As a child, I loved the feast days of the winter holidays. My mom cooked up a veritable storm on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. I’d lie in bed listening to the mixer run, knowing that there was a dessert in the making. She got up early and stayed up late.
It was a labor of love. And it made some sweet memories for me.
Unfortunately for my children, our feast days have been known to feature a crabby mom: me. My mom must have been a saint because I don’t remember that part of the holidays. Or I’ve blocked it all out.
Regardless, I want to make our family’s holiday meals pleasant memories for my kids to take into adulthood. That means I need to be intentional in making our meals easier and more fun. Here’s how I manage it — on a good day.
1. Simplify the meal plan.
Meal planning is the first line of defense in making an easy meal. If you plan more than is realistic, you’re bound to fail. Run your meal plan by your spouse before you commit.
My dad often commented that my eyes were “too big for my stomach”; I tended to pile more on my plate than I could really eat. The same can be true in life, in eating, and in holiday meal planning.
Find the line between extravagant and boring. It’s called “just enough.” Plan a simple menu that still whets the appetite.
2. Make as much ahead as possible.
If you know about my latest project, you know that I am a huge fan of make-ahead meals. Sometimes those are freezer-friendly, other times they are dishes that I can stash in the fridge a few hours in advance. Either way, make-ahead recipes save me a lot of hustle and bustle near serving time.
Things to make ahead include:
- pies, cakes, and other desserts
- rolls, biscuits, and cornbread
- mashed potatoes
3. Accept offers of help.
If you have children, in-laws, family, or friends who want to help prepare the holiday feast, let them. Don’t think you should do it all or that you can do it better all by your lonesome. You’ll slave for hours and it’ll be over in 15 minutes. Accept help in this exercise in futility.
By cheerfully accepting help from others you create a great memory and ease your own work load.
4. Enjoy yourself.
Focus on having a good time with your family and guests. That is why you’re doing this in the first place. Don’t get distracted by the desire to be the hostess with the mostest. Work on enjoying yourself, relaxing, and counting your blessings.
It won’t be perfect anyway, so just roll with it.
Holiday meals can be loads of fun for everyone involved. You can enjoy wonderful meals and great company. Keep perspective, plan ahead, and have a good time.
How do you make holiday meals easier?
|A foodie at heart, Jessica Fisher has learned to reconcile a tight budget with her love for great food. As a busy mom of six voracious eaters, she regularly shares healthy, delicious and budget-friendly recipes at Good Cheap Eats. She also writes at her parenting blog, Life as MOM. She is the author of Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook and A Simpler Season.|