough ovens to go around. So schedule your ovens. Another thing that I do, I do this every time I host a party or an event or anything, is the night before or early in the morning, I will put out all of my serving platters. And I put a sticky note on each serving platter for what it is going to have on it.
[00:10:25] This helps me so much in staying organized, and it has saved me many a time for forgetting something. So, you know, you completely make something ahead of time. You stash it somewhere outta the way because you need all the counter space and you want everything to look clear, and then you forget about it completely and the whole dinner goes by and you’re like, Oh shoot.
[00:10:46] By having a sticky note on each platter of what it’s going to have. It saves me from this, and it just helps me to, again, make sure I have everything I need so I can do this the day before. I can do it whenever I, at whatever point I want to, then I can realize if I’m missing something, if I need to ask someone to bring some serving dishes, or if I wanna go out and buy one more, whatever it might be.
[00:11:09] Another thing is setting the table early. This can be a couple days before if you are my sister, I love her. She is the queen of planning and scheduling and doing everything early. That’s why she’s such an incredible accountability coach. She will have it out like a whole week early. I bet she’s even had it two weeks and she just won’t admit it to me.
[00:11:32] I mean, she will have that entire table set for days and days and days ahead of time, but how wonderful is that? Come the day of, or those two days where you’re doing all the work. That is completely done. And speaking of the tables, If you’re styling them, which I love to do, keep it really simple. So greens and candles are beautiful.
[00:11:55] They always look good, and it’s such a simple way to do your tablescape and not have to do anything too complicated. I try to remind myself that I need to be careful to not try anything too new, too outside of my skillset.
[00:12:10] Because that’s gonna make it too hard, too complicated, too stressful, there’s too much of a risk that it’s just not going to work out. Also, as I’m leading up to these big holidays that I’m gonna host, I am keeping dinner so simple. I’m either pulling out freezer meals that I have had stocked from way before and just, Oh, here we go.
[00:12:35] We’re gonna have soup, and it’s just getting warmed up, or we’re doing takeout. We are doing things where it takes minimal dishes, minimal. Minimal time from me, so I keep just regular meals. Very, very simple leading up, and you better believe like the 24 hours beforehand. I do not want anyone making messes in the kitchen.
[00:12:56] It is gonna be kept really, really simple so that I don’t have extra things that I need to worry about. And of course I shared this at the beginning, but I’m gonna say it again. Let people bring things. Now I’m gonna make a confession to you right now that I’m a little bit surprised that I’m admitting, but I love presentation, Like I love presentation.
[00:13:19] So in the early years sometimes I didn’t want to let people bring things because I wanted it all to be presented in this really, really beautiful way. And I was worried that it would not be. Over the years, I have just fully embraced and been completely fine with replay anyone’s food. It’s just what I do.
[00:13:37] Everything that I ever serve is on white dishes. I was given that. when I was a newlywed, actually. So I had an amazing woman, her name is Lorraine DeHoff, and she told me that she always did white serving dishes and that way she could build up her collection through the years and they were always going to work together and I just loved that.
[00:13:59] So I jumped onto that 21 years. And started my collection of white serving platters. So I have all of these different white serving platters. So if somebody brings something and it’s not a white serving platter, then I just take it and I replay it, and then that will be what is presented. And they all tease me.
[00:14:20] They think it’s hilarious. It’s okay. I totally embrace it. This is who I am. I love a garnish. I love the way things are plated and presented. It brings me joy. And so that’s what I do. And if it doesn’t matter to you, then that’s great. It doesn’t have to matter. It’s about us embracing who we are, what we love, what lights us up, what fills us up, what brings us joy, and then sharing that with the people that we love for.
[00:14:47] It is everything being presented really beautiful, so I’m totally probably going to take whatever you brought it in, especially if it’s Tupperware and I’m going to replay it, which that makes it easy for my family because now they all know, just bring it in the Tupperware. Leah’s gonna change it anyway, so it’s fine.
[00:15:04] Another idea that I really love, and I learned this one from my stepmom, actually. Is hosting a chop party. So this is something that she does before Thanksgiving, and I think we could do this with any party we’re ever hosting where you invite, you know, a few of your closest people over the day before to help chop everything.
