Let’s say guests are staying with you for some part of the holidays. You’ve planned a beautiful, robust holiday dinner. You’ve even been prescient enough to make a big batch of soup and buy a graze board’s supply of cheeses, charcuterie, olives, etc. for a casual midday meal. You’ve made the beds, laid out fresh towels, remembered to bump up your wine reserves.

You are ready for your houseguests.

But … yikes! You didn’t think about breakfast. And really, the thought of setting an alarm early to start griddling up omelets when there is so much else to do … No. Just no.

Not only is that perfectly ok, it can work in everyone’s favor: An early, full-on, sitdown breakfast means your guests and family also feel obligated to get up at a certain time, whether to help or merely to eat.

A help-yourself breakfast spread checks a lot of boxes. Your guests can relax and start their day at their own speed.

Simply make or buy an assortment of attractive, delicious morning foods. Leave out what can be left out overnight, of course, and in the morning either pull out the refrigerated items yourself or leave a cheery little note for your people, telling them what can be found in the fridge.

to make, like a quick bread. Your guests will appreciate being cared for and fed, no matter what you serve.

Here’s a selection of breakfast buffet items and how best to store them overnight.


Muffins, quick breads, coffee cakes and scones. Consider berry-studded muffins topped with a sweet crumbly layer of buttery streusel topping, or cute one- or twoperson mini banana breads, which are also great midday snacks. Remember that many of these things can be made ahead and frozen.

Bagels, croissants, breads

Jams, jellies, honey

Butter (butter actually is better sitting out overnight, becoming soft and creamy for spreading)

Assorted cheeses (better left out overnight for optimal texture and flavor) Sausages and charcuterie (again, better left out overnight for optimal texture and flavor)

Hardier fruits, like apples, pears, oranges, bananas

Granola, muesli, cereals


Softer fruits like cubed melon, or pineapple, berries and grapes, or fruit salad Cream cheese (could also be at room temp)

Lemon curd

Hardboiled eggs

Frittatas and quiches, such as a vegetarian quiche filled with goat cheese, mushrooms and leeks suspended in a creamy but fluffy egg-based filling.

Milk, juices and other cold drinks Smoked salmon or other fish (and maybe sliced onions and tomatoes if you are doing the bagel thing)


If you have a programmable coffee pot, set it for the early risers. If you have a single-serve pod coffee maker, leave out an assortment of capsules, from coffees to milk chocolate to teas. A bowl of tea bags can also be left out, near a kettle filled with water. Don’t forget sweeteners, spoons, and some sort of milk or creamer in the fridge (putting it into a small pitcher is nice, but not necessary).

Leave out a stack of small plates, bowls, napkins and utensils, along with glasses and mugs. Make sure there are serving utensils for everything, and knives for cutting breads, quiches, cheeses etc. Make a toaster (and a trash can!) self-evident.

And in the morning when you hear activity starting in the kitchen, you can decide whether to rise and shine and join your guests or press snooze one more time.