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50 ideas to help you plan for a stress-free Christmas!

Christmas 2020 may be like no other that we have experienced. With many of us currently facing severe restrictions to normal life, it feels as though the traditional November build-up to Christmas has been thoroughly put on hold. Speaking from England, as the country emerges from national lockdown into a tier system that will strictly constrain normal life, December will bring its own challenges in terms of festive preparations. Given all of this, it’s difficult to know how to plan ahead and, as December is about to dawn, you may find yourself a little stressed and perhaps even dreading what should be the most wonderful time of the year.

However, panic not for The Life Stash is here to help……

Below can be found 50 top hints, tips, ideas, inspirations and pieces of advice that will hopefully help you along the way. Some are blindingly obvious, some rather ‘motherhood and apple pie’ whilst some are borne of my own experiences and so may be new to you. However, there is a common thread throughout – plan, plan, plan!! With this in mind, I have created an accompanying comprehensive printable bundle - The Life Stash Christmas Life-Saving Planning Bundle - which, for less than a price of a cup of coffee, will help to get you on the right track with all of your Christmas planning and, ultimately, lead to a relatively stress-free Christmas. There are twelve sections to this printable bundle and wherever you see red text below, it’s an indication that this little bundle has something to offer you.

So, without further ado, let’s dive on in!

The first couple of points are made specifically with this year in mind……

1. Christmas can be a hideously expensive time of year and, especially this year, will be a struggle for many with millions either losing their employment or having their ability to make money severely curtailed. If you know of friends or family members who are currently struggling financially, be sure to take the initiative to get in touch in order to reassure them that you are not expecting Christmas gifts from them this year;

2. If you are the one struggling financially then don’t suffer in silence – family and friends will be understanding so don’t compound your woes by buying gifts or splashing out on Christmas hospitality that you simply can’t afford. If you are desperate to give them something then remember that presents don’t have to cost the earth. Instead of worrying about what to buy, consider the gift of your time – for example, you could offer to act as a gardener for a month during the summer or promise to babysit for friends with young children. Make this type of gift a little bit more special by making your pledge on a Christmas cheque. These also make really cute gifts for young children to give - which grandparent wouldn't melt when promised a big hug from their grandchild?!

All things food, essential shopping and meal planning....

3. If you like to have your shopping delivered, book an online supermarket shopping slot early – many supermarkets will have already opened their slot bookings so if you haven’t booked already, don’t hesitate any longer! If you have missed the delivery slots then, if available, opt for a ‘pick and collect’ service. Although you pay for this service, it’s usually a very small amount and worth every penny compared with tramping around the supermarket amid Christmas crowds – and seriously worth considering in the middle of a global pandemic…..

4. If you are booking an online shopping delivery, pick a slot on the day before Christmas Eve if possible – your food will still be fresh for Christmas Day and the days beyond but if the supermarket can’t deliver an item to you, you will still have time to go foraging for it elsewhere;

5. If you haven’t already then have an early conversation with your butcher or supermarket about ordering your turkey and/or Christmas joints (add to your December calendar and/or Christmas notes);

6. In your Christmas prep haze, don’t forget to add household staples to your shopping list, factoring in extra to cater for additional guests – eg tea, coffee, milk, matches, batteries, cleaning products, bin bags, toilet paper, bread etc. The last thing that you want to have to do is venture out to the shops just after Christmas because you forgot to stock up on milk!

7. Start to buy extra bits and pieces such as nibbles or canned goods during the weeks before Christmas – you will not only spread the cost but will feel altogether more organised (and don’t forget to keep track of what you have bought by adding them to your pantry inventory);

8. Make space in your pantry for your Christmas stash of goodies – clear a shelf or cupboard where you can squirrel it away, out of sight from those family members who may well start helping themselves to the Christmas biscuits or extra tubes of Pringles!

9. Purchase some extra supplies of frozen vegetables or sides – it will make life easier after the big day by allowing you to swiftly throw together a tasty meal of leftover turkey or ham with some quick and easy accompaniments;

10. Keep your food purchasing organised by making a list of everything that is in your pantry, fridge and freezer (including use-by dates) – this will ensure that you don’t make any unnecessary purchases, you can prioritise eating foods by their expiry dates (thus minimising waste) and you won’t forget what you have bought (and won't find yourself saying ‘damn, we forgot about the cranberry sauce’! as you finish the washing-up on Christmas Day!);