[00:15:27] So, you know, you think about Christmas and. Thanksgiving and these bigger holidays, and there is so much prep work. There’s just so much chopping that needs to be done. So host a chop party, have everyone over, play some fun music, and just chat. Enjoy each other’s company and let them help many hands make light work.
[00:15:49] I love that. I have been saying it to my kids forever. Whenever we need to clean and do dishes, many hands make light work, let’s just do it all together. And that even applies by inviting your girlfriends or your your family over early, if that’s a possibility to have a chop party and to help you out.
[00:16:09] And then my very last idea that I wanna share with you around making the holidays, I don’t know if this necessarily makes them more stress free in the early years. Okay? I’m going to admit that right now. But over time, it is going to, and it is going to. So, so meaningful to you. So when my kids were really little, they, everybody had something that they were known for bringing, Everyone had that dish that, you know, they, they typically contributed.
[00:16:38] And my kids, they wanted to have something. So I let them each pick what they wanted to contribute. And now it has become something really special where they each are going to bring that to the holiday and it’s really, really meaningful. So for Payson, he makes a pumpkin roll cake. He has been making this cake since he was four, so obviously when he was really little I helped every step of the way.
[00:17:06] But he makes it entirely by himself now and, and he’s a freshman in high school. And then Gabriela makes cranberry sauce. And she makes this homemade cranberry sauce and her secret ingredient, I’m sharing it so it’s not very secret, but she like grades oranges into it and it’s just so fragrant and so delicious.
[00:17:26] And she brings that and has made that every year. And Addie, she makes her Nymo bars and they’re just so good. And in the early years, yes, it was more work. Now I will say those are things though that can be made early, and that’s another thing that we think about when we’re making our meal plan. . I’m always thinking which things are gonna be complicated and which things can be easy.
[00:17:48] Which things do I need to make day of, and which things can I make ahead of time? Cranberry sauce is so easy to make homemade, and its. So delicious, and you can make that a week early if you want to. Same thing, Nigel. Bars can be made days and days early. The the frostings and the pies, there’s so many things that can be done way early.
[00:18:09] A lot of prepping and chopping can be done way early, and then you’re just gonna incorporate as you get closer. So as I meal plan, as I come up with these menu, I’m definitely thinking about which things need to be made day of to be at their best, which things can be made early and making sure I’m getting a good variety.
[00:18:25] So I might say, Okay, well this one is a must. One of our things is there has to be Russ, uh, Roasted Russel Sprouts, and so. , I’m thinking about, you know, scheduling the oven and even scheduling my, my stove top. And so I might realize, okay, well then I probably can’t make this one because I’m not gonna have enough furnishers going.
[00:18:46] I’m just thinking through and taking a few minutes to logistically make sure that it all works and bringing in this, this component of that each of my kids contribute something. It’s just made these holiday. Really meaningful and special, and that’s what they’re about. They’re about this meaning this memories, these moments that we cherish, that we hold onto that mean so much to us and their contributions to these meals.
[00:19:19] Them being a part of it and helping and having something that they are proud of, that they’re excited to present and to share with our friends and our. It’s really, really special and I’m so, so glad that I started that tradition. It, it wasn’t really all that intentional. It was kind of accidental. I think one of ’em was like, I wish I had something I brought.
[00:19:40] I’m like, Okay, well what would you like to bring? And, and I was like, This still needs to be made. Do you wanna be in charge of it? And that is really kind of how it’s started, but it’s become something so special and meaningful. And yes, it definitely was a little more work in those early years. There’s no.
[00:19:59] Now it’s not, They take things off my plate because they’re so helpful and they, they can contribute these things. But also it is a tradition that means so much to me. And I think that goes back to at the very beginning of our conversation, you know, I talked about, let’s set the intention. Let’s decide what do we want this to be about?
[00:20:21] What do we want this to feel like to mean? What do we want everyone to walk away feeling? After this day is over, and when we think about those things, I want lots of laughter. I want it to feel fun and peaceful. I don’t want there to be a lot of contention or yelling or. High stress, high anxiety, trying to get everything done.
[00:20:48] And so just taking these steps, really thinking about the menu, making sure I’m not trying anything too complicated, nothing. For the very first time I was just having this conversation with one of my girls as they were talking about something they wanted to make. I said, That sounds amazing. We need to make sure we do a test.
