Let’s get organised by learning some of Sarah Alder’s tips and tricks to help you get prepared for some stress, waste and fuss-free festivities.

Sarah  loves it when a plan comes together so read her tips below about how to plan for a fun and calm Christmas!

Meal planning is such a useful tool at any time of year but especially so at Christmas. With so much going on, different food to prepare than usual, festive drinks, parties and family visiting, doing some planning will really help you keep on top of things and enjoy yourself.

Planning for the whole Christmas period, not just Christmas Dinner, will mean you can relax safe in the knowledge that you know what’s on the menu, what and how much food you need to buy, how you’ll use food up over the period, what leftovers you might need to store and when you need to plan to do your shops.

Are you trying to do too much?

You can’t enjoy a stress-free festive feast if you’ve taken too much on – three or four items cooked really well are far better than masses of badly done or inedible dishes.

Christmas isn’t the time for experimenting so stick to what you’re comfortable with and have the recipes to hand should you need them. And, remember, it more than ok to buy some things ready-made to make life easier.

Prevent the overwhelm

Think about what else you can do to ensure you’re organised and in control.
• Online portion planners will help you work out how much to buy and cook for each meal
• Check that you can fit what you’re planning to cook in your oven and that you have trays and pans big enough
• Think about whether you can juggle everything you plan to cook and whether preparing some of in advance might be helpful
• Write your shopping lists – what you can buy now, what you’ll need for the few days over Christmas and what you need after that – and check them before you do your shopping in case you no longer need an ingredient
• Put together a job list and a plan – when you need to get food out of the freezer, what time food needs to go in the oven, who is going to help with which jobs and when.

Reduce the waste

All this up-front planning and organisation is going to help reduce any food waste but also think about how you are storing the food once you get it home so that it lasts and freeze anything you aren’t going to be able to use as soon as possible.

Consider whether you need to peel your veg and making a stock from the turkey bones, for example, so that you are making use of the whole ingredient before any of it hits the food waste bin.

And don’t treat your leftovers like second hand goods! They deserve a good life so get creative and make the most of them.

What about the children?

With routine out of the window, extra people at the table and lots of different foods on offer, Christmas mealtimes can be a stressful for children. Rather than put any pressure on them or fight with them to eat, support them to enjoy a fuss-free feast.

There are still a few weeks to go so now is a good time to talk to them about and show them some of the foods you’ll be eating so it doesn’t come as a surprise. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for you to eat some of them a few times before the festivities.

When you’re doing your planning, see if you can include meals you know they enjoy in between some of the festive feasts and how you can put out some safe foods each meal so that there’s something familiar for them to eat.

There’s no need to worry about them not eating as well as usual or not eating at all some mealtimes. They’ll go back to normal once they’re back to their familiar meal and snack routine and everyday foods. Having plenty of nutritious snacks available for when they need them and letting them eat when they need to will help.

Wishing you a stress, waste and fuss-free Christmas!

Sarah Alder, founder of Kitchen Tibits part of the Parenting Community team