11. Think about the capacity of your fridge over the holiday season. If it’s going to be tight then consider adding to it by using other forgotten fridge facilities that you may have stored away (eg camping or beer fridges) or perhaps, if the climate allows, consider whether you have a room that you could temporarily turn into a cold store by turning off the heating in the space for a few days (eg such as a small utility room);

12. Use a meal planner to get organised across all of the holiday season – take the time to research easily prepared, cosy dishes that will satisfy the marauding masses, planning each meal methodically with your shopping list to hand;

13. For the days beyond Christmas, consider a buffet instead of a sit-down meal – this is especially a good idea for Boxing Day when you will probably have a surplus of leftovers and everybody, including yourself, will be feeling a little jaded;

14. If you are having guests, ensure that you research, ahead of time, any allergies or dislikes and make a note so that you don’t forget them. Christmas Day is not the time to find out that your niece has turned vegan or your daughter's new boyfriend has a severe nut allergy!

15. If the thought of cooking on Christmas Day is giving you the heebie-jeebies then let the supermarket take some of the strain. Whether it’s pigs in blankets, bread sauce or meringue nests – decide where you want to focus your energies and purchase the rest without guilt (although do keep in mind that buying pre-prepared food, whether sweet or savoury, may well cost you more in the long run);

16. If you are not a confident cook then Christmas Day is not the time to try new recipes. Cook things that you are familiar with or, if you are determined to try something new, ensure that you try it at least once before the festive period. The last thing that you want is the added stress of a potential culinary disaster!

17. If you are trying a special recipe then make a note for future years on a recipe card;

18. Take the stress out of cooking on the big day by preparing as much as you can beforehand. Consider which components of your Christmas feast can be prepared in advance. Some food, such as gravy and stuffing and even some vegetables, can be prepared, cooked and frozen a few weeks in advance, so that all you need to do on Christmas Day is defrost and reheat! There are lots of ideas out there – here are just some: 30 Christmas Recipes To Make In Advance.

19. Did you know that, according to a study by Unilever, British households throw away the equivalent of approximately 4.2 million dinners on Christmas Day. So don’t be wasteful - plan how you will use your leftovers – could you use them in a cold buffet on Boxing Day? Do you want to do something a little more exotic than turkey sandwiches? If you need inspiration then simply google ‘what to do with Christmas leftovers’ – here are some ideas.

20. Make sure that you are stocked up on the essentials for storing your leftovers – cling film, tin foil, freezer bags, spare tubs etc - add them to your shopping list!

All things gifting....

21. Keep a list, from year to year, of the gifts that you buy for family and friends – that way you don’t run the risk of duplicating a gift;

22. Plan a budget for each person that you are buying a gift for and stick to it! Do this before you start browsing for gift ideas otherwise you seriously run the risk of being tempted into spending more than you can afford or want to spend;

23. Although many shops may be closed or restricted during these strange times, it doesn’t stop you browsing them for gift inspiration. Although you may not choose to buy from the massive conglomerates such as Amazon, these types of websites provide an excellent resource for gift ideas so use and abuse them by browsing for inspiration but then, wherever possible, sourcing locally. Keep track of your inspired finds on your gift inspiration list. Treat Republic is another great place to have a good old virtual rummage and, of course, we shouldn't forget our beloved four legged friends....!

24. For gift inspiration, I also use websites such as Secret Sales where there is a veritable melting

pot of all manner of brands with some amazing deals to be had;

25. Also consider gifts that are a little more quirky or unusual such as encouraging research into family trees through Find My Past or My Heritage or arranging for a sumptuous delivery of craft cocktails from Cocktail Delivery.

26. If you are buying gifts that will need to be posted, keep this in mind when you are purchasing – unless they are small and light, you could find yourself with an extra significant bill for postage!

27. Don’t leave any of your gift shopping until Christmas Eve unless you really enjoy the thrill (some would call it stress) of feverishly pounding the streets in hunt of last-minute bargains;

28. Make it personal - especially this year, when we have been so restricted from sharing our lives with loved ones. I love giving and receiving gifts that are unique and they are often those that are personalised in some way. A great way to do this is by using photographs. I started to do this several years ago with my children – every few years I collect all of the photographs that I have taken of them and collate them into a photobook that I then have printed – they now have a

wonderful treasury of easy to access photographs documenting their childhoods. There are lots of companies that provide this service but I always use Photobox and have never been disappointed so would highly recommend if you are in the UK. For other personalised gift ideas, get inspired by websites such as Prezzy Box (with a very cool Gift Wizard) or Treat Republic.

29. Be strategic with your wrapping and prioritise accordingly – categorise your gifts into three themes: 1) those for people you will see early in December, 2) those that will need to be posted and 3) those for people you will see over the Christmas period – be sure to make notes on all of these points.