[00:21:04] Run through weeks early and that way you can get it right or you can decide, Nope, not the thing, and you can move. Hosting big events is not the day to try a completely new recipe. That is, that is a recipe for stress. That’s what that is. So these, these are the things that I have done in hosting. that have made a huge, huge difference.
[00:21:30] I really work to make a combination of things that are gonna be really simple and then things that are more complex, but nothing that becomes too much for me. And if like this year I am hosting to where I’m hosting and people are staying with us, we are gonna have an entirely full house. Then I take this to the next level, where now I’m thinking about, okay, I have multiple meals that I need to have ready, that I need to have.
[00:21:57] So I’m gonna make sure that some of these are gonna be very, very simple, so that I’m ready for the big ones. I’m gonna make sure, you know, I’m gonna have lots of hors DEU out. I’m gonna make sure a lot of those take very, very little cooking. They’re, it’s, we’re gonna have a huge charcuterie board. Of course, you know, me and my cheese boards, I.
[00:22:13] Love them with a deep passion. So there’s no way I can host anything without a cheese board, but that is such an easy thing to put out. It’s beautiful, it’s received well. People love it, and it’s so, so easy to just throw things out on a giant wood board and put that out there. So, I’m gonna make sure that I have these things that are simple breakfast.
[00:22:34] I will make breakfast casserole ahead of time, have those prepped and ready so that I can just pull ’em out, throw ’em into the oven for the morning. I’m looking for this combination of easy, simple, but good where it doesn’t have to become high, high stress. I’m even gonna make sure that I’m using disposable goods for some of those.
[00:23:00] So that I’m not doing dishes the entire time everyone’s there, right? I, that’s not how I wanna spend my holiday. When I think about how do I wanna feel, how do I wanna spend this, what do I wanna do? It is not at the sink the entire time doing dishes. So I’m gonna do a combination of. All of our dishes for the main dinner and then keeping it really easy and simpler for other parts of the meal.
[00:23:20] So we’re just looking for this combination when we are the host of How do I do as much as I can before the actual day? There’s so much that can be done early. So really looking for that and planning with the intention of I am trying to. a plan. I’m trying to make a menu. I’m trying to prepare the house.
[00:23:41] All of the things you need to do. I’m trying to do as many of these things early. I will have where I like block off parts of the house. Like this part of the house is completely clean. No one touches it for the next two days, whatever it might be. I mean, I’m going to make this as simple as I can by looking for how I can simplify, how I can make this all work and I’m going to do it.
[00:24:05] Setting the intention for what I want this holiday to feel like, how I want it to be remembered. And I have never once thought to myself, you know how I want this one remembered as mom was stressed out and acting crazy, never how I wanted it to be remembered. And yet there are probably a feel where that is.
[00:24:26] But by doing these things ahead of time, it really can make all the difference. So I hope that if you are hosting this year, this has helped you and given you, even if you just take one idea from this, that’s amazing. That feels so good to me. I’m great with that. So if you took any more than one, we are winning.
[00:24:44] And if you have any friends, families, your sister, your sister-in-law, someone who is hosting this year, send them. with a note that tells them how much you appreciate them for hosting, how incredible they are, and that you wanted to share this because they are amazing. And this episode made you think of them.
[00:25:07] I wish you the most incredible holidays. I hope they are filled with joy and peace and so much laughter that your stomach muscles hurt. And with that, make sure you pause in all of this planning to think about how you can curate, how you can create that meaningful experience. What fun games could you have in place that would make.
[00:25:36] Holiday even more special, even more fun, even more memorable. How can you get the entire family playing together? There are so many incredible easy games. In fact, in the show notes, I’ll share a few of my favorites, if that helps you as well, so you can. Find the link, go to the show notes and I’ll share some of those too.
[00:25:56] Okay. This is the Balancing Busy podcast. We wear so many hats and we want to be it all, but we cannot do it all, and so we look for ways to make our lives simpler by doing less but better. If you loved this episode, please take a moment and leave a review. Give that five star review because that’s how.
[00:26:19] Find this podcast and it is a way to share your gratitude and just share your love with me. It means the world. So thank you so much. Happy, happy holidays to you and to yours. I hope it is an incredible season for you, .Hide Transcript