Is it possible to have stress-less holidays? I know, the turkey is only half cooked, you don’t have all the ingredients for the mashed potatoes, the cranberry sauce is more like a cranberry juice and you have no idea what to do with all of the green beans. Sound familiar? If you have ever agreed to cook for your friends and family over the holidays, you know exactly what I am talking about. A giant meal is quite a monumental feat and it can get very stressful, real fast! There are a few things you can do to help relieve most of the stress like taking some time, starting early, planning ahead and scheduling the activities.

Take time for yourself

You realize in a few days your home will be a whirlwind of commotion, conversations and hungry people. It is important to take a few days prior to the event and spend some time alone, soaking in the quiet of your current surroundings. The more people you add to the mix, the higher the stress levels go. Taking a little time for self-care, to breathe deeply and prepare yourself for what’s to come, might just be the little thing you need to keep those stress levels in check.

Start a few days early

Begin prepping a few days early. Many of your chopping and combining tasks can probably take place a day or two before and be stored in the refrigerator until you are ready for them. Chopping and combining take the majority of time during a cooking spree), so prepping in advance, will help to take quite a bit of the stress off of you on the big day, and will give you more time out of the kitchen and more time being social while waiting for the turkey to come out of the oven.

It will also be helpful to clean out your refrigerator ahead of time. Nothing is as stressful as leftovers out the Wazoo and nowhere to put them. You’ll be feasting on leftovers for the next few days and by the time you’re done, nothing in the refrigerator will still be good, so go ahead and either toss, or freeze just about everything to make more room ahead of time.

Plan your menu

Having an idea of what you’re about to cook is probably a good idea since you’ll need to make enough to feed thirty or so people. Plan out your menu beforehand so you’re not stuck running back and forth to the store while food is cooking. The last thing you want to do is burn the turkey because you had to go grab some cranberry sauce. Roll through your shopping list a couple times before you go and double check that you have everything at checkout. Your stress levels will thank you.

Schedule cooking time and the arrival of people

Make sure you count back from the time people are set to arrive and let that be the time you start cooking. The last thing you need to stress about is how you’re going to keep the turkey warm for the next twelve hours while everything else finishes cooking. Plan what you want finished at certain times and step through the cooking times to know when you should start on that item. Stick to your schedule as best as possible and all of the food should be ready close to the same time.

Holiday meals are not something to take lightly. There’s a lot of work that goes into preparing large amounts of food, but by following some of these simple tips, you will be the life of the party, have time to socialize and make it look like you are a professional. Not only will this impress your friends, it will make cooking a breeze and you’ll be able to actually hang out instead of hiding in the kitchen.