It’s mid-December, which means it’s officially time for holiday parties very soon. Christmas parties, holiday buffets, and family dinners start to crowd our weekly schedules.
If you’ve decided to host a festive gathering, this can get pretty stressful to organize: What to eat, how to manage children and lazy husbands, washing up, grocery shopping, cooking, entertaining guests…
So instead of stressing, let’s get organized! Your kitchen will likely be the central activity hub and the spot where guests are going to spend time around you, so it’s more than important to clean everything up. Make sure your kitchen is well organized and stocked with food so you can welcome guests and minimize cleanup time.
1. Clean your countertops of clutter and useless stuff
Get rid of mail and bills lying everywhere, and store important papers away. You don’t want to have any type of important paperwork lying around while your kitchen is a flurry of activity. Make sure all your surfaces — credenza, counters, and floors — are mirror clean.
2. Clean out the refrigerator
The refrigerator will be used a lot during a big meal — opened and closed constantly and filled to the brim with heavy dishes and champagne bottles. Make sure the door handles and gaskets are tight, clean the cold air vents and replace any defective lights. Make sure the vents aren’t blocked by food or condiments so that the fridge stays nice and cool throughout the evening.
Remove your refrigerator shelving and wash it in the sink with dish soap. Dry the shelves with a dish towel, and make sure they’re secure when putting them back in the fridge.
Clean-up the freezer a few days before; it will be more efficient and will save energy.
3. Clean the dumb microwave
This is too often overlooked, but it can be pretty embarrassing to have someone offering to help warm up food and seeing a sticky, food-splattered microwave!
4. Prep your oven
It’s better to avoid running the auto-clean cycle on your oven before an important event — it’s actually really stressful for the oven and can make it fail right when you’re about to put your main course in. Do a quick cleaning with a wet rag around the top burners instead, and leave the rest for after the new year. Clean up your grills and baking dishes too.
5. Check out your dishwasher
Check your dishwasher as it must run efficiently with a large number of dishes in it. Check the filter and drain and clean off any residue. Also make sure there’s no broken glass or lost utensils at the bottom. Wipe off the rim of the door and the door gasket, using white vinegar and a sponge to remove any gunk.
6. Clean and disinfect trash cans
No matter how careful you are, some physics laws make food and junk collect at the bottom of a trash can, so they’ll need to be cleaned. Take them outside and wash them with a garden hose and dish soap. Disinfect them with a cleaning spray. Make sure you have extra trash bags too. Don’t bother with low quality bags that are too thin or difficult to close with a fragile string: Go for some solid plastic and built-in string handles to close bags quickly. Look at this as a temporary investment because you don’t want to fight with exploding trash bags in the middle of the corridor.
7. Get your serveware ready
Call a professional to sharpen your knive set so you don’t end up crushing your honey-glaze baked ham. Or sharpen them by yourself if you know how to do it — but be careful not to ruin your inventory.
Take note of any basic supplies that you’re missing, and purchase or borrow them before the events. Verify your utensils, cookware, tableware, spices, cooking oils, canned goods, and other pantry staples.
If you’re serving your meal on original serving plates, give them a good clean up and get them ready to go. Polish silver, wash plates, and wash and iron all cloth napkins. Prepare an alternative tablecloth in case of a big red wine flood during the evening diner.
8. Stock your kitchen properly
Take note if any of your guests have allergies or other dietary restrictions. Is anyone vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free? Take these people into account and prepare food for them accordingly. Make sure there are non-alcoholic drink options available too.
9. Double-check safety mechanisms
If small children are going to be present at the party, make sure that everything is childproof and that you don’t expose fragile items unnecessarily. Set aside a special area outside the kitchen for children to play in. But see to it that the plugs in the kitchen are covered, lamps and other glass items are away from table edges, and stairways and other dangerous areas are blocked off. You can also plan a special zone for pets.
Take a look at your first-aid kit and replace any missing materials. You never know when someone is going to cut themselves, get burned, or slip and fall. This can kill a party when 4 people are required to go to the hospital at 11pm…
Don’t let the “almighty self-taught man” play hero trying to open oysters: Have it done by your fishmonger or do this quietly in advance.
Check your smoke detector and CO2 detector batteries, and replace them if needed. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher on hand too.
10. Create a cooking schedule
Prepare what you can in advance. Most casseroles and potato dishes can be put in a baking pan in advance. Vegetables can be chopped and stored too. You can use air-tight containers for this purpose. Having a schedule will not only help you keep things organized, but it will help your guests know when and how to help. Moreover, you’ll be more available for your guests.