How To Survive The Holidays

I love the big holidays of the year. For us, it's New Year's Eve, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Since so many of them hit us in succession, it pays to be careful with food budgeting. And because so many holidays are back to back you have to be good to yourself too.

Here are my rules for staying sane and in budget.

• Choose your battles wisely. I try to host only one big spread. If you prefer to host Thanksgiving, let someone else do Christmas or New Year's. The responsibility should never fall just on you.

• Share the expenses. Let's face it. Feeding people can get expensive, especially for the more elaborate meals of a holiday. If money is tight there's nothing wrong with asking friends or family to pitch in with food.

When I was working, we used to have really nice spreads at the office. My coworkers were great about divvying up the essentials and most of them were excellent cooks and bakers. There was one bachelor in particular who didn't cook, but we could always count on him to provide all the drinks and miscellaneous accoutrements. He was very generous. It was his way of contributing since he couldn't bring something homemade.

• Make simple meals. Not everyone can be Martha Stewart. Don't try to impress with something super fancy. If your best recipe is a great mashed potato, don't bother with tartiflette. Now is not the time to experiment. Go with what you know is successful.

• Plan ahead. Usually before a big holiday, stores put their most popular items on sale. Many of them are loss leaders so they are probably at their lowest for the year. This is when I stock up.

• Cook with whole foods. It's almost always cheaper than buying premade stuff.

• On the other hand, don't beat yourself up if you take a shortcut here and there. If you have your hands full there's no harm in having ready made salads or appetizer trays. Be kind to yourself during this stressful time.

• Decorate simply. People are there to see you, not your house.

• Give the house a thorough shakedown several weeks in advance. The less you have to do before guests arrive, the more you'll enjoy your own party.

• Rest. I try to get everything done as early as possible. If I can have an hour or two before guests arrive, I'm a much better hostess.

How do you feel about holiday get togethers? What one dish do you think is your best? Do you have a signature drink?

And here's a good question. Are you good at holding your liquor? Greg recently reminded me that I can not be trusted after one drink. I think I can handle it, but I cannot. LOL! I wake up with a doozy of a hangover the next day. Every five years or so, I get cocky and try a second drink, but it knocks me down every time. He always said I was a cheap date. :)


jacabur1 said…
Maria, you asked and here are my answers to the questions in turn.

"How do you feel about holiday get togethers?"
They were always a hassle but now for us impossible to participate in. Do not miss the stress. {I am an introvert anyway for the most part so huge get togethers were never comfortable to me anyway. Especially the company parties Karl took to me too over the years.}

"What one dish do you think is your best?"
I always loved my own dressing for Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter as one of the holidays we always made a Turkey with the full side fixings. I may have been in the minority on that as my Mom and Mother-In-Law made theirs differently.

"Do you have a signature drink?"
It was non-alcoholic beverages of choice or super-super sweet tea for us. I guess the "signature drink" being the sweet tea.

"And here’s a good question. Are you good at holding your liquor?"
1 Margarita or Jack and Coke, if Karl made them, and I would be down for the count quickly. Luckily never got to find out how bad my own hangover would be because stopped with only 1 drink with food so it would not affect me so much.
We used to do a lot of traveling for the holidays, but it's been awhile since we've done that - the crowds, the expense, the cold and unpredictable weather has all gotten worse and makes my anxiety and stress level skyrocket. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't understand and/or don't try to understand, but I can't please everyone and I have to take care of myself. Now we do nice, quiet holidays - so relaxing! And with only one drink. Maybe two. :)
lynnviehl said…
My holiday get-togethers are pretty low-key, but we always have fun. My guy and I and our kids don't drink, so we do ask everyone else to leave the alcohol at home, which no one seems to mind. It's been thirty years since we gave up alcohol for good, so I imagine one drink would knock me out.

Everyone says turkey is my best dish. Personally I like my stuffing. :)

I hope you and Greg and your guests have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Maria Zannini said…
Jackie: They are a hassle. That's why I'm so grateful when someone invites me to their home. It makes me feel special that they're willing to go through that trouble for me.

re: dressing
Almost everyone I know makes their dressing differently. I've tried for years to copy my mother in law's dressing. It was fantastic.

I've come close, but now that she's passed away I have no way of giving it a taste test.
Maria Zannini said…
Madeline: The one thing I don't miss are the days when we had to decide which family we had to visit for the holidays. No one was ever satisfied and it left us feeling exhausted for the trying.

This year I want at least one major holiday when it's just us. A quiet dinner that we can eat in our pajamas. LOL!
Maria Zannini said…
Lynn: I might drink once or twice a year. I never drink alcohol at other people's houses because I'm always the designated driver anyway.

You need to post your recipe for the perfect turkey! I'm going to try to slow cook mine this year at 300F. I've never tried that before.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Lynn!
Lisa Lombardo said…
I don't really drink anymore...never drank much! My signature dish would depend on who you ask. I have a yummy pumpkin bread I make when my 'adopted son' (family joke) comes to visit because he loves it so much. For my husband, it's my marbled brownies. For me...maple pecan pie...yum!
Lisa Lombardo said…
Happy Thanksgiving, Maria!
Jenny Schwartz said…
I'm another lightweight when it comes to drinking, so designated driver works - that way I don't fall asleep! I don't think I have a go-to dish if asked to bring a plate, but it's easy here. Being summer salads are always good.
Maria Zannini said…
Lisa: Oh, you had me at Maple Pecan Pie. That makes my mouth water.
Maria Zannini said…
Happy Thanksgiving to you too, Lisa!
Maria Zannini said…
Jenny: I think salads are my signature dish too. Doesn't matter the season, I can make a salad to fit.
Angela Brown said…
I'm the loaded mashed potatoes lady if I'm part of a spread for family. I love making that from scratch. But, for holiday potlucks for work, put me down for drinks or a nice fruit try from the store. :-)
Maria Zannini said…
Angela: I don't see enough fruit trays at shindigs. After such a heavy meal, a little fruit would be a better way to satisfy a sweet tooth. I'd rather savor pecan pie on an empty stomach. :)
Michael Keyton said…
I drink and don't drive. Bernadette is the reverse and well meaning idiots keep on pestering me to get a license. Sheesh. I can hold my drink, my mind remaining sharp well after the first slur. I drink a little less now - usually restricted to the weekend - because I hate waking up with a headache. But yes, entertaining and being entertained I thoroughly enjoy.
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: I was content to live without a license until I moved to Texas. Things are just too widely spaced. Unless you live in a big city with mass transportation, it's impossible to live without a car here. It's even more imperative where we live now. The only thing within walking distance to us is the veterinarian.