Well, ready or not, Christmas is upon us. I’m trying to keep things calm and reasonably sane this year, and you probably are too. But it’s hard – so many things demand our time and energy during the weeks before Christmas. If you’re looking for small ways to simplify your life and keep things a little more manageable, here are eight Christmas hacks – ways of doing things a little simpler and easier – that can help:
• Put the most important things on your calendar today! Decide on the things you really want to do as a couple or a family, and put them on your calendar now – before it gets out of control. This ensures that you do the things that are most important for your family, and prevents your schedule from filling up with things that you don’t really want to do.
• Take a day to work on Christmas preparations by yourself. Try to find one day when you can devote the entire day to Christmas preparations – shopping, cleaning, cooking, whatever you need to do – by yourself. I know this is hard to do, whether you work outside the home or in the home caring for your children. But if you can figure out a way to do it, you can accomplish so much in that one day!
So think about what it would take to make that happen. Consider taking a vacation day from work, swapping childcare with another mom, or enlisting your husband with the kids – anything that will allow you to spend 8 or 9 hours tackling a big chunk of your Christmas “to do” list.
• Order groceries online. I do this almost every week, and consider it to be a huge time saver and stress reducer. And it can save even more time and stress during the holidays, when stores tend to be more crowded. I use the Walmart grocery pick-up service (save $10 on your first order), but other stores offer the same service. Some even deliver.
Grocery ordering and pick-up isn’t perfect, and I sometimes have to pick up a few items during the week at a grocery store, but I give it an A- for the amount of time and energy it saves.
• Shop online as much as possible. This may seem obvious if you’re an avid Amazon shopper. But then again, maybe not. I buy a lot of stuff on Amazon, but I’ve still had to remind myself that I can get a lot of things that I need for the holidays online – rather than running around to a bunch of different stores.
Shopping online – for gifts, items you need for decorating or entertaining, cleaning products, even food – is a great way to reduce stress and save time. If you want to support local businesses too, then shop online for “big box” items and locally for unique and specialty items.
• Cook the turkey the day before your holiday meal. My aunt always cooked her Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey the day before the holiday meal, and now I do it too. It saves a lot of hassle on a busy day and frees the oven for other dishes.
Cook it, let it cool a bit, wrap it well and refrigerate it. The next day, slice it just before the meal, arrange the slices on a platter and warm it up.
• Clear the counters, empty the dishwasher, and fill the sink with soapy water before you start baking or cooking. When you’re getting ready to bake Christmas cookies, make food gifts, or cook a holiday meal, take a few minutes to get organized first.
Clear and wipe down the counters, empty the dishwasher, and fill the sink with hot, soapy water, so you can rinse or quickly wash items you’ll need to reuse. These simple steps will save time, stress and clean-up hassles.
• Make foil-lined baking sheets for kids to use when working on Christmas crafts or cookies. Before working with children on Christmas crafts or baking projects, line large baking sheets with foil (those extra-wide rolls of foil work great for this). Then let each child work on a baking sheet to “contain” his or her project. (This is especially good for projects that involve glitter!) Cookies can be baked directly on the foil-lined sheets, and craft projects can be cleaned up by wrapping the mess up in the foil and throwing it away.
• Make hot drinks for a crowd in a Crockpot. When you’re hosting a family dinner or holiday party, make wassail or hot chocolate in your Crockpot. For Christmas dinner, I make a simple wassail with apple juice, cranberry juice, oranges and spices.
I serve it in a Crockpot set up away from the main cooking area, along with a few simple hors d’oeuvres. That way people can serve themselves a drink and some snacks without getting in the way of the dinner preparations!
• To save time on regular family meals, cook double batches of as many things as possible. Unfortunately, my family still expects regular meals, even when we’re in the middle of Christmas preparations! Yours probably does too. It’s extremely inconvenient! So whenever possible, cook a double batch and serve it for several meals or freeze half for another meal. If you need help with this (I do!), get my Busy Mom’s Guide to Healthy Family Meals that includes 24 simple, no-recipe meals plus food prep tips and hacks. (Use the code FRIEND25 at checkout to save 25%.)
• Bonus hack just for fun – Make “Christmas dust!” Grind traditional peppermint candy canes to powder in your blender or food processor and transfer it to a container that seals tightly. Use it to add a touch of peppermint to hot chocolate, coffee, cookies, cupcakes, ice cream, and yogurt! Kids will love adding “Christmas dust” to all of those foods and more!
If you’re ready to make a plan that will help you slow down and enjoy your life, marriage, and family this holiday season, check out my holiday planning ebook, Peace. Love. Joy. – 75 Simple Ways to Take Care of Your Health, Happiness, and Marriage this Holiday Season. Use the discount code FRIEND25 at checkout to save 25%.
Looking for health and fitness gift ideas for the women in your life (or yourself!)? Check out my Healthy Living for Women Gift Guide.
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