7 fridge and freezer friendly hacks for holiday entertaining

Hosting a holiday party or dinner? We have some handy hacks for you to be the master of holiday entertaining. They’re fridge and freezer-related tasks to do in advance so you have more time for fun when your guests arrive—instead of being stuck in the kitchen. ‘Cause whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or New Year’s, you deserve to kick back and enjoy your event – and bask in compliments on your entertaining savvy.


1. Dress up people’s drinks with novelty-shaped ice.

Who says ice cubes need to be square? Dress up your guests’ mixed or alcohol-free drinks with ice cubes that are anything but cubic. Go online and do a search for “novelty ice cube molds” or pop into a kitchenware store and pick up silicone ice cube trays that produce ice shapes ranging from whimsical hearts, fruits and stars to massive, perfect spheres. This is perfect for holiday entertaining.

2. Go festive with elegant cranberry ice.

If novelty shaped ice isn’t your style of cool, aim for elegance

and a pop of seasonal color instead. Rinse and drain fresh or frozen cranberries and place 2-3 in the bottom of each section of your ice mold. For a look that’s extra festive, add a tiny sprig of fresh mint, too. No cranberries on hand? Substitute other berries or paper-thin slices of citrus fruits cut into wedges. 

Timing: Days ahead or 3-4 hours ahead








3. Do a thorough fridge and freezer
clean-up and clear-out.

You’re going to need lots of space in your fridge and freezer for all the holiday provisions you’ll be bringing home. So, before you go shopping, do a very thorough clean-out. Remove everything from your fridge, shelf by shelf and drawer by drawer. Then be brutal. Toss any produce that looks wilted or iffy in your organics/compost bin as well as any bottle or jar that’s past its expiry date. (Like that volcano-hot salsa you thought would be “fun.”) Then give your fridge a thorough cleaning. Freeze meats and meals you won’t get around to until after the holidays – unless they’ve been previously frozen.

Bonus hack: after you’ve done your clean-up and before you return your food to your fridge, stretch cling wrap over your shelves to catch holiday spills. When it’s all over, you can just peel off the plastic wrap instead of having to do another fridge clean-up.

Timing: Before you stock up on meal/party fare at the grocery store

For tips on organizing your fridge, check out our 2021 Holiday Entertaining Blog

iio Retro RR1 fridge


4. Buying a frozen turkey? Start thawing it 2-4 days ahead.

The safest and simplest way to thaw a frozen turkey is to defrost it (still in its wrapper) in a baking dish inside your fridge NOT on the counter or in the sink. If you thaw it at room temperature, harmful bacteria can form on the surface because the outside defrosts long before the deeper levels do. Don’t make this mistake and ruin your holiday entertaining.

How long does it take?

Timing: Allow a minimum of 1 day in the fridge for every 4.5 lbs (2 kg) of weight:

     7-11 lbs (3-5 kg)
     11-15 lbs (5-7 kg)
     15-22 lbs (7-10 kg)
     22+ lbs (10+ kg)
2 days to thaw
3 days to thaw
4 days to thaw
5 days to thaw

Once the bird is fully thawed, cook it within 4 days.

Forgot to take the turkey out of the freezer and need to thaw it faster? Place it breast-side down in the kitchen sink and cover it in cold (not warm) water. Thawing time will be 1 hour per kg (30 minutes per pound)—but do NOT let it thaw, unattended, overnight! You must change the water every half hour to keep the surface of the turkey cold and prevent bacteria from growing on it.



5. Dazzle your guests with appetizers in ice bowls!

If you’ll be serving foods that need to stay cold – like caviar, smoked salmon, shrimp, sushi or sashimi – don’t just plop them on top of a bowl of ice. Create a decorative ice bowl for them instead!

                     © 2008, Carrie Price, on Flickr.com

© 2015, Karen Marie Lucas, on Flicker.com

You can keep your ice bowl simple or go for more glam by adding thin slices of lemon and fresh herbs like dill, so they freeze in place and really dress things up!

All you’ll need is two differently sized plastic or metal bowls (not glass, unless it’s Pyrex™), some sturdy tape or rubber bands to hold the bowls together (or you can place something heavy enough in the smaller bowl to keep it in place without it sinking right to the bottom), plus any decorative edibles you want to add—even edible flowers!

Allow lots of time for your ice bowl to freeze. (Ideally, overnight.) Depending on its size and thickness, the ice bowl can take anywhere from 5 to 18 hours to freeze solid. (Less if you have an iio Retro Fridge with FastFreeze, or if it’s low enough to fit in its aptly named ExtremeFreeze drawer.)

