The holidays are quickly approaching, and now is a great time to consider how you can entertain with less stress. Here are five simple tips to keep your holiday celebrations merry and bright this season.

1. Make a Game Plan.

It is easy to get overwhelmed during the holidays, and unfortunately this spills over into the most important part of season. Spending time with family and friends, and sharing a holiday meal together, should be fun and enjoyable. To keep things manageable and stress-free, create a plan. This plan should include food and menu details. shopping needs, decor, beverages, guest allergies, and other related to-do’s. Assign dates and task owners, and stick to the the plan. It will keep things organized, and help you stay calm and relaxed.

2. Keep it Simple.

A delicious home-cooked meal, fun, festive decor, and a warm, inviting home, are the simple ingredients for a great gathering. We all have the tendency to be overly ambitious as we map out our holiday entertaining vision. This often leads to stress, excess, and waste. Define your goals for your gathering, and keep it simple. Trust us, you will be glad you did.

3. Do What You Can in Advance.

Much of the necessary holiday entertaining preparation can be done well before your guests arrive at your door. Decorating, setting the table, and tidying your home, can all be done in advance. If necessary, set up any guest sleeping spaces, so that they are fitted with clean sheets and towels. Review your menu, and prep accordingly. Many items can be prepared 1-2 days prior, and other dishes can be prepared and frozen. You can also save time by dicing and chopping other ingredients that require same day cooking or baking. Do as much as you can before the gathering, and this will leave you time for other activities, or at least lesson the racing and stress of last-minute details.

4. Outsource.

Creating a holiday meal and hosting a gathering, can be very time-consuming. Fortunately, there are so many options today for outsourcing some, or all, of your holiday meal. Caterers and restaurants, offer holiday menus at all price points. Prefer to keep the cooking in the family? Ask your guests to prepare a menu item, or to bring beverages, or dessert. It is also a great idea to assign certain guests a few responsibilities at the gathering. Assign kids to dish clearing, ask a friend or family member to man the bar for a bit. Don’t be afraid to ask for help serving the meal or even washing dishes. Your guests will often be relieved to be able to contribute in a useful way, and it will certainly make the day more enjoyable for you.

5. Be a Guest.

With all of the planning, shopping, cooking, and preparing for holiday entertaining, it’s easy to forget that you should enjoy yourself as well. By using the tips above, you can focus on spending time with your company, celebrating the holiday, and perhaps feeling like a guest too. After all, you deserve it!

Here’s to less stress and more fun this holiday season (and lots of great food too!).

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