15 To-Do’s to Prep Your Kitchen for the Holidays

You’ve survived Halloween, and now you’ve got Thanksgiving and the December holidays coming: Yayyy…and yikes, right?! It’s definitely our favorite time of year, but also the most daunting. There will be a lot of decorating, cooking and eating, guests, music, setting up and cleaning up, leftovers, wrapping and unwrapping, garbage and recycling, washing, drying, and folding. Oh my! But all so, so worth it because it’s also the time of year to see and enjoy all the special folks in our lives as we partake in festivities and traditions! Your kitchen will be the most used room in the house for the next two months. To help you out, we’ve got some great to-do’s to prep your kitchen for the holiday season.

  1. Declutter and clear off your countertops. If you’re setting out holiday kitchen decor, pack up your non-holiday decor in the same storage pieces. You’ll need plenty of counter space for cooking, baking, serving up, and more (like #2 on this list). Clear out papers, mail, and any other unnecessary clutter that’s taking up prime counter space.
  2. Clean and purge your refrigerator and freezer. You’re going to need as much room as you can get to store up ingredients and leftovers. Not sure how to do this? We’ve got a step-by-step guide.
  3. Clean your major appliances. Your oven, stove, dishwasher, and microwave will be working overtime for you; the least you can do is help them look shiny and fresh. Open up a few windows, run your furnace fan, and set the oven to the ‘Cleaning’ cycle, and then get to work on the other appliances. In a couple of hours your kitchen will look and smell fabulous!
  4. Clean your smaller appliances. We’re talking items like your toaster oven, air fryer, KitchenAid mixer, blender, coffee maker. They will all look and work better when they’ve had a good cleaning. We actually don’t have a guide for this, but the OG home arts guru Martha Stewart has a great one!
  5. Clean the garbage and recycling bins. Even if you put icky stuff in these, you don’t want them to be icky. Remove the bins from their cabinets, use a disinfectant spray, and give the bins a good scrubbing and a wipe down. Thoroughly dry them before replacing the liners. Then disinfect and wipe down the cabinets before replacing the bins.

Excellent job! You’ve finished the less-fun to-do’s, so let’s move on to the others.

  1. Plan your menus. One of our favorite tasks! Go through your recipes, whether they’re in print or online, and pick out the recipes you’ll be using for your events. Note down if you need to double or even quadruple a recipe, because the ingredient amounts will drastically change. It’s also important to keep in mind who the guests will be—note if anyone is vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, non-alcohol drinking, or has food allergies.
  2. Go through your spice collection. You don’t want to use expired spices in your delicious cooking, do you? Check the expiry date on each spice jar or tin, and discard/recycle all the ones past their dates. Then make a list of the ones you need to replace, and add on any new ones you will need (use your menu planning from #6).
  3. Check your supply of staples. This will ensure you don’t have to do last-minute runs to the grocery store on cooking day. Food Network has an excellent list of pantry, refrigerator, and freezer essentials. If your family has other items that are staples but not on this list, make sure to check those, too.
  4. Make shopping lists in advance. Bring a dessert to your sister’s on Thanksgiving. An appetizer to an ornament exchange party. A four-course dinner you are hosting for your son and his family. A charcuterie platter to your book club holiday gathering. Make separate shopping lists for all the events you are hosting or attending, put the shopping date at the top of each list, and then put them in order (whether it’s in your planner or your app).
  5. Check dishes, glassware, and utensils. Did your gravy boat break at last year’s holiday dinner? Were you missing a few knives and teaspoons after the neighborhood New Year’s potluck? Did your sister-in-law return your turkey platter? Check on all these items—count them out if need be—to make sure you have enough for your needs.
  6. Ready your holiday linens. If you have special linens you only bring out this time of year, check and ready them for this year’s use. If they smell a bit musty from being stored for 10 months, give them all a wash. As you fold and set aside, you’ll have a chance to check for holes, tears, or stains. You’ll want to know early if you need to replace any items.
  7. Plan out your serverware. You special dishes deserve to be served in your beautiful platters and bowls. Take them all out and survey them, then make a written plan on what foods will be put in which serving pieces. Move them around on the table or kitchen island if you’ve got a buffet-style meal, so you can see how everything looks and fits. Use Post-it Notes to mark what dish goes on what serverware. On the day of the event, you’ll know exactly which items to take out and use. It will also be super helpful to your kitchen helpers.
  8. Sharpen knives. This is an annual must-do, so it may as well be now. Find a local sharpener, or DIY it with the Family Handyman’s tutorial.
  9. Put in safety measures. Do you have wee kiddos coming over? You can’t put locks on everything, but consider baby-proofing where you can. Both you and their parents will gain a little peace of mind.
  10. Check kitchen cleaning items. Make sure you’ve got plenty of kitchen sponges, paper towels, kitchen towels, dishwasher pods, dish liquid, hand soap, vinegar/water spray…all the things you need for keeping the kitchen (and hands!) clean and disinfected. There will be messes for sure, but you’ll be ready!

Don’t expect you will complete this list in one weekend! Do the major ones first (1-5), and then tackle the rest day by day. Enlist the other members of your household. If you are co-hosting an event, by all means have the other host come on over and help with the prep tasks. The holidays can all too easily get taken over by stress, but being prepared and checking off to-do items as you go can help dial that down. If you need some help, don’t hesitate to reach out—we’ll have your back!


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