It's November. That can only mean one thing: You're behind already. None of us are ever prepared for the holidays. Things just get too crazy, too fast. You want to strike a happy balance: You want things to flow smoothly, and you want to have a lot of fun.
But you don't want to go to the extreme of wrapping Christmas gifts in July. After all, a little last-minute rush gets the adrenalin pumping. Since it's too late to wrap your Christmas presents in July, anyway, your adrenalin rush is safe.
But you don't want to be frantic, either. Here are some tips to help you create a holiday kitchen so you can still have time for your family.
Give yourself an early present and reorganize your kitchen so that it's functional for the holidays.
When you've got four pots on the stove, a turkey in the oven, a ham in the microwave, and 18 hungry people in the living room, you'll be glad you did.
First, get rid of everything you are not going to use this holiday season.
To be organized and sane, you need space - and lots of it! Open up the cupboards, cabinets, drawers, pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and take everything out.
Clean the empty areas, and then - now this is the trick - only put back what you are going to use over the next month. Pack up the rest and store it in the garage.
Toss out any ancient foods from the fridge and freezer.
Use this occasion to rethink your holiday kitchen cabinet and drawer plan. Which cupboard is best for the glasses? Which counter is more convenient for the coffeemaker? What drawer should the corkscrew be in?
A lot of the time, we tend to leave things where we first put them, even if that spot turns out to be inconvenient. Why?
Because once you move the glasses to the cup cabinet, you now have to find a new home for the cups, which displaces another item. It's a round robin-effect.
So take advantage of this opportunity and develop a kitchen plan.
Mentally divide your kitchen into activity areas so you and your family won't be falling all over each other as you work.
Here are some ideas:
Plan your main holiday meals now. Check what ingredients you have on hand; put the rest on a shopping list.
Find your holiday recipes and put them in one binder in your kitchen. Find serving dishes for each entree and make sure they are clean and ready to roll.
If you're planning a party or a dinner party, carefully schedule the food preparation. What time do you plan to eat?
Then when should the turkey go in the oven? When should the shrimp be sautéed?
Make a schedule for the evening, listing all the preparations you need to do at the time you need to do them. That way, the shrimp will be cooked on time, and you won't find a forgotten tray of appetizers on top of the fridge after the last guest leaves.
When 20 people are in your kitchen chatting and asking questions while you're trying to put a five-course dinner together, that checklist could be a sanity saver.