When planning a holiday meal, think about how to ease the stress and burden of the event. Often, we get so caught up in preparing our guests’ favorite dishes that it becomes stressful. We sometimes think the kitchen is too small, the oven is too small, there’s not enough room in the refrigerator, there’s not enough seating for guests and everything is too expensive.

However, holidays should be a time for fellowship, family and incredible food. If you are hosting and preparing this year’s feast, there’s more to planning a memorable event than the food that will be served.

First, you need to know early in the process how many guests are coming. You want your guests to be comfortable. If your guest list begins to exceed capacity, plans must change. Don’t expect your guests to adjust. Once you have finalized your guest list, you’ll be able to plan for the food you’ll need.

Next, make sure you have the equipment to prepare and store the food. The type and size of preparation equipment directly affects the quantity and quality of the food you’re serving. Menus should reflect a balance and progression of flavor, color, temperature, heaviness and nutrition. If menus reflect an even balance of cold- to hot-food options, oven and refrigerator requirements also will be more easily balanced.

Temperature differences in food also enhance the enjoyment of the plated meal. Wisely utilize your equipment and cooking techniques to bring out the food’s best flavor. For instance, you may elect to bake some meats and vegetables and roast others. Grilling also is a wonderful option for meats as well as vegetables. In addition, it’s important to remember to keep the meal balanced using salads and vegetables instead of heavy proteins and carbohydrates.

At holiday meals, we typically serve buffet style. As you begin to plan for the event, consider where the food will be placed so it’s easy for guests to fix their plates, go back for seconds and leave the table. We also need to carefully consider where the children will dine. If the children are happy, the parents and grandparents also will be happy. You might consider planning a menu that caters to children and placing it on a table where they can serve themselves. This allows the parents and grandparents time to enjoy their own meals and more easily interact with guests.

Once the meal is finished, leftovers should be immediately refrigerated. We often hear guests complain, “I ate too much!” Their stomachs hurt, and they may feel nauseated. This reaction may not be from eating too much—it may be the beginning stage of food poisoning. So, it’s important to run your kitchen with the same diligence you would expect at a fine restaurant and quickly store the leftovers.

Holiday meals often are a tradition of enjoying that “special” stuffed turkey, casserole or dessert once a year. Or, they can be an opportunity to try new dishes and make additional memories. I love applying the combination of both. It’s great to enjoy our old favorites, but it makes special memories for the children when we add new items to the menu that become their favorites.

I also suggest getting the kids in the kitchen. One day, they will be the hosts and hostesses, and we need to teach them how to entertain. Remember, it shouldn’t be stressful. It should be about fellowship, family and incredible food.