Tips to Make Holidays Stress-Free
Create a Plan for Holiday Entertaining
Pace yourself and make a plan. Using a blank calendar, mark the day of the party, and then fill in the days before the event with things that need to be done. Don’t forget to include even the most routine tasks. Think about what you can prepare in advance and make a checklist of everything you need.
Digitize Your Address Book
Easily save your address book onto your computer, smartphone or email account. If necessary, enlist a computer-savvy individual. You’ll find it easier and far more organized to input new information, plus you can copy and paste directly from emails.
Draw Up a Budget and a Shopping List
This will ensure proper allocation of funds and eliminate aimless shopping trips. Organize your lists by category (e.g. groceries, supplies, and gifts), so you’ll have to make only one trip to each store.
Avoid last-minute grocery trips by stocking up on baking ingredients early. Be sure you have the basics you’ll need most often: butter, flour, granulated and brown sugars, baking powder and soda, yeast, and vanilla extract. Likewise, take inventory of liquor-cabinet staples and restock as necessary. Don’t forget the nonfood items.
1 Guest = 4 cocktail napkins + 1 pound of ice (icing or serving drinks) + 1 alcoholic beverage per hour
12 Guests = 6 bottles of wine + 1 or 2 cases of beer + 6 liters of water (still or sparkling)
Stock up on extra gift-wrapping supplies, nothing is more frustrating than running out of supplies with the job half done, and you can always save the leftovers for next year.
You can also encourage friends and family to setup wish lists, helpful for those long-distance gift exchanges, with their favorite online retailers. Stockpile on universal tokens, as you may need last-minute gifts, either for an unexpected guest or for friends who extend last-minute invitations.
Timesaver Tip: Avoid excessive browsing, as it can quickly eat up your available time and money.
Less is More for Décor
Be satisfied with “good enough”; you don’t always have to go for bigger and better. Likewise, go monochrome for a stress-free way to decorate by choosing one color and running with it, like turning a simple bouquet of red carnations into an eye-catching arrangement by adding red glass gemstones to a vase and a few drops of red food coloring to the water.
Strategize the Gift-Wrapping
Start wrapping your gifts early, but leave ribbons, bows and tags for later on, as unadorned boxes are easier to store and transport due to their stackable nature.
Timesaver Tip: Request free gift wrapping; stores don’t always publicize this service, so be sure to ask. Don’t forget to label the gifts with sticky notes so that you remember who gets what.
Face To-Dos in Good Company
Don’t trudge through the process alone. Invite friends over for an evening of gift wrapping, cookie baking and holiday cards. With a bottle of wine and more than a few laughs, the task will be an easy and enjoyable one to cross off your to-do list.
Timesaver Tip: Reward yourself while gift-wrapping by enjoying a glass of wine with your favorite show or movie. Assure yourself that you deserve a treat for all the work you’re undertaking.
Set the Table Early
Set the table a day or two in advance, then cover the table with a sheet, so that unforeseen events don’t slow things down. Make sure everything fits on the table in a pleasing manner, and then mark the spots with sticky notes, so that anyone can easily assist you in placing the prepared food on the table.
Timesaver Tip: Don’t hesitate to ask for help. In fact, guests prefer to take on small tasks rather than stand around while you attempt to do everything yourself.
Make Space in Advance
Before the party, relocate your coats from the hall closet to a less central one so that guests will have a place to hang theirs, rather than piling them atop a bed. Be sure to have ample hangers. Also, clear out the refrigerator if guests will be bringing refreshments or food that should be chilled, as the best holiday celebrations are often spontaneous.
Timesaver Tip: Wine and beverage coolers can help free-up a full fridge, while a handy portable ice maker ensures you’ll never run out of ice during the party.
Hats off to the Chefs
Stick with the tried and true. A holiday party is not the time to experiment with a new recipe; prepare something you know how to make and can make well. If not, outsource by finding a great bakery or enlisting a friend or family member. Don’t forget to keep food at their optimal serving temperature.
Dips: To keep dips cold, slice off the top of a round loaf of bread and remove its inner contents, leaving a ¾-inch shell. Put the round in a freezer bag and freeze it. The day of the party, pour the dip into the frozen bread round. The round will keep the dip cold for approximately 4 to 6 hours.
Meatballs: Put your slow cooker to work to keep items like meatballs or mulled cider warm by using the “warm” setting on the appliance.
Remember to Unwind
During the merry mayhem of cocktail parties and shopping-mall jaunts, it’s important to set aside some personal time. So, before your schedule fills up with obligations, pencil in a few personal hours or days. This ensures that the much-needed downtime will not be passed over for yet another holiday task. In addition, continue your daily rituals like reading for half an hour before bed, as daily rituals help to keep us calm and centered.