This week, we will cover efficient ways to handle all the food (from holiday baking to Christmas morning easy make ahead ideas), some homemade décor ideas and some possible ideas for all the gifts you may need to buy (including some ideas for party gifts exchanges!) Also, if you missed my previous Holiday Overachiever challenge, check it out HERE!
Before we even get into the nitty gritty of holiday food, we first need to consider what is already stocked! Make a quick note of some of the food you already have in the house, including baking supplies. That way you can make sweets and meals from the food you already have!
Food – Baking
Now is the time to start thinking about and baking some of your favourite, freezer friendly holiday treats! Try to focus on the goodies that really hold up well in the freezer. I make a fair bit of “Christmas Crack” – you know that one with the soda crackers and butter/sugar mix and chocolate? Well it’s delish!! BUT, it doesn’t hold up super well in the freezer. The pieces sometimes crumble more than I would like. I use this time, this far in advance, to make some of the shortbread bites, or cookies, fudge, rice crispy squares or balls – basically, just trying to focus on things that don’t crumble when stored and moved around in the freezer. I get so disappointed when I pull out goodies to put together a tray or gift to find most of the items looking like they’ve been through a hurricane – even if they are still delicious! I use some time during the first week of December to make some more of the daintier treats! Things like bark, the crack I mentioned above and other cluster type treats. If your time is super limited, just pick out two or three recipes to make. Search for super easy Christmas treats, and I am sure you will find something easy!
Food – Menu planning for the holidays
Think of your busiest days over the holidays. Use it to guide how many meals and what types you may benefit from having something made ahead of time. For example, our busy day is usually Christmas! I know, what a shock!! Anyhoo…We often do some gift opening in the morning, then have the in-laws for brunch, then some playing, then a snack/appetizer in the afternoon, then off to my parents for dinner. It means that it is very handy if I can prepare ahead something for breakfast and brunch. (Pro tip: make a casserole type brunch meal so you can pull it out of the freezer the night before, and stick it in the oven in the morning during some of the chaos! No need to break a sweat!!) Quiche goes over really well, so does a big hungry-mans breakfast casserole with eggs and potatoes etc. I have also done a french toast bake, which I can prep the night before, but it doesn’t really freeze, so it means more work on Christmas eve. If you want a sweet breakfast try some freezer cinnamon buns, or make a big batch of pancakes ahead of time and keep them in the freezer until you need them!
To make the most of your meal planning, it also helps to do a bit of event planning. Use some time to look up your favourite holiday events and put them on the calendar. Now you know what evenings or afternoons are going to be harder to prep ahead for, or when you might really benefit from throwing together something super easy from what you have already prepped!
Food – Snacks for the holidays
Sometimes over the holidays, it’s less about meals and more about snacks, sweet or savory! Try looking for no bake appetizers, or easy cold appetizers. Even grabbing some easy snacks like nuts (as long as there are no allergies!), candy, or chips, or even make a simple dip to fancy up a plate of cut veg!
When it comes to décor it’s more about what limits you. Are you tight on money? Looking for homemade stuff? Are you tight on time? Looking for store bought preassembled deals? Or both!?! Your local dollar stores or thrift shops are a great place to start if you’re looking for discounted Christmas décor! There are tons of options from tableware, to tree decorations, even the possibility of matching clothing for the family! Feeling DIYish? Make some big impact decorations by wrapping empty boxes with holiday paper and put them either around the house inside or on the porch for some holiday curb appeal. Decorate doors in the house like snowmen by cutting out snowman parts and sticking them onto the door, get the kids to help with this one so they can customize their door-snowman. Try your hand at making your own “ugly” sweaters! Gather up some garland, bows, bells, felt – whatever you have, grab a glue gun, or test your sewing skills and ‘deck’ out those thrifted sweaters! Make a snowman slide – want some sort of big fancy garland for your banister, but not the price tag? Get some fake snow from a craft store, line the railing, and strategically place some stuffies skiing down the “hill”! Want a big fancy wreath on the door? Still don’t want the price tag?? Why not get a bunch of Christmas socks, cut the toes off and string them like beads onto a pool noodle. Shape the noodle like a wreath, taping the two ends together and voila! Add a sparkly bow to finish it off and you have yourself a great holiday wreath for your door! There are so many ideas, it’s fun to get a bit creative. You don’t even have to be skilled!! Look up easy homemade holiday décor and you will be blown away by your options! Make some time on one of the days to make at least one decoration!
Ok, so, onto gifts! I know it’s been a long post, but I guarantee it all sets up that holiday spirit! Especially for the kids! So now’s your chance to come up with some wish-lists, or name-lists of all the people you need to buy for. Try to be thorough, but reasonable. You may need to rejig your budget depending on how far out you’re reaching. Make a list (preferably on your phone – makes it easier to cross things off as you go, even while you’re still shopping!!!) of the people you need to buy for, beside their name add an amount you don’t want to go over, then add an idea, or whatever you already have for them. I sometimes like to recheck my list from the previous year to double check that I don’t gift the same or similar thing (which is also a reason to have lists in your phone!) Do you have a tendency to overspend? Stick to your limit. Add up all the people you are buying for, and use that number instead to keep you on track if each gift on it’s own isn’t enough to keep you accountable! Your wallet will thank me later! If you have someone that is particularly hard to buy for, start thinking early. The earlier the better! Try to think of their hobbies, interests, their work, even consider the things you do with this person. Use some downtime or breaks at home or work to start searching gift ideas! You can make things easier on yourself by matching gifts. If you are buying for kids who are the same age, either in the same or different households, it’s ok to get them the same thing. Try getting people boardgames, you’d be surprised how many people like games! Think of adventure gifts, like axe throwing, escape rooms, or even waterparks if it’s in the budget! Have fun with it! If you have a huge list of people to buy for try breaking it into groups and suggest secret Santa, or get creative with how to exchange gifts. Try a gift card exchange, or play some minute-to-win-it games for prizes and just use the prizes as the gifts!
Here’s a short recap of the challenge for the week!
Food – bake two sweet treats for the freezer, make one freezer friendly meal, and buy or make 2-3 types of snacky foods
Décor – make at least one homemade Christmas decoration
Gifts – write out your list of who you are buying for, add a budget, and a thought or already purchased gift
I promise it will not take long, and you will be that much farther ahead!