7 smart holiday entertaining strategies

Cooking Light magazine's chef Jeanne Kelley says making copious lists should top your list.

"I gather all my recipes, I make my grocery lists. I go through, I look at all of the different recipes, all the do-aheads, and then I make lists where I say, four days ahead, three days ahead, two days ahead. I just do a party countdown," said Kelley.

One of those lists is an equipment list so you can buy or borrow from buddies who are generally willing to share. Along with assessing if you have adequate dinnerware, which allows you to polish everything and set the table early.

"People really don't care if things match, they just want to have a plate and fork to eat with," said Kelley.

Kelley says shopping early is important. Buy everything that isn't perishable, so you have just a short trip to the grocery one day out.

"You don't have to do everything from scratch," said Kelley.

Kelley says buying a bakery pound cake for example and adding a homemade touch is fun and festive. Or use precut vegetables for your homemade dip.

"Ham is great because it serves a crowd. You also might want to consider serving your guests buffet style," said Kelley.

Precooked ham is a good substitute for turkey when feeding a large crowd. Since it only needs to be warmed before serving, you're free to focus on side dishes and desserts. While serving buffet-style keeps guests circulating and let's them eat at their own pace.

Finally, take a pass on the massive expensive center piece.

"A beautiful pear or a beautiful pomegranate on your table is just going to look so pretty with a votive. And you can mix that with little decorative fruit. And of course you can eat the fruit, so there's no waste there," said Kelley.

>>Get more holiday party tips and recipes from Cooking Light

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