30. Try to wrap gifts as you buy them – it’s less overwhelming, gets you into the Christmas spirit and helps you to feel more organised;

31. Keep all of your wrapping paper and accessories together, neat and tidy, in a wrapping paper storage caddy;

32. Recycle old Christmas cards as this year’s gift tags;

33. Purchase, wrap and stash away a few inexpensive stocking fillers (eg candles, a box of chocolates etc) for those unexpected guests who drop by with a bottle of wine or box of biscuits;

34. During this year especially, visiting others may be severely restricted so plan your posting schedule for gifts. If you want to check out postage dates in the UK, here’s a link to the Royal Mail. Add these dates to your to-do list and/or December schedule;

All about Christmas Cards....

35. If you don’t already then perhaps consider supporting a charity through your Christmas cards. If your favourite charity doesn’t produce cards then consider sending electronic Christmas cards to family and friends, telling them that you are donating the money that you would have spent on Christmas cards and postage to the charity. There are lots of companies that can create digital e-cards – Blue Mountain and Smilebox are just a couple of examples;

36. Set up address labels for family and friends on your computer and keep them updated throughout the year;

37. Writing a whole bunch of cards can be, at best, laborious and, at worst, quite overwhelming so make it feel less onerous by starting early and writing just a handful each day;

38. Don’t forget to stock up on postage stamps! Add them to your shopping list right now…..

39. If you need to send any cards overseas, make sure that you check out the last days for posting (here’s the Royal Mail for UK readers);

40. Personalise cards to make them extra special for the really special people in your life….consider inserting a special photograph or hand-written note. If you have young children then perhaps ask them to draw a picture to be included;

All about preparing your home:

41. Whether you’re receiving visitors or not, a clean and tidy house is the perfect backdrop to those Christmas decorations. I certainly always feel more relaxed and happier to receive guests if I feel on top of housework so make sure that you schedule time to declutter your home – add it to your December schedule but don’t take it all on yourself – make it a family affair by sharing the chores with all household members and apportion the duties on the to-do list;

42. If you have young children, ask them to sort out any toys to go to charity before Christmas arrives, using this as an opportunity to show them that Christmas is about giving and receiving. This will also help with the dreaded post-Christmas tidy-away when you have the challenge of putting away all of those new toys that have been received;

43. Check your table linens (table cloth, napkins, table runners etc) in good time for stains or rips. Do you need to refresh or replenish them? If so add to your to-do list or shopping list;

44. Plan when you are going to trim your home and get others involved – putting up Christmas decorations shouldn’t be a chore but something to be enjoyed by the whole family - set time aside on your December schedule when the whole family is available. Make sure you have special Christmas treats to eat and drink and ensure that your favourite Christmas songs are playing in the background;

45. Before your planned decorating date, find your decorations and check them to see if any need to be replaced (yes, something else to add to your to-do list and, perhaps, your shopping list). As an absolute minimum, test those fairy lights before putting them on the tree!

All about the big day….

46. Invest the time to consciously schedule your day. What time will your guests be arriving? What time are you planning to eat dinner? What time will you have to put your turkey in the oven? What about playing games or watching a Christmas movie favourite? Detail it all on your daily planner. However, always be mindful that your plan could and should be flexible – to avoid adding extra stress to your day, see it as a guide to help rather than a precise schedule of how things must unfold on the day;

47. Be sure to schedule some time to relax… read a new book or watch a Christmas movie;

48. If you plan to play a family game then make sure that you locate it before Christmas Day and check that all of the pieces are there (add it to your to-do list);

All about self-care….

49. Carefully plan your diary throughout the month of December – eg school concerts, work commitments, shopping, family meet ups….. don’t suffer from burn-out before you even get to Christmas Day!

50. Slow down and make sure that you delegate appropriately – Christmas is a family affair but don’t forget that that includes all of the preparation! Don’t overload yourself with impossible plans….be realistic about what you can achieve. Most importantly - remember that this is your Christmas as well as everybody else’s – make time to relax and enjoy the festivities alongside your nearest and dearest.

So, that's the Life Stash top 50 to help you get on your way this Christmas. Click here if you’d like to purchase The Life Stash Christmas Life-Saving Printable Bundle (yours for only £2.50!).

And with that, dear reader, I bid you a very happy, healthy and stress-free Christmas!

Until next time,

Andrea x

PS have you read the other Life Stash blog posts? Not many as yet but I'm constantly adding so why not take a look and subscribe to get regular updates.


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