Tips on how to host (and cook!) holiday dinner in a small space

Thinking of volunteering to host a holiday dinner in your apartment? Before you agonize over every detail, rest assured that it’s doable, and can even be fun. With our small-space holiday guides, you can make your job as host a lot more enjoyable:

Pull out all the cheats

In the early stages, you might find yourself tempted to cook everything from scratch. After all, if you’re going to do it, why not do it right? And all those hours watching Food Network have you eager to show off your culinary skills. But don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Before you send out an email advertising menu items like stuffed endives and potatoes Lyonnaise with cider-infused butter, take it in small steps. Pumpkin pie and apple pie? You can find them both in the freezer section (and they’re delicious). Also in the freezer section? Dinner rolls, plus several varieties of veggies that can be steamed in the microwave. Canned cranberry sauce is often more popular than fresh. And many grocers will even cook your turkey for you. You can always re-evaluate as the big day approaches. You’ve got two jobs: chef and host. Don’t underestimate that.

pies on a table
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Take a tip from Grandma: Start freezing early

Freezing isn’t just for leftovers. If you pictured yourself pulling several all-nighters to prepare, think again. There is a better way. Just about anything can be made weeks in advance, frozen, and warmed in the oven the day-of. Turkey, sweet potatoes, and even stuffing can be cooked ahead of time and frozen. Do your research for the best recipes that freeze well. Bypass the chaos with a make-ahead meal and enjoy your company without clean up.

Plan for extra prep and clean up space

Your apartment size may be a challenge for entertaining. But you also need to take into consideration how much space you’ll need for prep-work. Imagine your counters littered with measuring cups, mixing bowls, dirty baking dishes, and pie pans, and adjust your menu accordingly. What cuts can you make?

Dress up a folding table to maximize space

With a linen-adorned folding table, you can seat extra people in the living room, and break it down after dessert. Pro Tip: Set it up early – the folding table can dual as an area for prep-work, drying dishes, and even creating centerpieces, should you be so adventurous.

Recruit help

Very rarely these days do guests expect to show up empty-handed and be served a bountiful feast. When people ask what they can bring, be ready with a side dish suggestion. Or go full-on potluck. Organize it by emailing out the menu in advance and asking guests to sign up. And if you still prefer to do it all yourself? Ask a seasoned veteran to come alongside (mom or a BFF) and help with preparation.

Cater to your guests. It’ll make your life easier.

Whether you’re hosting friends, family, coworkers, or an assortment, plan for the folks that will be gathering. Hosting coworkers or friends? Consider carefully thought-out place cards to encourage mingling. If you’re having family with littles over, designate a kids’ table – and make it fun. Stuff some crayons in a cup and cover the table with butcher paper. Have a basket of toys ready. A little extra planning will go a long way in keeping your guests happy (young and old).

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