07 November 2022
Menu planning guide for celebrations and special occasions
Holidays and special occasions like Christmas, New Years, Easter, Ramadan, Matariki, Diwali and birthdays are great opportunities to celebrate with food. Whether you’re having a breakfast, lunch, dinner, a house party, potluck, BBQ, a beach or park picnic; having a menu plan, shopping for the ingredients, knowing the best way to store the ingredients, and what to do with leftovers is a great way to avoid creating or managing any excess food.
Here are some of our top tips for menu planning during celebrations.
- Start planning when you know the approximate guest list.
- Keep the menu simple:
- If you are cooking or providing all the food try finding dishes that can be made a day or couple days before or dishes where all the prep can be done ahead so there is minimal cooking and washing to do on the day.
- A potluck is a great way to assign a course (entrée, main, or dessert) to each individual or household you have coming over, and remember to assign salad and drinks to guests as well.
- If you are having a potluck BBQ you can assign different meats or meat cuts/marinade flavours, carbs, sweets, salad and drinks.
- Unsure about portions? Check out this helpful food portion calculator!
- Do a pantry, fridge, and freezer clear out as part of the prep before the party so there’s plenty of space to store ingredients or the prepped food or any leftovers.
- Make a shopping list and shop with a list.
- Know the best storage method to keep your ingredients fresher for longer.
- Have a plan for any leftover food.
Read on for more on menu planning, tips for before the celebration, and after everyone has eaten.
Begin menu planning:
Once you know the approximate number of people coming you can start to plan your menu.
It’s very tempting to make everyone’s favourite food, but try hard not to go overboard. You don’t have to have three different types of meat in order for it to feel like a celebration. Keeping the menu as simple as possible will not only reduce food waste, but will also make it easier for you.
When thinking about the dish or dessert to bring for a potluck, try thinking ahead about transport and storage and how you will manage that – is it likely to spill? Will it need to be chilled and is there a place to chill it? Is it a dish that is best eaten as soon as it is cooked?
Before the celebration:
This is a good time to look through your cupboards for any clean takeaway or ice cream containers with lids. Set them aside in preparation for any leftover food to put into and give to guests to take home. Or encourage and remind guests to bring their own containers to place any leftover food into.
A chilly bin or chiller bag with reusable ice packs comes in handy for picnics and beach BBQs. This keeps any extra food or meat cool.
After everyone has eaten and is full:
Get any extra food in the fridge or chilly bin so you can take them out anytime throughout the party when you or a guest wants more.
You can also portion the leftovers into your extra containers or the guest’s containers after everyone has eaten and keep them in the fridge. This way it is ready to go when the guests leave and you don’t need to bring all the food out again to do this.