Spend time to note the baking and food items that you intend to make for your family’s use and as gifts this year. Use a planning sheet with separate columns for amount, food item, purpose, recipe reference, preparation time, and when this will be given.
Note every food item and the amount you intend to make on this planning sheet. Also list the purpose. Is it for your family’s consumption or to be given as gifts? Note where the recipe file is found or the specific page number in a cookbook. These recipe references will really come in handy later on when it’s time bake and cook. Note down a time period for the completion of every item. Some treats need to be served freshly cooked; others can be made ahead of schedule and frozen until needed. Fruitcake, for instance, needs to be baked about six to eight weeks ahead because the flavor gets better as it ages. Include on this planning sheet the items for your Christmas dinner or for any entertaining that can be cooked ahead. The “Time Period” column in the planning sheet indicates the day or days at which you have scheduled the item into your calendar. At this point you’ll be able to see whether this part of Christmas preparation is viable in relation to your available time. You might need to remove some items if time gets too short.
Review your recipes and make a shopping list of ingredients as you plan your Christmas baking and entertaining activities. Buy the ingredients early while supplies are still ample or on sale, perhaps a few items with each shopping trip to avoid too much strain on your December finances. If possible, shop during the times when the stores are less crowded. If only weekends are your available times, shop as soon as the stores open so you have more fresh produce to choose from and you don’t have to endure the crowds that come out later in the day. Do an inventory of the contents of your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry just to know what you have available and save money by avoiding duplicate buys. You may want to have enough quick-meal food stuff on hand for at least two meals. Unanticipated guests may come by or you may even find your own family caught short one day when you are held up. Canned ham, canned chicken, canned vegetables, biscuit mix, and a frozen dessert make good emergency supplies.
It would be good, if possible, to set aside the month of November as make-ahead month. As you cook your usual meals during November, make double batches of main dishes and freeze a portion to be used in December when the stress starts building up. Good make-ahead dishes include soups, meatballs, casseroles, cakes, pies, etc. You could try making at least one double batch of something weekly so that for every week in December you can have one instant-preparation meal? Also take a few minutes to plan daily family meals during the month of December. It will be worth your time and effort once you experience the comfort of having something prepared ahead. Next year you could use the same menu, making a few modifications if needed.