Plan your holiday menus matching them to grocery store sales. Inventory your pantry and freezer, collect coupons for ingredients on your list and begin stockpiling items you’ll need that are on sale.
Random tips and ideas to ease the Holiday Hosting pressure:
Instead of everyone in your circle of friends hosting a separate holiday party, make plans to have a progressive dinner. Start with beverages and hors d’oeuvres at the first home, appetizers or soup at the second, main course at the next, and dessert and coffee at the last home. It’s an enjoyable way to share the burden—and the glory—and you get to see everyone’s holiday decorations, too.
To cut back on entertaining costs, hold a joint party with a friend or relative and split the labor and expense. Or have a caroling party and just serve cookies and hot drinks.
Instead of a full-fledged dinner party, host an adults-only coffee party where each guest contributes a dessert. This way everyone makes something really special, and the emphasis is on being together instead of one person being up to her armpits in preparation and hosting.
Be realistic about how much you can do. You don’t have to see everyone between Thanksgiving and New Year’s for example. Save some get-togethers until after the holidays, and you’ll have something to look forward to.
If you’re having two holiday parties or get-togethers at your home, schedule them back-to-back. Serve an identical (or at least similar) menu. It takes the same amount of time to make a double batch. Bonus: All your serving pieces will be out, and your home will be clean.
Rather than overschedule, host a party the week after Christmas when the house still looks great and you don’t feel as rushed.
Use Christmas stickers or fancy stamps to dress up plain notepaper for invitations or thank-you cards.
When guests ask to bring something, let them. But be specific about what you need so you don’t end up with too many of one thing.
Copy your favorite cookie recipe on a card, wrap colorful cellophane around a couple of freshly baked samples, and tie everything with a bright red ribbon. Give one to each guest as a favor.
Be prepared for surprise guests and keep some generic gifts (candy or comics for kids, candles or calendars for adults) at the ready. Use color-coded wrap, stickers, or ribbon to help match the gift to the recipient.