Holiday hacks: How to spend less time cooking and more time with family

(BPT) - The holidays are a time to celebrate and make priceless memories with friends and family. However, when you are the person tasked with preparing and cooking for everyone else, you may often have to miss out on all the family fun and those moments that matter most.

Here are several tips to get you motivated to get out of the kitchen and give you more time to enjoy the company of loved ones — without sacrificing any of your delicious holiday traditions.

Plan ahead

Preparation is key! To begin, make a to-do list of the necessary tasks (i.e., purchasing ingredients) that can be completed ahead of time. For example, set the table the day before to save time on the day of your gathering. Also, be sure you are well stocked on things you may run out of or could dirty easily — from cloth napkins to beverage options — so you don’t stress day-of and can truly relish every minute with family.

Ask for help

When time is not on your side, there’s nothing better than a little helping hand — especially when that help could be delivered right to your doorstep. Boston Market, known this time of year as the Holiday Experts, has fully prepared, precooked holiday meal spreads, as well as a la carte sides and desserts that can be preordered and picked up at any Boston Market location nationwide. You can even get a complete holiday dinner and have it shipped directly to your door!

In addition, Boston Market restaurants are open on Thanksgiving and Christmas for any last-minute needs. Skip the prep work and time in the kitchen by ordering online at bostonmarket.com.

Divide the responsibilities

Who says you have to do all the work? Ask friends and family to pitch in — a little help goes a long way. A few weeks before your gathering, send a message to your guests inviting them to help with beverages, picking up ice, or bringing a side dish or dessert. And when the meal is over, have a designated clean-up crew with multiple people to get the job done faster.

Leftovers for house guests

Even if you have several guests staying in your home, don’t feel obligated to cook brand new meals each day. Turn holiday leftovers into tomorrow’s breakfast or lunch by adding leftover meat to omelets or putting together a sandwich bar. There are so many delicious ways to plus up Thanksgiving leftovers, like a turkey and Swiss bread pudding or even a turkey shepherd’s pie!

Use the right tools

Save time by getting creative in the kitchen. If you run out of oven space, the slow cooker is a convenient alternative for baking desserts like hot fudge brownies, apple crisp and even pecan pie. You can also find easy no-bake recipes or dishes that can be made quickly in the microwave.

Skip extra grocery trips

When cooking for a crowd, you’re bound to forget an item or two from your grocery list. Avoid unnecessary extra trips to the store by knowing your substitutes. If you run out of butter, you can substitute for olive oil or vegetable oil. Happen to forget the buttermilk? No worries — use watered-down yogurt or sour cream.

Create a schedule

If you’re still worried about spending too much time standing over the stove, create a schedule to guide your celebration. Block time for socializing, cooking and preparing for guests, but don’t forget to be flexible. Set out board games, crafts or photo albums — anything to encourage bonding and conversation so you’re not tempted to keep working in the kitchen.

This year, don’t let your holiday cooking duties overtake the joy of the season. Follow these useful tips to make the most of your festive time!

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