Photo by Edgar Castrejon

How to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with the loved ones this Christmas season

This Christmas, create a strategy for preparations and trade some time usually spent in the kitchen for unforgettable moments with your loved ones.
13th December 2023

The period around Christmas is one of the most beautiful times of the year, and for good reason. You get to meet with long-unseen relatives and friends, exchange gifts, visit a few places, listen to uplifting carol songs, and do other Christmassy stuff you don’t usually do for the better part of the year. Or, at least, you imagine you’ll be doing all these things until noon beats, and you’re left with so many tasks and arrangements to do that you barely even remember what you’re working your fingers to the bone for.

This Christmas, create a strategy for preparations and trade some time usually spent in the kitchen for unforgettable moments with your loved ones. Prepping the holiday meal doesn’t have to be exhausting, budget-wrecking, time-consuming, or other descriptions that may commonly be associated with it, assuming you’re making savvy choices.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew, but instead, follow the following tried-and-tested tips to make the most out of your time. Not only will you be thanking yourself for learning shopping- and time-management skills that you can use all year round, but no one will be able to tell you’ve spent half of the time usually lost in the cooking room. Enough with the talk; let’s jump to less action than usual!

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Know that you can do just as well without those extra grocery trips

Suppose you stop to think of the amount of unused food around Christmas that’s never recuperated. In that case, you might want to think twice whether that “safety stock” or extra grocery trip is worth the trouble. 2 million turkeys, 5 million puddings, and 74 million mince pies – this sounds like an amount of food that could feed a small-sized country during the holidays. Yet, despite how heartwarming such an undertaking may seem, the numbers actually represent the amount of food that gets lost down the drain during this festive period.

You can contribute to collective efforts to preserve the planet by conserving food, consequently benefitting your wallet and schedule and granting you more quality time with your dear ones. Don’t give in to the temptation to go shopping, misbelieving that you can’t substitute butter for olive oil, lime juice for lemon juice, powdered sugar for vanillin powder, or camembert for brie, to name a few. In some instances, you’ll even do yourself a favour. It’s been demonstrated that switching cheese and butter to olive oil decreases the risk of heart disease.

With a Google search or a valuable piece of advice from a cooking buff, few to no ingredients won’t find their replacement, and your meal will turn out just as great.

Select the main ingredients wisely

All you want for the Christmas meals is to be spoilt for choice. After all, this is the time of year when the best preparations are worked upon, and everyone’s favourite meals are often homemade. But who says you can’t have a wide range of options without having an à la carte menu? The trick this Christmas is to pick some essential ingredients that will serve as the foundation for more meals and choose them wisely so that you can prepare more dishes with the same items.

For instance, you just can’t have enough potatoes around this time of the year. These are the most versatile veggies, gladdening everyone in one way or another since you have plenty of recipes. They make warm potato salads or side dishes, can be used for baking dough or as a binder, serve as a mayonnaise ingredient, and have other applications to enumerate a few. The same goes for any other veggie, meat, fruit, or cheese that the members of your family fancy the most.

You can create various dishes when mixing and exploring recipes without making an interminable to-buy list. Choosing the ingredients for your Christmas table is as crucial as selecting kitchen furniture that will serve you well for the next ten to twenty years, so prioritize quality over quantity and consider their versatility beyond the primary uses.

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Don’t fret about guests complaining about repurposing the remaining food

There are hundreds of ways to make seemingly brand-new meals out of leftovers and potentially create even more delicious meals the second time. As you may know, some meals simply taste better in time or cold, such as those containing flavour minced meat. It is scientifically proven that the aromas and flavours in dishes sitting in time mingle together and intensify the seasoned notes, with fat that enhances flavours serving as the best example. Food grows new molecules, and proteins break down in the reheating process, infusing new tastes that are impossible in freshly made dishes.

So, if you have guests over, skip the part where you feel obligated to cook something from scratch and put leftovers to good use in creative, inspiring ways! Suppose you’ve left some ham; then you can crop up a colcannon, pizza, or a cobb salad. Some mayonnaise and vegetables will quickly turn into a mouth-watering and eye-grabbing salad. The only thing limiting your options is your imagination, which can be resolved promptly at the first Google search.

Prep side dishes in advance

Preparing before the time comes is critical when many family members or friends stay over for several days. It’s never a bright idea to burn the bridge when it comes to them and reveal that the side dishes are in no concordance with what they were expecting or told. Instead, you can prepare all the side dishes needed well ahead of time without worrying you’ll spoil them.

The best-favoured Thanksgiving side dish, the mashed potatoes, can be made well in advance. Similarly, numerous potato recipes can be cooked before serving and maintaining a delicious taste. Make-ahead recipes are probably some of the most rewarding activities you can engage in to save up valuable time during the busy Christmas days, so don’t sleep on the idea of jumping on them.

Do you have any other tips and tricks worth mentioning, and what time-saving hacks do you use during seasons that are lesser known by the wider community?

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