‘Tis the season to be busy! With all the everyday demands of home, work and family, it’s not surprising that many of us find it hard to fit in Christmas as well. That’s why we end up racing around the supermarket on December 24, desperately chasing the last turkey. So take time out to do a little careful planning – then sit back and watch everything run like clockwork! Here’s how...
As soon as possible...be your own event planner. The best big events always look effortless, yet behind the scenes you’ll always find a dedicated and hardworking team. So this year, it’s time to be brutally efficient. That means getting those essential dates in the diary - such as the last first and second-class posting dates – and finding an online food shopping delivery slot early (the best ones get booked up way before the big day). Add the kids’ school holiday dates to your calendar so you can plan shopping trips without them if need be. And give yourself deadlines to meet – for example: ‘I will have all presents bought and wrapped by December 21.’
As soon as possible...plan your menus. This is a great way to reduce both the waste and the cost of Christmas. Decide exactly what you’re going to eat on each day and buy accordingly. Consider, when you buy, how many people you’ll be catering for. Do you really need that enormous turkey, or will a medium-sized one do? Just what are you going to do with the leftovers? You’ll find lots of fabulous ideas for vegetables, cold meats and more on our recipe section. Have your menu plan in front of you if you’re doing a big online shop.
There's still time to...be a savvy shopper. Fighting your way round a crowded shopping centre trying to find this year’s must-have toy or just a pair of boxer shorts that fit is pretty stressful. So avoid it at all costs! Make this year the year that you start shopping early. If you’re doing it online, make sure you allow plenty of time for delivery and don’t forget to check the security credentials of every site you use. If you prefer to get out there to the shops, pick a quiet time if possible. It really is worth taking a day off work during the week, or setting off as early as possible on a weekend. Make a list rather than just browsing and if you’re feeling really efficient, download a plan of the shopping centre and mark out your route!
The week before...use your freezer and kitchen cupboards. Freeze extra bread and milk to defrost as needed. If you’re worried about running out of carrots or parsnips, stick an extra bag of each in your freezer – if you don’t use them at Christmas, they’ll still be fine come New Year and beyond. Make sure you have plenty of non-perishable snacks in the cupboard, as well. Try new Ryvita Crackers for Cheese – available in Golden Rye or Cracked Black Pepper with a gloriously ripe Stilton for the festive cheese course. For more fabulous cheeseboard ideas from cheese connoisseur Juliet Harbutt, visit http://www.ryvita.co.uk/ryvita-news/latest-competitions/ryvita-cheeseboards.
A few days before...timetable your Christmas dinner. Every successful chef knows that putting a meal together successfully is all about the timing. Christmas dinner is no exception. So a few days before the event, work out exactly what needs doing on the big day, and when. So much of Christmas dinner preparation can easily be done the evening before (as long as you’ve met those present-wrapping deadlines!) You can make cranberry and bread sauce, peel and chop the veg, make a soup for the first course – all on Christmas Eve. On the big day itself, you’ll have little more to do than sticking the turkey in the oven, putting the veg on to cook, warming the soups and sauces and pouring the brandy over the Christmas pudding. Then sit back and enjoy the Queen’s Speech while the rest of the family get on with the washing up!
And on Christmas Eve...relax. Don’t run yourself into the ground preparing an incredibly elaborate Christmas dinner, or have sleepless nights worrying that Great-Aunt Jean won’t approve of your modern decorations. Prepare as best you can – but then enjoy yourself, laugh off any last-minute disasters and remember it’s the people in your house that make the day really special. Everything else is just icing on the Christmas cake!