Take three deep breaths. You’ve got this. And this is why.
The holidays make up some of our best memories. We roll out our favorite traditions and those family recipes we’ve been dreaming about all year, the ones that have been passed down through the generations.
Best of all, we spend time with the people we love best.
So it’s worth the effort! But, let’s get real. it isn’t worth sacrificing your wealth–mental or other.
The preparation alone can be exhausting, especially if you have children. The trick is to plan ahead–for your shopping expeditions and for the big day itself.
The first thing you want to do is to hype up the day to your kids. Your success with this will depend on their ages and personality. If you involve them in the planning and get them excited, then they might be more patient when you’re shopping and cooking.
- Have them plan a game to play or let them color in the place setting with markers.
- Buy them a new outfit they can’t wear until the big day. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but get something they think is special. Presley Couture, kids boutique clothing, has lovely twirl dresses and dress-up clothes, too, if you want to let your child be a princess on the day. Their Mickey-type mouse ears are also as fun as can be and make a nice bribe.
- Talk about the menus, especially their favorite foods. If they’re old enough to help at all, that can be a huge deal for them. I often have children man the toaster the day before, toasting the bread for the stuffing.
You are a brave soul! Let’s talk shopping,
Make sure you have the gear you need. You can make a kid-friendly list with pictures of what you need to buy, and if your kids are old enough they can check things off the list as you go.
If they’re younger, bring toys you can clip onto their clothes or baby carrier. Only go shopping after they’ve just eaten and aren’t cranky and sleepy.
For bigger trips, get someone to watch your little one. Take turns with another parent, if you need to.
Hopefully, you’re not doing all of this alone. But either way, you can save yourself a lot of stress by spreading out the cooking over weeks instead of just a day or two. This way, you can make some dishes when your child is asleep.
For instance, you could choose a pie you can freeze or choose other freezable desserts. You can freeze unbaked berry pies and then put frozen into the oven when the time comes. Pecan pies can also be frozen or baked ahead of time.
Cranberry sauce is also a great make ahead recipe, if you like to make your own.
This recipe for freezable rolls comes from King Arthur’s Flour. Make them and freeze them uncooked., and then on the day you need them, let them thaw and rise and stick them in the oven. You can make them two weeks ahead of time.
For recipes that you usually make last minute, you can sometimes make them earlier in the day. For instance, you can make mashed potatoes and keep them warm in a slow cooker. Pour a thin layer of unsweetened cream on top to keep the potatoes from drying out. When ready to serve, just stir it in.
For recipes that have to be made on the day, besides potatoes, I like to chop all my vegetables the day before and put them into Ziploc bags. Then I put all the Ziploc bags in a separate grocery bag labeled stuffing, etc.
If you do most of the work ahead of time when your child is least likely to interfere, you can make Thanksgiving a much less stressful day.
Make sure you have all the right gear. Double what you think you need in diapers, changes of clothes and toys. You can leave the extras in the car if you’re embarrassed, but you’ll still have what you need nearby if your first set of supplies doesn’t cut it.
A decent stroller is essential. Ergobaby makes decent, durable strollers. I particularly like that they transition from a baby to a toddler stroller. Let doting relatives take your baby for walks, weather permitting.
Holidays can be stressful, but if you plan ahead, everyone will be much happier. You’ve got this!