How to take the stress out of holiday meal planning

Conway Institute of Music

Editor’s note – This article is written by Tiffany Sharell Block. Ms. Block is a wife, mom, cook and proud Conway resident. Tiffany regularly teaches culinary classes for UCA Outreach.

Tiffany Block
Tiffany Block

It’s that time of the year, yet again.  Decorations, beautiful colors, mesmerizing lights, family, friends, ham, and turkey. I’m so excited just thinking about it.  Are you? Although I am excited, it can also be a time of unnerving stress. So I have compiled a list of tips to help you stay sane while preparing your holiday meal.

Here are eight tips for holiday meal planning to keep you stress-free and help you enjoy the holidays with your family.

1. Plan Ahead.

This is the biggest key to being able to enjoy a stress-free holiday meal. You have to take some time to sit and plan….forcing yourself to mentally walk through that day.

2. Make a List & Check It Twice.

The ultimate way to create a stress-free holiday is living by a list and delegating tasks to family members/friends. If your children are older, put them to work. Don’t try to do it all

3. Schedule your “make ahead’ dishes.

This is important. There are so many things that can be prepared early.  Make the cornbread for the dressing ahead of time, diced any vegetables that you will need and place them in ziplock bags, make the gravy…etc.

4. Take inventory.

Take inventory of the pots, pans, burner space, oven space, and serving dishes you’ll need. How many times have you been cooking and you don’t have the proper dish for preparation?  Make sure you know what you will need because this can be very frustrating.

5. Don’t be afraid to go pre-made.

 It’s okay to purchase a couple of desserts from the bakery or frozen rolls.  No one will think any less of you. You are amazing either way.

6. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Figuratively and literally…lol. If you don’t have time to make this grand meal…..then don’t. It’s not worth the headache.  This leads me to my next point.

7. Get Simple With It

Let’s face it, holiday recipes can at times be complicated and intimidating. This year, go for deceptively simple recipes that require minimal prep and cook time. And 1 ‘don’t’. Do not try a new recipe without first test-driving it yourself.  Your holiday guests are not guinea pigs. Now is not the time change up the dressing or that world famous mac and cheese.

Last, but certainly not least.

8. Let go of the idea of perfection.

The sooner you realize that perfect does not exist, the better. Sure, you might be the only one on the block without Christmas lights up (ahem, my house), or your cookies might not turn out just right. But guess what? That’s life. I promise nobody else has everything turn out perfectly either. Nobody cares if your house isn’t spotless or if you forgot to get ice. They just want to spend time with you. If you try not to worry about the imperfections, you’ll stress about them much less. So, let it go.

Wrapping it up

Remember what the season is about. When you are tempted to freak out at the person who took your parking spot, remember that the holidays aren’t about gifts or lights or the perfect party dress. They’re about celebrating something special with loved ones. So try to relax and enjoy the people you are with. You will never get that moment again so live in that moment while you are surrounded by people who love and care about you instead of stressing about the trivial things.


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