How to Prepare the Perfect Holiday Meal

Holiday Dinner Tablescape

From grocery shopping to wrangling all your relatives into one room, preparing for holiday get-togethers can be stressful. Luckily, you can avoid a mid-day meltdown on Christmas, Easter, or Mother’s Day by planning ahead and prepping your dishes before the big day even begins. Here’s how.

What's On the Menu?

Cranberry Collins
Crostini With Lemon Pepper Ricotta Spread
Crostini With Lemon Pepper Ricotta Spread
Garlic & Herb Beef Tenderloin
Garlic & Herb Beef Tenderloin
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Brussels Sprouts With Bacon & Apricots
Cinnamon Caramel Cheesecake Squares
Cinnamon Caramel Cheesecake Squares

Prepare Ahead of Time

Cutting Boards to Prep Veggies
Large Cutting Boards and a Chef's Knife Make Veggie Prep Easy

While there’s no one secret to making large holiday meals, you can always prepare as much as possible before your big feast. This will not only reduce your stress on the big day, but it will also allow you to enjoy more time with your family and friends. Here are a few things you can do ahead of time, so everything is in its place.

  • Prep all the veggies you need a day or two before you make the meal. Then, store them in a prep bowl set or plastic baggies and place them in your fridge until you need them.
    • Pro Tip:  For even more organization, label which veggies will be used for each dish. When you’re ready to start cooking, you can just grab the precut veggies and go!
  • Measure all the ingredients you need ahead of time.
  • Start laying out your holiday table setting by gathering all the dishes and cookware you’ll need for the entire meal.
  • Go grocery shopping for ingredients that will keep in advance. Put all the ingredients that need to stay cold in a designated space in your fridge and everything that should be stored at room temp on a half sheet pan on your countertop. When you’re ready to cook, you won’t have to frantically search for everything you need.
  • Set your dining table several days in advance so you won’t have to worry about this at the last minute.

Create a Cooking Timeline

In the days leading up to your holiday dinner, plan your time accordingly. For example, if you cook your Brussels sprouts first, they’ll get soggy and lose their flavor as they sit out. Map out your must-dos by keeping in mind which foods take longer to cook and which ones need to be served right away.

Not sure how to plan out your cooking timeline? No worries! Here’s what you’d do if you’re using the TasteBuds Holiday Dinner Box and serving your meal at 7 p.m. on a Saturday. This schedule can be adapted to whenever you decide to serve dinner.


  • If you have a separate dining room or won’t be using it until the big day, set the table ahead of time.


  • Buy last-minute herbs and produce you need for your meal.


  • Chop your veggies.
  • Prepare and measure out your ingredients.
  • Gather the dishes and cookware you’ll need for the big day.
  • Make the Simple Syrup for the cocktails. Once it’s cool, label and store it in your fridge for tomorrow.
  • Make the ricotta mixture for the crostini. Label and store it in your fridge for tomorrow.
  • Prepare your desired topping for the crostini.
    • Make the quick pickle. Then, label and store it in the fridge.
    • Make the sautéed pears. Then, label and store them in the fridge. You’ll want to warm them slightly before serving.

Saturday Morning

  • Toast the bread for your crostini.
  • Make the cocktail base.
    • Combine the muddled cranberries, lemon juice, gin, and simple syrup in a pitcher and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve the cocktails.
    • Pro Tip: You can create even more flavor by creating this cocktail mix well ahead of time. When you’re ready to serve it, shake the mix with ice and top it off with sparkling water. Then, add garnish and serve!
  • Make the Cinnamon Caramel Cheesecake Squares. Once they’re cool, sprinkle each square with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Saturday Afternoon

  • Complete steps 1–4 for the Roasted Sweet Potatoes. Then, take this dish out of the oven and put it to the side.

Saturday at 5 p.m.

Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

  • Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C).
  • As guests start to arrive, serve them (and you!) the cocktail.
  • Break time! Since you’ll have everything prepped and ready to go, spend some time chatting with your friends before dinner begins.

Saturday at 6 p.m.

  • Put the beef tenderloin in the oven to bake. Reduce the temperature to 475°F (245°C).
    • When the meat is done, take it out of the oven and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before cutting.
  • Cook the bacon for the Brussel Sprouts With Bacon & Apricots.
  • Prepare the mushroom sauce for the beef tenderloin.
    • Place it in a gravy board and keep it warm until ready to serve.

Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

  • Finish the sweet potatoes by adding maple syrup, pecans, and cranberries.
    • Bake them at 425°F (215°C) for 5 minutes.
    • After they’re baked, place them in a warm serving dish and cover with aluminum foil until they’re ready to serve.
  • Cook and finish the Brussels sprouts.
    • After they’re baked, place them in a warm serving dish and cover with aluminum foil until they’re ready to serve.

Saturday at 6:45 p.m.

  • Slice the beef tenderloin and place it on a serving dish.

Saturday at 7 p.m.

  • Dinner’s served!
Holiday Dinner Tablescape
You can make a memorable meal for up to 12 people with this easy meal plan.

One Response to How to Prepare the Perfect Holiday Meal

  1. Holly Ryerson November 3, 2021 at 12:52 pm #

    I LOVE everything about this! I’m a huge fan of TasteBuds and am giving everyone in my family the TasteBuds Holiday Dinner Box for Christmas. I’m thrilled that you’ve included such a detailed suggested schedule for making the full meal for a crowd. This will be especially appreciated by the new cooks in my family! Thank you!!!!

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