Lists, Lists and More Lists

When preparing for a tea, a party, when hosting a fundraiser dinner or a dinner for friends in your home, lists can help you keep your sanity. You won’t have to suffer that feeling of having something in the back of your mind telling you that you’ve forgotten something. With lists, you’ll know for certain what you must do and when.

Start your list keeping with the names, addresses and phone numbers of the guests you’ve invited. You’ll be able to see who has responded, who is definitely coming to your party and whom you need to phone. You can then give the list to your honored guest, in cases of a bridal or baby shower, so she can have a handy way to address her thank you cards.

The next list should be the food list. Decide what foods you want to serve and write them down. By listing them, you can see if you have too many similar foods or ingredients. You don’t want every dish to be rich with cream cheese or sour cream; watch out for that. Mix up the flavors, the colors, the ingredients. Try at least one new dish.

The shopping list is very important. After you’ve chosen the foods you want to serve, write down every ingredient you’ll need. Don’t just guess. Pull the recipe to be sure you have everything written down. It will be a snap to see that you’ll need two dozen eggs total and you won’t over or under buy.

It's not a list but I suggest printing out all the recipes you'll be using for your party. It often takes valuable time to locate a specific recipe if you have lots of cookbooks and cooking magazines. With all the recipes at hand, you'll be able to quickly check baking times, ingredients and special instructions. Just be sure to double check that you've typed everything correctly.

Once you have your shopping list, break it down into lists of the individual stores you’ll be visiting. A wholesale club is great for bulk purchases but their selection is limited. A place like Walmart has good prices on many things. Your deli, your bakery, your farmers’ market might all be on your shopping list. If you are familiar with the layout of the store, arrange your shopping list aisle by aisle. This will save missing something and having to retrace your steps. Cross off each item as you put it in your cart.

The to-do list is where you can write down all those ideas that come to you when you’re doing something else, like sleeping. Keep this list close by and when you remember that you need to borrow that platter from your Aunt Betty, write it down. It is a comfort to see items being checked off this list and knowing you haven’t forgotten anything.

The next list is the master food list. It has the following categories: the food item, the day you’ll prepare that item, a block for checking off a completed item, any special to-do instructions, the pan you’ll cook the item in, how you’ll store the item from the time you prepare it until the time you’re ready to serve it and the dish you’ll use to serve it. As you fill this in, you’ll probably adjust your timing. It is easy to get too many foods that need to be in the oven at the same time so switch them around or make them and freeze. The same is true with refrigerator space; make certain you’ll have room for everything. With this list you’ll be certain you have enough space, time and serving pieces.

The final lists are daily time sheets. You’ll need these on heavy cooking and baking days and the days before the party. Include not only the time schedule for the food but also things like getting out the punch bowl, ironing the tablecloth, going to the florist and even getting your hair cut. On party day, you’ll know exactly when the main dish goes in the oven, when the dessert must come out of the freezer and when you need to put the water on to boil for tea.

You’ll see your lists evolve and change as you decide to drop or add dishes. Keeping the lists on your computer works well but you’ll need hard copies that you can carry around with you. I keep mine together on a clip board.

You can even keep a list of things that went well and things you’ll do differently in the future. Don’t throw your lists away after the party. They will be great resources for future parties. For example, I keep my Thanksgiving lists from year to year since that menu rarely changes. I don’t have to write a store list and I know that the baked corn goes in the oven at 11:15.

If you too are a list keeper, you’ll understand my methods but if you never keep lists, you’ll probably think I’m a little compulsive. Give lists a try though and you’ll see how much they help you get ready for your party and reduce your party anxiety.