More than any other time of the year, the holiday season puts pressure on us to be Pinterest perfect. Trying to live up to that – with beautiful mantels, amazing parties with cranberry cocktails and chai-spiced cookies, and letter-pressed gift wrap – was stressful enough before having kids, but afterward, forget it…It’s the makings of a tearful and tense holiday season.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little planning and some shortcuts, you can have more joy and less stress this holiday season. Want to know how? Try these strategies:
#1: Focus on Finger Foods
Before having kids, I hosted a Christmas Eve dinner at my house complete with a Martha Stewart-inspired chili bar that required soaking beans and slow cooking for hours, and chocolate fondue.
But Christmas Eve dinner at my house changed after I had my first baby. Instead of an elaborate meal, our dinner was casual and completely made up of finger foods. And it was delicious.
I made a simple, but tasty footlong sandwich (salami, mascarpone cheese, capers, artichokes and arugula). I put out a veggie tray and asked others to bring dips and sides. And, we had chocolate fondue again.
The informal meal was a welcome change since the following day we’d have a big traditional Christmas dinner anyway. We munched, we chatted and still enjoyed the fun new tradition of chocolate fondue on Christmas Eve.
Bottom line: Host a finger-food potluck. Having a fun, standout feature like chocolate fondue or a decorate-your-own-sugar-cookie station (store-bought dough and sprinkles) will make it memorable.
#2: Batch Bake
Listen: There are enough fattening foods to go around during the holiday season. So, if baking seems like a headache, don’t do it. But, if it wouldn’t feel like the holidays without it, then by all means go for it. Double or triple your cookie recipe and then freeze the cookies. In one baking session, you’ll make enough treats to bring to every get-together.
Bottom line: Make a huge batch of cookies and freeze them. You can thaw them out to take to every gathering.
#3: Have a Potluck Game Plan
Whether in the office or at a friend’s house, ‘tis the season to bring a dish. This year, forget the 20-step recipe you always make for potlucks. Instead, offer to bring wine, pies, fresh bread or salad. You know, all the things you can just buy rather than having to slave over in the kitchen.
Bottom line: Offer to bring something you can pick up at the store on your way to the party.
#4: Shop on Black Friday
You may not believe it, but the day after Thanksgiving shopping at the mall can be fun. I know, I know, I didn’t believe it either because I’d been once and got parking-lot rage before even entering the mall.
However, the key to making Black Friday shopping fun and productive is finding a less-popular mall or store so you can skip the crowds. I discovered my annual spot when a friend dragged me to a 6 a.m. shopping session at our smaller, down-the-street mall (usually not the one I shopped at).
Parking was a breeze and it was less crowded than on a typical weekend. With my list in hand, I found great deals, got it done in a couple of hours, rewarded myself with a pumpkin spice latte and set off to work with a great sense of accomplishment.
If you’re not willing to leave the house post-Thanksgiving, you can always set yourself up with a coffee and the computer and shop away. Purchasing some gifts right after Thanksgiving makes you feel so on top of things.
Bottom line: Buy gifts right after Thanksgiving to get your shopping done ahead of time.
#5: Simplify Gift Wrap
I detest wrapping gifts. I’d much rather throw something in a pretty gift bag (which my husband says is no fun for the giftee, but whatever). Who has time for pulling and cutting and taping and ribbons and bows and tags and all that? Not me. You can buy gift bags and tissue paper at a dollar store and “wrap” your gifts in seconds.
Bottom line: Gift bags and tissue paper. Need I say more?
When you’re a mom, finding ways to feel relaxed and ahead of the game is crucial during the holiday season. Remember: There’s no shame in shortcuts. Getting things done in less time with less effort lets you spend more time and energy on what matters most to you – which is guaranteed to make you feel merrier.