Tips For Stress Free Holiday Meals

The Holiday Season is usually a bit more stressful than other times of the year, but never more so than this year with the added strain of COVID-19. Cooking during the Holidays can add to the stress, sometimes unnecessarily.  It is a double-edged sword. Holiday meals are a tradition and as such make us feel good.  But they are also a lot of work and many of us overdo it in an effort to please the family. I just discovered (after only 50 years of cooking this meal) how to make it much easier even in the time of COVID.  Here are my newly discovered tips for managing the process better when it comes to holiday meals that actually lets the cook enjoy the meal too!

        1.      Tip number one is start early. There are a lot of things that you can make ahead of time that will be just fine in the refrigerator for a few days. Don’t leave it all to one day and wear yourself out.

        2.      Plan the meal and buy ahead because if you don’t you may not be able to get the ingredients that you need. For example, there were only four cans of evaporated milk, for the pumpkin pies left on the Sunday before Thanksgiving at my Whole Foods. That was exactly what I needed, but that was cutting it a little bit too close for me. Likewise, the canned pumpkin was almost all gone by Sunday as well. There was a run on pumpkin pie spices weeks before Thanksgiving. Do your shopping throughout the month to spread expenses and give yourself time to find everything you need. 

3. Use shortcuts that don’t compromise the quality of the dishes that you are making. If you are OK with store-bought pie dough, for example, you can get organic dough already made that you just have to unroll and fit into your pie pan and flute.

Here is the schedule I used this year to make stuffed turkey, mashed cauliflower, cranberry sauce from scratch, homemade stuffing, and homemade pumpkin pies:


Mashed Cauliflower- I started making it on Monday. I cut up all the cauliflower boiled it (you have to boil it forever), strained it mercilessly, added the sour cream and butter, put it in the food processor then stored it in a sauce pan so that I could just take it out and heat it up on Thursday. (link to recipe)

Did it keep OK until Thursday? Absolutely! It was perfect and it was still good three days after Thanksgiving. I ran out of it, long before it went bad….. over a week.

Dishes – half a load.


Giblet Gravy – I started the giblet gravy on Tuesday and continued to simmer the giblets all day Wednesday as well. All you have to do to make them is just rinse them off, put them in some water along with garlic cloves, onion, celery and some turkey spices and just keep adding water as the water boils down. You can also add drippings from the turkey pan. I use Einkorn flour and melted grass-fed butter to thicken the gravy. When it’s done you will have a rich, delicious and clean gravy to put on just about everything except the pies.

Stuffing – I made the stuffing on Tuesday as well, except for the eggs, which I added right before I stuffed the turkey Thursday morning. I made this stuffing last year and it was so good that I froze enough of it to last until a few months ago.  This year it was even better. Check out my recipe here.

Cranberry Sauce – The cranberries cook for several hours and then have to be put in a food processor. I let them boil along with the gravy during the day. Then processed and finished the sauce and refrigerated it. 

Dishes – very full load.


Pumpkin pie day! I made six pies. It took three hours and I did not make my own crusts, but bought organic crusts that you unroll and put in your pie pan and flute. Easy peasy. Was it as good as my homemade pie dough? No. Was it soooo much easier? Yes! and I got no complaints. My pies are so delicious, especially with the homemade heavy whipped cream on top that no one seemed to notice the difference. I’m just saying….

Dishes – full load


On the big day all I had to do was stuff the turkey and pop it in the oven.

I packed mashed cauliflower, cranberry sauce, stuffing and pumpkin pies with whipped cream to drop off at my son’s house. Round trip 1 hour and 45 minutes

I returned home finished making the giblet gravy and warmed the cauliflower. The turkey got done at exactly 4 o’clock…..the internal temperature reached 165° literally as the clock struck 4:00… now, how did that happen?

Dishes – next to none, lol

I sat down to one of the most relaxing and most scrumptious Thanksgiving dinners I have ever had. I wasn’t tired like I usually am on turkey day and thoroughly enjoyed the meal. The only thing missing was my family but at least we were sharing the same food and we got to interact without putting each other in danger. The other thing that was so different was that the kitchen was so clean. The only dishes were the ones I ate on. You know how on Thanksgiving there are so many dishes you can’t get them all in the dishwasher. Not this year!

Next year I am going to follow this strategy to the letter as it means that on the day that they all show up I will not be exhausted as I typically am. I can’t believe it took me this many years to figure this out… But, better late than never! I plan on using the same strategy to create a relaxing Christmas dinner 🙂 So can you!

Does someone you love suffer from an eating disorder? 

Dr. Renae Norton specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. Located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Call 513-205-6543 to schedule an appointment or fill out our online contact form for someone to call you to discuss your concerns. Tele-therapy sessions available. Individual and family sessions also available.

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