A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Minimizing Holiday Meal Prep Stress

With the holidays around the corner, my thoughts are filled with plans for our big family meals. Big holiday gatherings can go one of two ways. Things either go smoothly and you arrive at the end of them tired but content. Or things can be a hectic stressful mess and you can’t wait for them to be over. Obviously, we like to aim for the first scenario.

Two years ago, I had an incredibly stressful Thanksgiving. That year I ended up cooking three separate Thanksgiving dinners. I don’t remember all the reasons that went into creating that kind of insanity, but I do remember vowing to never have that kind of experience again.

Minimalism is all about prioritizing the things that are important and getting rid of the rest. So when it comes to holiday planning, I try to focus on family and the time we spend together instead of wasting so much time and energy with extravagant meal preparations.

A Few Ways to Minimize Holiday Meal Preparation Stress

  1. Make less food. That one is pretty basic but so easy to miss. It is possible to not make a dozen dishes in the attempt to make everyone happy. If you enjoy having lots of leftovers just make more of the dishes that you know are a hit.
  2. Plan your menu early. Not only does planning early help you avoid last minute shopping trips but, feeling prepared will definitely help reduce your stress.
  3. Group items together according to preparation method. I like to know what items can be made the day before a big meal, which items need to cook all day, which dishes can be cooked on the stove versus those that require an oven, and which items can be cooked and kept warm in a slow cooker. (I love my slow cookers! I use them for as many things as I can.) Then I schedule what needs to cook when so we don’t run out of oven space.
  4. Let other people bring something. Guests often ask if they can help by bringing something with them. Let go of your pride and stop acting like you can do it all and let them bring something. You’ll feel better and so will they.
  5. Cook in disposable pans that double as storage. If the cooking of a big meal weren’t enough to induce exhaustion, storing extra food and cleaning up dishes will definitely do it! We have switched to foil pans that come with plastic lids and any leftovers can just be popped in the fridge after dinner. Once they’re empty just throw them out. We don’t worry about fancy presentation, we just serve things buffet style from the kitchen. Less mess….more time, remember?

These are just a few simple changes that we’ve made that have made a huge difference in the level of stress and time spent with preparing a holiday meal. I am certain that you have tips of your own to share and I’d love to hear them.


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Article originally published on 10/25/2010

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