Saving time during the holiday season doesn’t always seem to be a priority for some – it’s a lot of “rush rush rush” and “oooh I can’t wait for (this day)!!”
What we need to remember, though, is that saving time during the holiday season is of the utmost importance, as our hours should be spent relaxing with family, not sweating in a kitchen or stressing over entertaining house guests.
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One of the very first posts I wrote for this site was on Thanksgiving Day Time Savers and today I present you with fifteen more tips on how to save yourself time during the holiday season –
Holiday Time Saver #1: Invest in Coffee Carafes
Coffee (or hot chocolate, cider, etc) are great for chilly winter gatherings, but the need for heat can be tricky – you either have to leave something plugged in and turned on, or use the microwave to reheat each time someone wants a cup. A good coffee carafe is relatively inexpensive and will save you time by allowing you to make big batches of your favorite warm drink in advance and store it hot for hours.
You can also make use of leftover coffee this way. By pouring what you don’t use into the carafe, you can keep it warm for the next day without wasting half a pot (like we used to in my house). Since it never cools completely, you don’t get that stale, microwaved coffee taste and you’ll be surprised at how much money you save by not tossing leftover coffee!
Holiday Time Saver #2: Make Your Cookie Dough Ahead of Time
If you love the smell of freshly baked cookies but simply don’t expect to have the time on the day of your party, mix up a big batch of cookie dough and roll it into a tube on wax paper. Cover it up and place it in your fridge, and then on the morning of, slice and bake! Homemade yumminess without the stress!
Holiday Time Saver #3: Label Your Serving Platters
Take the time a few days before the dinner to sort out your serving platters and put a post-it or some other label on each, corresponding to the food that will be on them. This way you know where everything is going to sit when you serve it and you don’t run the risk of scrambling at the last minute to find “one more” serving dish.
Holiday Time Saver #4: Chill Your Impromptu Wines in No Time
When guests bring their favorite wines to the party, often waiting for a delicious white to cool to a palatable temperature can be a long time investment. Rather, get a metal skewer that would fit inside of a wine bottle and keep it in your freezer (or invest in one purposefully meant for chilling wine!). When you pop the cork on the fresh bottle, put the skewer in the bottom and put the cork back. It will help chill the wine much faster than simply popping it in the fridge.
Holiday Time Saver #5: Measure Once, Cook Once
Prior to the big day, get your recipes together and measure out, store, and label dry ingredients, cut vegetables and meat, and prepare dough for rolls, sweets, and crusts. Doing all of this ahead of time will make a HUGE difference in time spent on the actual day of cooking (plus you can pretend you’re on a cooking show, where everything is already magically set for you! Surely I’m not the only one who does this…right?)
Holiday Time Saver #6: Prepare Crockpot Meals (Way) In Advance
Depending on what you’re making, certain crockpot recipes are great to measure, cut, and store in the freezer until the day-of. I make a delicious fall squash soup, for instance, that is a simple matter of dicing, slicing, and freezing, until it’s time to dump it all in the slow cooker to set and forget.
Holiday Time Saver #7: Never Fear Warm Beer
If your guests are more the beer-drinking types, use an old bartender trick to ensure any beer is chilled when served. Spray down your beer glasses with water and then toss them in the freezer. The thin layer of water will quickly freeze, creating frosty receptacles for your bubbly brewed beverages.
Holiday Time Saver #8: De-stuff The Bird
I know it seems like stuffing in the bird is a Thanksgiving staple, but it increases the cooking time of the turkey, which increases the risk of food-borne illness and runs the potential of drying out the meat. Opt instead to make the stuffing outside in a separate container; you’ll be glad you did (and so will any vegetarian friends who stop by!)
Holiday Time Saver #9: Use An Ironing Board For Extra Counter Space!
Just like it sounds, an ironing board makes a great temporary island if your house is short on counter space.
Holiday Time Saver #10: Don’t Turn Down Help
If someone asks if you need anything, don’t be afraid to say YESSSS!! Ask them to bring a dish you know will be easy for them to prep, preferably in a disposable container you won’t have to remember to return.
Holiday Time Saver #11: Write Out A Schedule
We’re not talking a simple “to-do” list here; in advance, write up a very specific schedule for prepping, storing, plating, serving, and cleaning-up. It will help keep your wasted time down to a minimum and it can also aid in directing any extra help you’ll have to where they’re needed most.
Holiday Time Saver #12: Invest In An Extra Folding Table
Versatile and useful outside of Thanksgiving situations, an extra folding table can help you prepare for unexpected guests, or to set up a buffet for your meal, rather than serving everything in courses.
Holiday Time Saver #13: Keep The Kids Occupied By Having Them Design Placemats
Little ones always want to help but it’s not always helpful. Give them a fun activity that requires minimal supervision/clean-up, like asking them to design the placemats for each guest. This way you’re keeping them out of the way but still making sure they know they’re an important part of the gathering.
Holiday Time Saver #14: Sharpen Your Cutlery Ahead Of Time
Whether you have them professionally sharpened or simply do it yourself, make sure all of your knives are ready to go for the day of the dinner. Not only do sharpened knives better ensure less frustration as you try to slice and dice, but dull knives can result in you slicing and dicing a finger. Let’s avoid injuries this year, mkay, Uncle John?
Holiday Time Saver #15: Prepare For Optimal Storage
Carving the turkey up at the table is a tradition for some, but if you slice it up ahead of time, your hungry guests likely won’t complain, and this will save you time when you go to put it away after the meal (and you can always utilize tip #7 from my original Turkey Day Time Savers article). In addition, having planned storage containers out and ready to go when you’re done eating is a good way to ensure everything has a place and that putting food away takes minimal time.
The key here is to remember that Thanksgiving should be a time to savor a wonderful meal with the people you care about most, not an event to leave you stressed over entertaining guests; the more time you save in preparation/clean-up, the more time you get to actually enjoy with them!