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Head Start on Holiday Cooking & Entertaining

If you're the appointed cook or baker this upcoming holiday season, it might be helpful to get a head start on the upcoming events with a little planning and organizing. With the holidays fast approaching, the stress of cooking and entertaining can quickly fill up your calendar without a chance to actually enjoy the festivities. If you want to get a head start on holiday entertainment this year, here are just ten ways to get organized and plan for those holiday menus:

1. Make and freeze soups and appetizers. When you're ready to start making party-style batches of appetizers and large servings of soup, prep time is critical to your success. Start pulling recipes in late October and freezing and storing batches in early November. When party time rolls around, the only thing you'll need to worry about is heating and presenting.

2. Place orders for meat, poultry, seafood, and gourmet items before November 1. This will give you plenty of time to reserve your choice selections before the holiday rush, and you'll be guaranteed delivery when you need it.

3. Design place cards and creative invitations before mid November. This will help you put the scissors and note cards away well before entertaining season begins; just set aside a couple of weekends to pick out your specialty papers and supplies, make your favorite arts and crafts, and store them for the party days ahead.

4. Order floral arrangements and bouquets right after Halloween. This is the perfect time to take advantage of holiday specials and the new inventory at the local flower shop and boutique, and will ensure that you have the exact arrangement you need. Be sure to check up on online coupons and other specials before placing the order.

5. Sharpen the carving knives and polish silverware. It's a simple way to spend a few free hours on the weekend, and will leave you with one less thing to worry about as you set up the dining table or buffet.

6. Send tablecloths and furniture coverings to the drycleaners. You can also take the time to wash these yourself, but a drycleaner can help remove any stubborn stains and press everything to the perfect finish. Any drycleaning or washing dilemmas can be sorted out well in advance, so you'll have the time to buy something new if needed. Store these (neatly) away until event time.

7. Freeze unbaked sugar cookie dough. This is the most flexible type of cookie dough that can make a variety of festive cookies and treats for any occasion. When you're in the midst of holiday activities, it's easy to simply scoop up sugar cookie dough for treats and snacks, frosting as needed. Make a large bucket-style batch for the freezer ready for use in the upcoming months.

8. Create a buffet map and equipment list. This is a stress-free way to plan out buffet-style dining, and will give you a good idea of any buffet warmer plates or other equipment you might need to order ahead of time. Saving on shipping costs with early orders is much easier; avoid paying those overnight fees for last-minute needs!

9. Stock up on discount Halloween candy for baking. You can find a variety of plain milk and dark chocolate treats at 75% after Halloween is over, and these can easily be used for holiday baking, topping off cakes, or simply snacking on (in moderation, of course) when party time rolls around.

10. Start baking holiday breads in late October. There's no better time to take advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables than harvest time, and stocking up on pumpkin, banana, and zucchini bread is a great idea. Start baking large batches of sweet breads, wrap them in foil, and freeze. You can make loaves for gifts or entertaining, and you'll save a lot of oven time by baking and storing.

From placing holiday floral arrangement orders to stocking up on appetizers, it's easy to conquer oncoming holiday stress with a little planning. Take advantage of seasonal specials and other opportunities starting in mid-October for an enjoyable holiday season ahead!