(BPT) - The season is full of activity, fun and festivities — but it can also be somewhat stressful, especially if you feel unprepared. To make your holiday season go more smoothly this year, do a little advance planning so that you can spend more time relaxing with family and friends.
Here are key tips to help give you the confidence to tackle all the merriment the holidays can bring.
1. Take a pantry inventory
Remember running out to the store for heavy whipping cream or more flour at the last minute last year? Reduce your stress by taking stock of your pantry for baking and cooking staples you know you'll need, with your favorite recipes in hand. To make this easier, many online recipes also post a shopping list. If you're hosting relatives in your home over the holidays, be sure to add extra amounts to everyday staples on your shopping list — especially necessities like milk, eggs, bread — and snacks!
And, just in case something falls through the cracks, have your favorite grocery delivery service bookmarked on your computer or tablet so that you can make last-minute orders.
2. Ensure you have the bakeware you need
There's nothing like having your cake batter ready to go, then realizing you borrowed a pan last year — from a friend who's out of town this year. Instead, make sure you've got everything you need to bake and roast all the sweet and savory recipes you and your family love. For example, with a GoodCook Ready 5 Piece Metal Bakeware Set you'll have a 13"x9" small cookie sheet, a 13"x9" bake and roast pan, a 9" round cake pan, an 8"x4" medium loaf pan and 6-cup muffin tin.
All of these pans have a scratch-resistant and dishwasher-safe nonstick coating that provides excellent release, while also making clean-up quick and easy. They're also metal spatula safe, so you can serve your baked goods right off the sheet. Best yet, they're made with heavy-duty gauge steel to resist warping, so you'll be able to use them for high-quality baking for years to come.
Find these items and more GoodCook kitchen essentials at Target.com.
3. Keep it simple
To make your holidays more fun and less frantic, simplify wherever possible. Fewer decorations, placed carefully, will make more of a visual statement than loads of ornaments, and will free up time to do other things. Focus your cleaning efforts on the rooms where you'll be entertaining and consider blocking off less tidy areas with festive ribbons and funny signs saying things like "Santa's Workshop — Do Not Enter." And unless you have loads of extra time for experimentation, stick with tried-and-true recipes that you already know you can pull off beautifully.
4. Make a schedule, check it twice
If you're planning a big party or hosting a sit-down dinner, write out a schedule starting with your planned food-serving time and work your way backward. This will help you remember when each dish needs to be put in the oven or started on your stovetop so everything is ready at about the same time. Make your life even easier by prepping as many ingredients or even full dishes a day or two ahead of time, if possible.
5. Enlist some elves
Friends and family members actually like to help, as long as they know what to do. Delegate a few specific tasks to others so you don't feel like you have to do everything yourself.
Have a creative child? Let them make place cards or place mats with guests' names on them. Musical relative? Let them create a holiday playlist. One of your friends an expert mixologist? Put them in charge of the beverages. Spreading the burden means spreading the joy — so everyone can enjoy the preparations together.
With an upbeat attitude — and some holiday music — while you're setting up, you're bound to have just as much fun getting ready as you will once your guests arrive. Prepping ahead of time will give you that much more confidence that your celebrations will be thoroughly enjoyed, by one and all.