With the holiday season, there usually comes a mile long to-do list of additional activities. Shopping for gifts, wrapping those gifts, volunteering, or taking part in various events, can quickly fill up our days. All these events lead up to the big days, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Once we get to those days, the time is still limited and spent preparing our holiday meals. These cherished holiday meals can take many hours, days, and weeks to plan, shop for, and cook. After they are made, it is time to enjoy them, even though you may feel exhausted. The good news is that there are several tips and tricks you can use to help save time on preparing the traditional holiday meals, and use that time to help celebrate the moments. Here are just some of those many time-saving ways.
- Get organized and plan ahead: While your favorite holiday meals can take a great deal of time, planning ahead and getting organized can save time in the long run. Before the holiday season starts, gather your recipes and ingredients list. This would be a great activity to do during the summer or early fall. Once you have your list, start stocking up on items during your regular shopping trips. Of course, you will want to get the perishable items closer to the time of cooking. But staple items and ones with longer shelf lives can be purchased in advance and set aside until needed. By preparing ahead and starting to shop before the holiday season, you will feel less stressed and more at ease when the months of November and December roll around.
- Create a schedule of what dishes can be made early and frozen: Part of your schedule should include cooking items that can be made early and put in the freezer. Also, think about what dishes can be prepared early, put in the freezer, and then be cooked the day of, or before, the holiday. Casseroles are great to be prepped early and cooked the day of. Potatoes, mac and cheese, and pies taste just as good reheated the day of, and don’t forget about cold dishes, such as salads, dips, and cranberry sauce that can be prepared a few days before the event.
- Buy store-bought whenever possible: Yes, making favorite dishes from scratch can be memorable, but it also eats time. There is nothing wrong with buying store-bought items whenever possible. Rolls, beverages, meat, sides, and appetizers are some items that are completely fine store-bought and can be easily dressed up. Add a homemade seasoning to the rolls before cooking or use beverage ingredients to make your grandmother’s punch. Lastly, garnishes and putting them in family dishes can make all the difference. Local restaurants may offer specific holiday dishes and meals that can be purchased, as well.
- Only make traditional homemade recipes: Your holiday meals should be a combination of store- bought ingredients and homemade family favorites. By organizing your menu into these two categories, you will be able to utilize your time preparing items that mean the most and have the most sentimental value for your family. For example, traditional dishes that are on the table year after year should never be store-bought. Your grandmother’s mac and cheese may not be the same if purchased from a local restaurant. Also, take into account recipes with a special personalized twist or that are a specific favorite of a family member which a store or restaurant just can’t match.
- Clean as you go: Another thing that takes up time while cooking is the cleaning. Dishes pile up, items are brought out onto counters, and soon, your kitchen is a hot mess. A good rule of thumb is to clean up as you go. Once you are done with a dish or certain ingredients, put them back where they are stored. Wash dishes at the end of making an item before moving onto the next and, if possible, only work on one dish at a time. This way, you can keep your kitchen clean as you go along, saving you more time in the end.
The holidays are meant to be a time of joy and celebration, not a time of stress and craziness. By utilizing these tips and tricks to prepare your holiday meals, you will soon find more hours in your day and more time to enjoy the actual holiday. Don’t forget—you can also invite others to help you cook the holiday meals. Turn it into a family event and the memories will last you a lifetime.