Creative ways to speed food preparation, ease family travel time, and simplify entertaining may save you just enough time so that you can sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee now and then before the holiday chaos begins.
Our stress free holiday guide provides tips and tricks:
Here are some tips for making your holiday meal preparation easier and for helping you look like a rock star in the kitchen:
- Before chopping onions, use a brush or clean cloth to rub a small amount of canola oil on the blade of your knife, or chop the onions under water, and your eyes won’t tear up.
- Add a little salt to your frying pan so the oil won’t splatter.
- To keep brown sugar from clumping and drying out, add a few marshmallows or a slice of bread to an opened package.
- Prepare casseroles and cakes in advance and then store them in the freezer. The night before serving, remove from the freezer to thaw. Some vegetables can also be chopped a day in advance.
- If you forget to buy buttermilk for grandma’s biscuit recipe, just add one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk and let it sit for 10 minutes. It won’t be as thick and creamy as buttermilk, but it will produce a similar effect.
- Cut soft baked goods, such as brownies, with a plastic knife to enable cleaner slices and reduce crumbs.
Whether you’re driving, flying or taking the train or bus to visit friends and family during the holidays, plan to make travel a little easier for you and your children with these handy tips:
- Plan to travel during nap time. You may hear, “Are we there yet?” a little less.
- Pack your child’s clothes for each day in a separate, re-sealable, labeled zipper storage bag to eliminate worry over what he or she will wear. Use plastic baggies to organize earrings, hair bows, belts and other accessories.
- Fabric softener sheets for clothes dryers can keep sneakers and suitcases smelling fresh during a trip. They can also effective at removing deodorant stains from clothes.
- Plan for stops during long road trips and stay flexible so that you can visit points of interest for your whole family. Various websites, such as Roadtrippers, and the American Automobile Association (AAA), can help you target a wide range of sights to see.
- Before heading on the road and while you still are in Wi-Fi range, take a screenshot with your mobile phone of your map directions. If you lose Wi-Fi signals during your trip, you’ll have a back-up map and directions. Should you get lost, ask for directions at a pizza delivery restaurant. Delivery restaurants know how to get around, so they should be able to help you find the way back to your route.
- No matter how far you’re traveling, pack an activity bag for your child and include such items as:
o Metal lunchbox packed with magnetic letters, eye spy checklist, coloring books, crayons, snacks and travel-friendly books.
o Paper map and washable highlighter to let your child follow the route as you travel.
o Toy catalog, to keep your little ones busy browsing through the pages of toys, and to give you ideas for holiday shopping.
o Drawing notebook for kids, to use throughout the trip. On one page, have your child make a list of all of the things he or she would like to do while on the trip. On the way home, read the list with your child and check off all that your family accomplished.
- When flying, make your suitcase stand out on the baggage claim conveyor belt by using a brightly-colored suitcase or by affixing unusual ribbons or tape to each piece.
- Instead of a luggage tag that gives your home address, use one that gives your name and cell phone number or email address. If you or your family’s luggage is lost, you’ll be easy to contact when it’s found and you’ll be able to control who gets your address.
Refer to these simple tips and tricks for entertaining during the holidays:
- Sprinkle scented oil on an air filter to lightly perfume your entire home.
- Fill an empty, washed ketchup squeeze bottle or other squeeze bottle with pancake batter to make nicely rounded pancakes, or experiment with other shapes.
- Freeze grapes to use to chill beverages instead of ice cubes. The grapes will make drinks look festive and they won’t water down the taste. They also make a healthy snack during the sweets-heavy holiday season.
- Keep disposable food containers, mason jars and plastic take-out dishes handy for sending leftovers home with your guests.
- Designate a place in the kitchen where guests can have breakfast, snacks and late-afternoon hot chocolate and apple cider, to make it easier for them to help themselves.
- If you have space in your bathroom, provide a basket of towels, toiletries, toothbrushes or other necessities, to help house guests feel at home. Dollar stores often have two-for-one deals on toiletry items, so you could pamper your guests without breaking the bank.