Whether it’s celebrating the freedoms we hold dear on Independence Day or giving thanks for all our blessings on Thanksgiving…food, faith, fellowship, hospitality, and thanksgiving are at the core of our modern-day celebrations.
We all know how hectic hosting these fun gatherings can be year after year. Some of us may be feeling a bit anxious with the thought of large crowds of folks coming to our home. Sometimes crowds can make me anxious, too! For some, you may be stressing out about all that food that will be available for the taking. And if you have been trying to make healthier choices this year, you may be dreading those handmade pies, fresh baked cookies, cakes, and what’s Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie?
Whatever your feelings towards the holiday seasons, there are some simple strategies that can help keep our stress levels down, our food choices healthier, and our hearts focused on genuine gratitude.
HERE ARE SOME TIPS THAT HAVE BEEN HELPFUL OVER THE YEARS
1. KEEP IT SIMPLE
From decorating to meal planning, it’s easy to get carried away with all the different kinds of “ideas” on Pinterest and IG. There are a lot of inspirational ideas on line, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t achieve a welcoming atmosphere with simple touches.
The first thing that I like to do is take inventory of what I have on hand. I love to keep my table scape simple and use natural elements to welcome our guests. It also helps to purge and organize regularly and try to keep only the items that we truly love and that still offer functionality around the homestead. This helps to create spaces that are special and unique.
2. SET THE TONE
I love to start with a clean kitchen. So I set myself up for success and make sure that the dishwasher and dish drainer rack are emptied. I also make sure that my counters and island are clutter-free and wiped with my simple all-purpose cleaner.
Playing some favorite tunes on the radio and lighting a candle or two can also help set the mood and ambiance while you work. Preparing meals doesn’t have to be drudgery. It can be rewarding knowing that you are providing your family and friends food to nourish their bodies. Read about my simple tips on how to prepare meals here. If you like essential oils like we do, you can diffuse some of your favorite scents into your space. Read about our latest essential oil alternative find here.
Setting a relaxing tone before your guests arrive can easily flow right into when your first guests start driving up the driveway. That’s a win-win in my book!
3. USE WHAT YOU HAVE
Less is more can go a long way. I love shopping our home for items to decorate with! Repurposing items is also a great way to create cozy spaces without spending a lot of money. I try to stick with neutral tones and colors that can be combined with pops of complementing colors to transition into the next season. This also allows me to mix and match and “borrow” from other rooms of the farmhouse when we want a fresh new look. By keeping only things that we really love and still find useful, it helps to reduce the stress of the farmhouse overflowing with excess junk. We don’t always have to have the latest and greatest trending decor to make our homes welcoming.
4. USE AS MANY RECIPES THAT YOU CAN PREPARE AHEAD
Choose recipes that you know everyone will love and that won’t be super finicky. You definitely don’t want runny mashed sweet potatoes or a turkey that is overcooked that it implodes. Or worse, serve a turkey that is undercooked and make all your guests sick to their tummies. With food allergies on the rise, make sure that whatever recipe you choose, you offer an allergy-friendly version. If you have vegan or vegetarian family members attending, you may also want to offer options for them or ask them to bring something that they will enjoy.
5. ENLIST HELP FROM OTHERS
Delegating some of the work can help save you time and your sanity…and not just during the holidays. We make sure that everyone in the family has been trained in the their designated areas of responsibility. The chores are assigned based on age and abilities. As each person gets better at taking care of their areas, they eventually will learn new skills and then we rotate their assigned areas.
In situations when you are hosting and time gets away from you, which can happen even to the most experienced hostess…it’s ok to ask your guests to lend a helping hand. More often than not, many folks would rather be helping than just sitting and watching the hosts do all the work.
You can also choose to make your gatherings a “Pot Luck” or “Blessing Meal” style where everyone brings a dish or dessert to share. That can really help take a load off the main hosts’ “To Do” list.
6. CLEAN WHILE YOU GO
This is a huge time saver when preparing large meals. Some can argue that it’s just the same amount of time as if you let it pile up, but when your spaces are more organized and clean. It helps you feel more in control and helps you work efficiently as you don’t have to look for your items under piles of dishes and pots and pans or mounds of paperwork that needs to be filed or tossed.
7. TASTE TEST WHILE YOU COOK
Sampling your creations while you cook ensures that the things you are making are delicious, while you help get a little something in your belly, so you are not starving before all the guests arrive. This helps prevent overeating and gorging when dinner is served.
8. USE QUALITY INGREDIENTS
Whether you are hosting or making a dish to share, it’s important to pick the freshest and healthiest ingredients. This applies even with your desserts. If you offer food that has less artificial and synthetic ingredients, you and your guests will be more likely to be able to skip the side plate of guilt and regret the next morning.
Do a search online for simple, but healthier versions of your favorite dishes and baked treats. There are so many great options these days.
9. UNPLUG AND ENJOY
There is only so much planning and execution you can do for a large gathering. Losing sight of why the gathering is taking place and getting caught up in all the minor details can make an opportunity to bless and be blessed is the worse way to spend a day of celebration. At some point, the hostess needs to be able to say, “I am done.” then be able to enjoy all the fruits of her labor. We can learn a lot from the two sisters Martha and Mary from the Bible.
10. SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
Cleaning up at the end of the night can be a snap with a few strategically designated items. You can have one side of your sink filled with warm soapy water and designate it for utensils. Then have a spot just for cups and another for bowls or plates. I have noticed that this makes nightly clean up so much easier. It’s fast, easy and makes the large task seem less overwhelming.
There is still time to put some of these simple tips into action to help manage your holiday stress levels. Which of these do you find most helpful already in your home?
But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”