Dinner Party Planning: Scheduling Backwards

Earlier this week, we talked about five great tips for dinner party planning. As our Cure takers gear up for their big dinner party, we'd like to take a minute to look at one of those tips in more depth: scheduling backwards.

When the time crunch really sets in, a detailed, minute-to-minute schedule will really save the day. Click through for more details!

First, create mini-schedules for all your recipes.

Take the recipes one-by-one and estimate how much time you will need for each step. We like to jot the estimates in the recipe's margin next to each cooking step: cutting onions--5 minutes, sautee onions--10 minutes, simmer sauce--15 minutes, etc.

Include all prep time for all the ingredients: assembling, washing, peeling, chopping, etc. Be generous in your estimates!

Look for 'hidden' time-sucks. Read the recipe carefully for things like "Bring to a boil and then simmer" or "shape each individually," and add on time accordingly. These instructions get slipped in between the main steps in the recipe and are easy to overlook.

Don't rely on the recipe's time estimates. Go with your gut and your experience.

Second, combine the time estimates for each recipe into your master schedule.

Pick the end-time for your complete meal and work backwards. If your guests are arriving at 7pm, aim to finish by 6:30 (you know a few will arrive early!)

Pick the end-time for each dish and pencil that in. Space dishes out so that you're not scrambling to finish them all at the same time. Ones that can be reheated right before serving can go earlier, leaving room later in the schedule for dishes that need to be served right away.

Work each recipe, one at a time, into your schedule. Set specific times for each step in the recipe.

And finally, read over your entire your master schedule.

Make sure that you're not trying to do too many things at once and adjust as needed.

Give yourself plenty of wiggle room. Seed your schedule with five minute breaks to work as a buffer in case something takes longer than expected.

Last but not least, pat yourself on the back because you're a Multitasking Tour de Force!

Related: Entertaining Tip--Get Organized with Spreadsheets!

(Image: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)