How to plan Christmas Dinner even if you’re the most disorganized person on the planet! Are you hosting family Christmas this year? Making an entire holiday dinner yourself is stressful enough, then add in everything else you do this time of year, and you end up forgetting something.

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I show you exactly what to do (and what not to do!) with this Christmas dinner planning checklist, some make-ahead Christmas dinner tips, and my Christmas Dinner Planner free printable.

So you can have a stress free Christmas dinner with your family!

Christmas Dinner Planning Checklist

a graphic of How to Plan Christmas Dinner Checklist

Gather Details

Write down your guest list, date and time of dinner, and any themes you’re working with. Make sure to note food allergies or sensitivities, and any glaring dislikes.

You never want to be that host.

Decide on Menu

Keep it simple here – write down all the traditional things you usually have and then see if you need to add things in or edit things out.

Here’s where I start. Keep in mind, I come from an Italian family and we cook enough for a small army. Especially when we do our Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve – all these rules go right out the window!! 😉

1 salad

1 soup

1 pasta

1 main dish

2 starch sides

2 vegetable sides

3 different desserts

Figure out Cooking Times

Here are the cooking times you’ll need to decide on before you start working on your Christmas Dinner Planner.

  1. What time the appetizers should go out
  2. When you want to sit down for dinner
  3. When you should put out dessert
  4. How much prep time for each recipe (if you’re not a pro cook, add an extra 10 mins to each one)
  5. Calculate the start time on your Christmas Dinner Planner. It’s Time Due – Prep Time = Start time

Free Holiday Dinner planner

Clear up Traffic Jams

Traffic jams, Elisa? I think you’re in the wrong post.

No, no. I’m talking about when everything is trying to get in the oven at the same time. The ham is heading up the line, then the potatoes, then the green beans crash into the potatoes, then the macaroni… you get it.

So. Take a look at your list and figure out what can be made outside the oven. Can you do the potatoes in the crockpot? Green beans on the stovetop? Macaroni ahead of time and just warm it up later?

This is also a good time to ask friends for any extra slow cookers, electric griddles, or turkey roasters (it’s a mini oven and you can make so much more than just turkey!) that they might not be using.

Enlist Help

You don’t have to do it all yourself.

Look over your list. Is there anything you hate making? (I hate making dessert!) Or isn’t going to fit in the oven no matter how you finagle it? Have someone else bring it.

Most will ask if they can bring anything.


I know it’s tempting to want to do everything yourself but don’t do it. They want to help, accept it!

The key here is to be specific.

“Hey, I’m so excited to see you at Christmas dinner! I could really use another dessert, do you mind bringing a pie? We have a few other desserts and I think an apple or cherry pie would be nice.”

Things you can Make Ahead for Christmas Dinner

A lot of the side dishes could be made ahead. I used these ideas for Thanksgiving, but they’re perfect for Christmas dinner too!

Look at your list. Which dishes would taste the same if made ahead and reheated? Or which components can be made ahead?

You can boil potatoes and put them in the fridge.

You can cut up all vegetables or bread for stuffing, or apples for pie.

A lot of your Christmas dinner ideas can be made ahead and put in the freezer.

          IF YOU LOVE PLANNERS AND CHECKLISTS: 15 Holiday Planners you Need to Get Organized This Year

Stress-free Christmas Dinner Tips

Write on your planner which serving dish and utensil you’ll need so you can literally just hand the planner to your [insert husband, kid, sister] and they can get it all ready. Have them put post-its on each with the name of the dish too, it’ll be so much easier than scrambling last minute!

Set the table the night before.

Keep a tub for cold drinks instead of using up valuable space in the fridge.

Designate jobs to your guests: napkin folder, drink re-filler, door opener. Most people want to do something so they’re not feeling awkward!

          MORE HOLIDAY DINNER TIPS: 13 Holiday Meal Planning Tips: Your Key for Less Stress this Year

Christmas Dinner Planner

Grab your free Christmas Dinner Planner so you can have that stress-free holiday meal this year!

Free Holiday Dinner planner

Use these steps to plan Christmas dinner and use the free Christmas dinner planner to help organize it all in one place. You’ll be well prepared for that inevitable glitch and if something does go seriously awry, there’s always wine (for you and your guests!)!