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12 Best Tips to Stress Less and Enjoy Christmas Dinner

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Have a stress-free Christmas dinner by planning ahead with these 12 best tips so you can enjoy the holidays with family and friends.

12 Best Tips to stress less and enjoy Christmas dinner survival guide pin image


Welcome to the 5th annual 12 Days of Holiday Ideas event, hosted by Shirley of Intelligent Domestications  and  Erlene of My Pinterventures Between Nov. 11th and December 6th there will be hundreds of new ideas shared by over 55 Co-host bloggers! 

Go here to see our kick-off collection of Holiday ideas as well as all of this years talented participating DIY and Foodie Blogs. Also, check out the rest of the survival guides linked up at the bottom of this post. 

The hustle and bustle of the season is fast approaching and it can be so overwhelming if you aren’t prepared for all that comes with the holidays.  Besides the decorating of the tree and the house, there’s the shopping for all of the gifts you have to purchase, and then the Christmas dinner to prepare.

stressing over the holidays

It can be stressful for even those that are always organized in their day-to-day life.  Extra attention is needed to details that only come once a year.  Traditions need to be cared for, such as the holiday baking, trimming the tree, and even down to what foods you make.

I’ve got you covered with 12 of the best tips that I use to prepare for Christmas dinner.  This way, it’s one less thing you have to stress about! It’s all in the planning and using lists.  Lists make it easy to remember what you need to do and to buy.  Keeping a written list of what you will serve for Christmas dinner such as who will bring what dish or what recipe you use to make your star dessert will all help you stay focused and not pull your hair out. 

I’m sharing a few of my free printable lists for this very thing.  You can print them out and keep them in a folder or binder.  I like to keep mine in a folder with all of the recipes I will be using.  Everything is together and handy a glance. 

Let’s get on with the 12 best tips!

12 Best Tips to Stress Less and Enjoy Christmas Dinner Survival Guide

1. Clean out your refrigerator one week before Christmas – Seriously, this is a must. Remove and either use or discard leftovers that seem to have been hidden. Go through your refrigerator and check expiration dates of your condiments, etc.  Space is key for anything you buy for Christmas dinner and to store dishes that are prepped in advance.  Plus, you will need space for leftovers from the big meal. 

Clean out refrigerator
2. Plan the meal – (one week before)  If you make the entire meal yourself, I suggest this meal planner sheet. However, if you elect to have others bring sides and/or desserts, this Christmas meal planner would be perfect for that.  Either one has ample space for you to write your courses from appetizers to desserts. 

Be sure to write down the time each recipe takes to cook or bake so that you can plan when to start each one.

This is also the time to be sure you have all of the servings trays, plates, pots, pans, and casserole dishes ready and clean. On the meal planning sheets, you can even include what pan/dish to use.

                                             Christmas Dinner Meal Planner sheet Christmas dinner meal planner

Bonus tip:  This is not the time to try new recipes that may flop. That will only lead to frustration and a dish less if you counted on it for a main dish.  Try those recipes out well in advance of any holiday.

3. Gather the recipes and make a shopping list – Once you have what you will serve for dinner, it’s time to make that shopping list from the recipes you will be using. This printable Christmas grocery shopping list is perfect for that.

Go grocery shopping 3-4 days prior to Christmas dinner being served.

Christmas Grocery shopping list

4. Use a separate list for holiday baking – I say this because, it’s easier to keep what you will be baking separate from the actual Christmas dinner and dessert. This holiday baking planning printable is easy to use along with the grocery shopping list. If you tend to bake a lot for the holidays, these tips listed here can also be applied to baking.

Holiday Baking Planner

5. Thaw the turkey – If you are serving turkey, be sure to allow enough time for the bird to thaw in the refrigerator. Use this handy guide from the USDA.


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6. Make some dishes ahead of time – Depending on what you are serving, some dishes can be made a day or two (even more with some) ahead and then either cooked on the day of Christmas or reheated. You can cut up potatoes the day before and keep them in water in the refrigerator until needed. Cut up the vegetables for any dressings or salads and store them in containers in the refrigerator.  Bake pies, cookies, etc. a couple of days before.  You can even bake bread or rolls in advance to free up oven space. 

Clean out refrigerator

7. Utilize small appliances to free up oven/stove space – Grab the slow cooker and Instant Pot to use to free up oven space. Even the microwave can be used to reheat dishes or to cook some vegetables. I use my slow cooker to make this cheesy green bean casserole.

Make a note on your meal planning sheet what dishes can be made in small appliances.

cheesy green bean casserole made in the slow cooker

8. Clean up as you go – This is my biggest tip! I hate washing dishes. I’ve got a dishwasher but not everything can be washed in there. When I am cooking a big meal like this, I clean up as I go.  That means, keeping the trash can (or trash bowl) nearby, washing the dishes as they are being used, wiping down the counters as needed.  It makes it so much easier to do this instead of all at once.

9. Take time for yourself in between all the things you have to do, whether it’s planning the meal, gift shopping, cleaning, or whatever the chore. You can’t be any good to yourself or anyone if you are tired, sick, or stressed out too much. Relax. Take a walk, a nap, listen to music, binge watch something, or do something that you enjoy.

woman relaxing with coffee

10. The day of your big dinner – First and foremost, breathe. It will all be okay even if something goes wrong. Grab your lists and start on the items that need to be prepped first, like the turkey. My best tip here is to use post-it notes to label those dishes you already prepared from tip #6 with what time to cook or reheat, the temp and how long. 

11. Enlist help – Delegate! Don’t be afraid to ask your family, friends, or guests to help with any aspect of the meal. From bringing a dish, grocery shopping, washing the platters being used that day, and especially in cooking.

This is a great time to get the kids involved as well.  Depending on the age, there are many tasks kids can help with; peeling and chopping vegetables, mixing casserole ingredients together, washing dishes, and many more.  Even taking out the trash can be a big help. 

kids in the kitchen

12. After the meal is eaten – Breathe a sigh of relief, accept thanks for a delicious meal, and then sit back and let someone else clean up. Those that didn’t cook can wash the dishes, pack up leftovers, and bring you dessert!

Bonus tips: Have a Plan B! Things may not go according to all your planned efforts, and you know what? That’s OKAY! Use your resources to solve quick cooking disasters, the internet has your answer because someone else already had the same problem. 

If your oven goes out, utilize someone else’s that may be coming to the dinner, or use one of the small appliances I mentioned.  One year our oven wasn’t working well so I used a neighbor’s oven to finish up some side dishes.  Another year, I totally forgot to make a few dishes that I prepared ahead of time.  I didn’t worry – we had them the next day.

Bottom line: If you still feel like it will be a stressful meal even with the help and tips offered here, by all means grab your phone and make a reservation somewhere for Christmas dinner or hint to your kids to invite you over and let them cook!

Christmas dinner table setting



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  1. I’m not good at delegating and I cook the entire holiday meal. I cook for days. You have so many great tips and I think you’ve talked me into delegating a few things.

    1. It’s hard to give up that control…I know from experience. I have my daughter make sweet potato casserole, one daughter to bring whatever it is I need (dessert, rolls, etc) and my husband does dishes! It works.