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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Holiday Preparation Checklist

Holiday Preparation Checklist

Think Santa’s the only one making a list and checking it twice? Expert organizers say you should too–and long before Christmas. Gearing up weeks ahead of time for the hectic holiday season, preparing and properly stocking kitchen, freezer, pantry, closets, and garage with food, equipment, and card-and gift-related items, can save valuable time and yes, put some of the usual stress that can accompany holiday preparations right outside on ice.

Just before the calendar begins to turn “b-r-r-r-r,” a little strategy and planning ahead of the onslaught of friends, relatives, and parties can make the coming season truly bright, and may also save money. Now you have the time to watch for specials and wait for sale items without a last minute “I desperately need this, so I really have no choice” kind of crunch.

For starters, with summer still a not-so-distant memory, a quick inventory of your kitchen and pantry may not necessarily reveal a lot of holiday-friendly ingredients. This is a good opportunity to clean and clear shelves by discarding items that may have expired, or have simply gotten old and stale, to create more space and start anew.

While we all certainly prefer fresh ingredients when possible and may have to wait to purchase those, if baking is on the agenda (and who isn’t already dreaming of holiday cookies and gingerbread?), having a few essentials on hand makes for stress-less times in the kitchen. White and brown sugar, flour, vanilla and peppermint extracts, chocolate chips, canned pumpkin, molasses, spices like ginger, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie spice, pecans and walnuts (these can be frozen), dried fruits, Hershey’s kisses, baking powder, decorative sprinkles, and food coloring will make those last minute midnight shopping runs something the neighbors do–not you!

Whether you prepare holiday meals from scratch or welcome a little assistance along the way, helpful staples such as canned cranberry sauce, gravy mixes, biscuit mixes, boxed potatoes and stuffing, creamed soups (for vegetable dishes), ready-made pie crusts for desserts and quiches (some can be frozen), olive oil, canned tomatoes, chutney, dried beans for dips, vegetable or chicken stock, and olives will ensure you don’t find yourself standing in mega-lines at the first snowfall.

With festive the name and parties the game, take stock of dishes and serving pieces before it’s too late and plan for extra platters, serving and punch bowls, utensils, glassware, pots and pans, and more. Investing in seasonal tablecloths and napkins, items for tablescapes that include decorative glass vases, sprayed pinecones, candles, and greenery makes more sense if you plan ahead and scour crafts, dollar, and home stores, but without the pressure of having to buy right away because time has run out.

If overnight guests are on your holiday dance card, having an assortment of coffees, cocoas, and specialty teas around, along with extra pillows, reading material (holiday-themed magazines and books, or perhaps something more personal that you know your guest would enjoy), fragrant soaps, and smaller-sized toiletries, can make their stay warm and memorable beyond the usual. And don’t forget about providing for their comfort by cleaning out any closets and drawers they might need. Sending unused clothing and toys to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and other organizations at this time of year will be a special gift for needy families and go a long way in decluttering your space as well.

And no matter how well we plan, how many of us find ourselves saddled with the need for unanticipated gifts and cards? To prevent last minute shopping emergencies in dizzying stores, and settling for ordinary, impersonal, unsatisfactory, and/or expensive items you’d not typically select, spending a leisurely afternoon at a dollar, country or vintage store may yield surprising gifts you’d not find weeks later under pressure–the day before a big party. Store them some place handy, and don’t forget about stocking up on giftwrap and gift cards instead of having to snip off a piece of wrapping paper and scribbling “Happy Holidays,” which is acceptable only if the recipient is under age 3!

When considering company, assess the need for extra furniture and tackle it by purchasing a folding table and chairs from one of the box stores. Unlike the old card tables, many styles exist today which are strong and durable and come in different sizes. Folding beds, cots or inflatable beds also come in a variety of styles and sizes, with comfort levels that far exceed most anything on the market 10 years ago (time to replace great Uncle Al’s Boy Scout camping cot you’ve used for guests since you first got married).

Finally, don’t overlook what may be in the garage. In the event of storms, is your snow blower in working order? How about the emergency generator, or if you don’t have one, perhaps this is the time to shop around and invest in one. Nothing spoils holiday gatherings more than a snowstorm and power outage. Candles may be fun and festive, but shivering in the living room isn’t, and most of us have lost great-great-great grandma Essie’s touch for fireplace cooking (ice cold green bean casserole, anyone?).

Overall, a little thought, planning, preparation, and strategy can make for an easier transition into the busy holiday season, and make sure the most wonderful time of the year stays that way.

1 comment

1 Barbara { 01.01.13 at 11:29 am }

A Big Thank you for articles like this that help us be organized, better prepared ahead, and most important to help us “see” the future so we can avoid the holiday stresses and enjoy the giving spirit, along with the happy feelings that come when we have time to use our talents and creative inspirations throughout the year.

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.