First things first: You need to make a game plan. Running around like a chicken with its head cut off is a surefire way to increase the amount of valuable time you waste and raise your stress level!
To prepare for the big day (or days, as the case may be) compile a master grocery list, as well as a list of all the tasks that need to be accomplished. Planning ahead keeps you from having to make split-second decisions when you are supposed to be cooking.
Buying some items pre-prepared also helps save time. It may feel like cheating, but it can really take a lot of the tension out of days that should be spent enjoying the company of family and friends.
It's a good idea to prepare your kitchen. Clean out your fridge to make room for prepared dishes and for leftovers. It’s also a good time to clean out your pantry; throwing away anything that is stale or out-of-date.
De-clutter your counter tops, making more room to prepare your holiday dishes.
Keeping your area clean is a major stress reducer, especially once the food is cooked and ready. Washing the dishes as you go along is a major timesaver. Wash a pot here and a bowl there, and you'll be amazed how much quicker after-meal cleanup takes.
Now is not the time to try to be Julia Childs or Martha Stewart! If you are trying a new recipe, do a trial run before the big day! Attempting to prepare a new dish for guests could possibly be a disaster!
Many tasks can be done a day or two ahead of time. Save yourself a little stress by cooking some dishes early and freezing or refrigerating them.
Last, but certainly not least, get some help from your holiday guests. No reason for you to slave away all by yourself!