Follow these tips to impress, not stress.

By Christine Quinlan
Updated: November 01, 2018
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The holidays are hectic enough without playing host, so no one would blame you if you outsource your party prep. There will still be plenty of things on your entertaining to-do list. So whether you choose to divide and conquer or do it all yourself, we’ve got everything you need to crush holiday entertaining.

Dinner Party Shopping Timeline

Three to four weeks out: 

  • Choose your main course and order any special roasts or cuts of meat to ensure they’ll be available when you need them. 
  • Buy games, small gifts if you want to host a grab, or anything else to up the festive quotient.  
  • Buy paper and ribbons for ornaments: Ask guests to send a photo of a favorite moment from the past year then turn them into ornaments to decorate with or use as favors or seating cards for guests.

Two weeks out: 

  • Take a quick inventory to make sure you don’t need to buy any additional serving pieces, glasses, etc. 
  • Visit your local wine store to inquire about case discounts or any other specials, select your wines and arrange to have them delivered.

About one week out: 

  • Shop for all non-perishables, including extra cocktail snacks like nuts and breadsticks, just in case.
  • Buy extra plastic containers or Chinese-style food boxes to send leftovers home with guests.
  • Buy a stain remover pen for the guest bathroom. 

One to two days out: Buy salad greens, seafood and other perishable ingredients.

Prepping and Cooking 

Make ahead recipes are key so you’re not trapped in the kitchen during a party. Shoot for cooking no more than two courses on the day of the party. 

In early December make and freeze cookie dough for any last-minute dessert needs and to bake as you need gifts throughout the month. About two weeks before your party prepare anything else–pie doughs, soups, and appetizers–that can be made ahead and frozen. If you’re baking pies for dessert, make the dough for the crust, roll it out, lay it into pie plates and freeze right in the plate. 

Here are some of our favorite make ahead recipes:

Make in the morning and keep at room temp: Radicchio and Endive Galette

© Eva Kolenko

Make the day before: Shrimp Cocktail with Singapore Hot Sauce

Make the day before: Farro Salad with Turnips and Greens

Make the day before: Roasted Cabbage with Warm Walnut Rosemary Dressing