Timing: Prep it 1 full day or more before your guests arrive. For how-tos (each with a slightly different technique), do an online search for “how to make an ice bowl.” You’ll find several sets of instructions and inspiring examples. Here are some good ones:

How to make ice bowls 
How to make an ice bowl 
How to make easy ice bowls 
How to create an ice bowl 

You’ll also find quite a few videos, including these:

How to make an ice bowl 
Homemade ice bowls 
Beautiful ice bowls 



6. Meal items you can prepare a day or more ahead

Mashed potatoes
To save time and stovetop space, prepare your mashed potatoes or puréed sweet potatoes a day ahead and keep them in the fridge. If they seem mushy when you re-warm them in the oven or microwave, just whisk them with a fork to fluff them up again. (Don’t make them too creamy if you prepare them the day before; you can always add more milk or cream and butter the next day.) 

Timing: 1 day ahead

Cranberry sauce

If you make cranberry sauce from scratch, you can do that in advance, too. It may even be better because it will have had more time to gel.

Timing: 1–2 days ahead

Bread and sausage stuffings

Stodgy stuffings can be prepared in advance and warmed up the next day. (However, stuffings with big chunks of veggies are better if they’re cooked the same day to avoid the veggies getting soggy.)

Timing: 1 day ahead unless there are big chunks of veggies


Prep your pie the day before, but don’t bake it till the next day. (Or prep it several days ahead and freeze it till the day you bake it.) That way, your guests will get it piping-hot with its crust at its prime. Great food for all holiday entertaining.

Timing: Start 1 or more days ahead but bake same day. (Allow an hour or two for it to thaw.)

Whipped cream dollops

This is so simple we should do it all year round! Drop (or spray) dollops of sweetened whipped cream onto a foil or parchment paper-lined baking tray and pop them in the freezer. When they’re frozen solid, store them in a zippered bag in your freezer, somewhere they won’t get crushed, and use them to top your guests’ mugs of hot chocolate, pies or other desserts.

Timing: Any number of days in advance


7. Focus on the main meal; take shortcuts on everything else.

Buy frozen appetizers.
Make it easy on yourself and buy frozen appetizers you can just pop in the oven before your guests arrive. You’re going to have more than enough to do without worrying about getting your pastries über-flaky and golden.

Keep dessert simple.
If you’re doing a traditional turkey dinner, the turkey will be the star attraction, and your guests aren’t likely to have much room for dessert, so take some pressure off yourself and don’t prepare a complex dessert. Serve premium ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce and dotted with fresh berries or crushed candy canes.

Bonus hacks

Set the table and/or decorate the room at least one day ahead. It’ll take some pressure off you on your big day, and you’ll know early – rather than late – that you’re out of napkins or need more forks.

3 easy ways to quickly chill a bottle of wine

1. Plunge the bottle in water with lots of ice like sommeliers do at restaurants. (Ice water chills wine faster than just ice.)

2. No ice to spare? Soak a dishtowel in water and with it very wet (not just damp), wrap it around the bottle and stick it in the freezer for 7-15 minutes. After 7 minutes, it’ll be lightly cool; after 15 minutes, it’ll be a lot cooler. It will cool even faster if you pop it in your iio Retro’s XtremeFreeze drawer.

Can’t spare a dishtowel? Use several layers of paper towels instead, and elevate your holiday entertaining!

3. Get an iio wine cooler and you may never have to quick chill a bottle of wine again because it will already be perfectly cooled. And the iio wine cooler is a beaut! Its styling is a match for iio Retro fridges and it comes in the same range of lifestyle colors. This is perfect for holiday entertaining.

It also fits just about anywhere, measuring a compact 21.5” wide x 35.25” high x 22.75” deep (55.6 cm x 89.5 cm x 57.8 cm). The clear glass door allows you admire all the lovely bottles inside and makes it easy to see if you’re starting to run low.

It’s not only ideal for everyday wine lovers (especially those who entertain often), but it makes a great gift for serious oenophiles (a.k.a. wine connoisseurs) or anyone with a wine subscription |or who orders their favourites by the crate.

It can hold up to 30 bottles and has an adjustable cooling range, from 41°F down to -4°F (5°C to-20°C) — but the extreme cold temperature should only be used while quick chilling wines. You don’t want ice crystals forming in your favourite white, rosé or sparkling wine—even if it’s called an “ice wine!”


You could ask Santa for an iio wine cooler but insist that he deliver it at least a day before your guests arrive. Or you could take matters into your own hands and order it for yourself. Do this, and you’ll be the master of holiday entertaining.


Happy hosting and happy holidays from all of us at iio!