9 Tips for A Stress-Free Holiday Season

This joyful season of family, friends, and entertaining is one of my favorite times of the year. There are so many incredible things going on, but that desire to do it all can also make this a stressful time for many of us. This year, I partnered with Walmart to share a few ideas to help make the next few weeks as relaxed and stress-free as possible.
1. Schedule Time for Yourself
Remember that your attitude sets the tone for your guests. If you're stressed and frazzled your guests will sense it. It’s important that you feel confident and centered when hosting a party, but that can be tough to do when your hair is still dripping wet or your dress is covered in splatters because you didn’t have time to change.

I recommend setting a hard stop time 2 hours before the party starts. When it hits, stop whatever you're doing (seriously!), and go shower, get dressed, and do everything you need to do to feel amazing before going back to finish up in the kitchen. The little break will help ease you out of prep stress and into relaxed party mode, which is important because if you're having a great time, your guests will, too!

2. Skip the "From-Scratch" Pressure
The holidays call for show-stopping desserts, but there’s no need to spend hours baking and decorating from scratch just to impress your guests. Pick up a few pre-baked sweets like Patti LaBelle’s famous Sweet Potato Pies or one of her brand new 9-inch Fancy Cakes named after some of her most loved songs.

Try the “New Attitude,” a moist yellow cake filled with rich caramel icing or “When You’ve Been Blessed,” a super decadent Black Forest cake with whipped topping and cherry filling.

Serve them as-is, or make them even MORE fabulous with a few easy homemade touches—I love a big pile of homemade whipped cream sweetened with maple syrup or a handful of fresh sugar-frosted cranberries.

Feeling really creative? Add little plastic pine tree toppers, then dust on a little powdered sugar to make it "snow."

3. Keep a Few Secrets
Never reveal your menu or party plans before any events. It creates an element of surprise and gives you freedom to change things without worrying about disappointing anyone. It also means that if you run out of time or something doesn't work out how you planned—say a dropped cake or burned side dish—you can just toss it and nobody has to know!

4. Don’t Get Caught Empty-Handed! 
Avoid awkward moments by keeping a few “emergency gifts” hidden away in case one of your guests catches you by surprise with an unexpected holiday present.

Choose versatile items like a pretty scarf and glove set, a beautiful coffee table book, and a selection of cute food gifts like these Marketside Gourmet treats that also make great stocking stuffers or easy classroom teacher gifts. At only $2.50 a pop, the champagne and prosecco gummies, chocolate-covered marshmallow pops, and minty-hot chocolate toppers are so good and affordable that you’ll probably want to buy a few for yourself, too!

(I totally did...)

5. Fill up the Bar Cart
Last-minute liquor store runs are just as bad as running out of your favorites a few hours into the party. Take advantage of holiday sales on adult beverages and make sure you're ready with extra bottles of wine and spirits to both serve and use as gifts.

Prefer beer? Check out the new Heineken Magnum at Walmart--a 1.5 liter bottle that looks just as elegant as a bottle of champagne and makes a perfect hostess gift at a fraction of the cost!

6. Keep Things DIY
Keep the pressure off with DIY options that let guests serve themselves so you can also enjoy the party. A signature cocktail in a pitcher or punch bowl lets guests pour their own drinks as they arrive. Prep pre-cut garnishes like orange rinds, lime and lemon wedges, fresh mint, cherries, and olives, then let everyone mix their own favorites.

And while plated dinners are always elegant, I like to save that for more quiet times of the year; serving dinner buffet or “family style” instead of individually plated means you can remain seated and enjoy the meal along with your family and friends.

Don't forget the sweets!

A dessert buffet featuring a mix of homemade and store-bought treats (like Marketside Gourmet Peanut Brittle, Chocolate Peppermint Bark, and Pretzel Crunchers) can be set up in advance so that it's ready to enjoy as soon as the main part of the meal ends!

7. Take a Few Nights off from Making Dinner
Between holiday baking and cooking for parties, office potlucks, and out-of-town guests, you’ll likely already be spending a lot of time in the kitchen this month. Balance out the hours at the stove with a few nights off.

The secret? Purchasing a few quality prepared meals and sides to keep everyone fed without the work. A piping hot rotisserie chicken picked up on the way home from a busy shopping day will provide both dinner and lunch the following day (click here for more fun ideas to make from a rotisserie chicken).

I also love keeping a few heat and serve entrees and sides (like these Great Value options from Walmart) in my freezer. From pulled pork and fully-cooked chicken breasts to loaded mashed potatoes and mac & cheese, they can serve as complete meals, or at least give you a quick head start to creating something simple.

8. Stock Up Early
Not having enough supplies and scrambling at the last second when stores are overcrowded is a source of stress you can skip completely. Make sure you have everything you need as far as baking pans, wine glasses, extra bedding, etc., well in advance of any parties or hosting situations.

An easy way to make sure you have what you need is to think about the last time you hosted, and ask yourself what would have made things go easier—did you keep running out of wine glasses last year or not have enough extra towels for your in-laws? Make a note of anything that needs to be replaced or purchased, and stock up as soon as you can.

9. And Remember to Say No Sometimes!
With so many invitations, events, shows, and opportunities to spend time with friends and family, it can be tempting to try to do as much as possible this season, but you'll be able to enjoy more when you occasionally say no. Don't let guilt or a sense of obligation lead you to take on too much.

Saying no sometimes will make it possible for you to say yes to the things that really matter.

Thanks to Walmart for sponsoring this holiday entertaining post. As always, all ideas and opinions are my own. Happy Holidays to all!

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