Although the end result is delicious, holiday cooking is a lot of work and can be stressful. The larger crowds at the grocery store, the higher grocery bills, and the chaos in the kitchen can turn what should be pleasant times into irritable experiences that you dread all year long.
However, with a bit of planning and preparation, you can take charge of the situation and enjoy your holiday cooking experiences. To help you prepare, we've provided 10 tips to streamline the preparation and cooking processes.
1. Buy Ingredients over Time
Instead of being slammed in November and December by high grocery store bills, begin looking for holiday ingredient items – preferably on sale – that are shelf-stable. Some suggestions include:
- Canned items (pumpkin, creamy soups, cranberries)
- Frozen and canned vegetables
2. Avoid Clutter in the Kitchen
Before cooking, temporarily relocate the appliances you won't need on the Big Cooking Day, such as the toaster, blender, and so forth. This will give you much more countertop space on which to work.
3. Prep Food in AdvanceWash and prepare recipe ingredients ahead of time and store them in the freezer. Vegetables and meats typically freeze well, as does bread. Another option is to purchase items that are already prepped and frozen, such as chopped onions.
4. Make It PotluckIt's becoming less common to expect a single household to prepare a large meat dish, several side dishes, and desserts. Having a potluck dinner is a great idea for so many reasons.
By inviting others to share in the food preparation, you can:
- Ease the burden on your wallet
- Bring a sense of sharing and community to the table
- Allow those who like to cook or bake to participate
- Focus on your guests instead of being trapped in the kitchen all-day
5. Swap Out Traditional Dishes for Three-Ingredient Holiday RecipesIf your grandmother's recipes are labor-intensive, try switching to simpler versions. Look for easy holiday recipes that don't require extensive preparation and make substitutes, such as replacing:
- Fresh or raw fruits and vegetables with frozen, bagged fruits and vegetables
- Homemade breadcrumbs for bagged breadcrumbs
- Hand-rolled meatballs with frozen meatballs
6. Streamline the Ingredient List
For maximum cooking simplicity, use multi-ingredient items. These types of products are designed to save you time, such as:
- Canned creamed soups like cream of mushroom or cream of celery
- Frozen, bagged vegetable medleys like carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower
- Spice mixes like pumpkin spice or Italian seasoning
7. Use Your MicrowaveYou'd be surprised at how many dishes can be prepared in the microwave. This helps free up oven or stovetop space for other dishes.
Easy holiday recipes that are microwavable include:
8. Employ Your Slow Cooker
Using the slow cooker is one of those holiday cooking tips that's frequently overlooked. In fact, many popular holiday dishes that can be made in a slow cooker include the stuffing or dressing, green bean casserole, ham, and turkey breast.
- Keep food from drying out while cooking
- Spare you from scrubbing afterward
- Let you spend more time with holiday guests
9. Delegate TasksOur grandmothers knew what they were talking about when they said, "Many hands make light work." As you get closer to your holiday dinner, take advantage of any kind offers to help you out. Family or guests can:
- Assemble serving plates/bowls and serving utensils
- Polish silver or set the dining room table
- Run errands, such as picking up food from the store
- Washing and chopping vegetables and herbs
- Assembling cold appetizer plates (meats & cheeses or vegetables & dip)
- Preparing beverages and the coffee maker
- Placing canned and bottled beverages in coolers in the garage
10. Move Cleanup Activities Out of the KitchenAfter your meal, if you're lucky enough to have help in the kitchen, you can keep the kitchen chaos-free by having them perform these clean-up tasks outside of the kitchen:
- Gather up cloth tablecloths, napkins, and placemats and go outdoors to shake them out.
- Scrape food waste off of plates and into the trash.
- Spoon leftovers into covered storage containers or zipper bags.