With the festive season just around the corner, it’s that time of the year to start thinking about inviting friends over for dinner. To help you ensure that your occasion is stress-free and enjoyable for you, here are our top tips:
Spread the Work
Don’t leave everything for the day of the party! Having to rush around because you need to go shopping, clean the house, set the table, cook the food etc. are each a cause of stress , so why do them all in one day? You can spread out these chores throughout the week.
• Clean your house a little each day of the week of the party. There’s no need for anything other than the vacuuming and a little bit of spot cleaning to be done on the morning of your party!
• Similarly if you need to polish your cutlery or make your dishes or glasses look better, do it in advance. Polish your cutlery a couple of days before the party, you can even do this in your leisure time like while you’re watching television.
• Pre-prepare some of the food. Not all food tastes better freshly made so make it easier on yourself and pre-prepare some of it. For example, make a huge batch of soup and freeze it until you need it!
• Set the table the night before! This way you can take your time and even have time to be adventurous. The best part is that when you wake up the next morning you have time to change your mind.
• Shop for your ingredients in advance. Unless it has a short term shelf life there is no reason for you to wait to buy it on the day of your party. Buy as many non-perishable ingredients along with your normal weekly shop. If you think you’ll have time on the day of your party to buy the perishables then that’s fine but if you feel rushed just do it the day before.
• Ask for help. Who said that if you’re the host of a party you need to do everything yourself? Get your family and friends to help you out.
• Do a potluck! If you feel like it’s all getting on top of you then call around and ask everyone to bring one dish to contribute towards the meal. Just make sure that if you do this you give them plenty of time to prepare.
Have a Plan
If you plan your dinner party in advance you’ll be able to relax much more about it. I have been witness to some horrors over the years where the host didn’t plan what they were going to do in advance. This can lead to some real disasters: food not ready when it’s supposed to be, leading to burnt or cold food; inappropriate substitutions due to lack of ingredients, etc
• Plan your menu. This may seem obvious to some but I’ve been witness to friends who didn’t and this can result in stress and embarrassment for the host, and awkwardness for the guests.
• Make sure that you have all the ingredients that you’ll need for your meal.
• Be savvy. In today’s world everyone has their eating quirks. Whether it’s for allergy reasons, preferences, dislikes, beliefs or religious reasons, there is usually at least one thing that someone won’t eat and you don’t want to be caught out. The best way to combat this is to ask your guests. If you don’t want to ask them directly then make sure to always have a vegetarian option to use as an alternative.
• If you have chosen to do a potluck dinner party you have to be extra organised – make sure that everyone knows what they are supposed to be bringing otherwise you might end up with three desserts but no starters or salads.
Relax and Have Fun
Once your party has started there’s no point in getting worried about anything: at this point it’s probably too late to fix any disasters anyway. The best thing you could do is take a deep breath, relax and have a good time. It’s always easy to spot the stressed out host and not only does it spoil your enjoyment of the party but also can cause your guests to become stressed too! That kind of environment can cause tension and awkward silences which is toxic to a party.
Clean as You Go
Cleaning up is the worst part of a dinner party. It’s late and you’ve just said goodbye to your last guest, you make your way back to the kitchen or dining room and you’re greeted by dishes, dishes and more dishes! I know from experience that this alone can turn an otherwise stress free and enjoyable night into a pain. The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is to not leave all the cleaning up to the end of the party, but to clean as you go along.
• Begin your party with an empty dishwasher. It’s really important that before any guests arrive that you’ve emptied your dishwasher and cleaned any dirty dishes that you’ve used during the day. At a dinner party your dishwasher will be your new best friend, it’s so easy to just load a dishwasher rather than having to wash everything by hand. You definitely don’t want to run out of room.
• Load the dishes between each course. As you clear the table after each course, instead of stacking them by or in the sink, load them directly into the dishwasher. This way, although it may take a little longer, your kitchen still looks neat and you’re not met by a huge clean up at the end of the night. It may not seem like it at the time but you’ll actually save energy and reduce your stress drastically by taking care of the mess sooner rather than later.
• At the end of the night when everyone’s gone all you’ll need to do is throw all the rubbish out, put on the dishwasher and go to bed. Everything else, which should be minimal, can be left until the morning.
In the spirit of Christmas, we have a giveaway! For your chance to win a free packet of Finish Quantum with Power Gel, just leave a comment below (25 words or less) before 10 December 2013 on how you best cope with the stress of a dinner party. For more information click here. Please note that this competition is only open to Australian residents.