How to keep your holiday cooking sane

This time of year is a very busy time in my work with clients. Because the holidays are approaching, many of my clients need their projects completed in time to entertain family and friends. My work load at this time of year makes keeping myself organized at home for our holidays more than the usual challenge it is.

With the holidays approaching, the last thing I want is extra last minute trips to the grocery store for forgotten items. This post is about a solution I came up with to fight my own holiday food planning scatter-brained-ness. (Is that a word? It is now.) It looks like this:

Truth be told, a few years ago I had to really search for a favorite old family Christmas recipe. I thought I had lost it and couldn’t remember where I had put it away, very safely, the year before. I eventually found it, but I decided I never wanted to go through that again. For the next year, I needed a new plan.

So, I bought myself a small three-ring binder with a plastic cover, so I could wipe it clean easily. I bought some cheery scrapbook paper to slide into the cover and spine, to help me distinguish this cookbook binder easily when I need it. I labeled the spine and the cover clearly and then started my holiday recipe gleaning.

To protect each recipe, I filled the binder with plastic sheet protectors. I am normally relatively tidy when I cook, but at the holidays, when there are so many dishes and so much conversation going on at once, spills happen.

(Okay, those clear sheet protectors don’t photograph well, but you know what I’m talking about.) Next, I pulled out all of our favorite holiday recipes for the closest approaching holiday of the year, which was Thanksgiving. Then, I typed them up, little by little, over a couple of nights in front of the tv. (Martha Stewart really doesn’t live here.)

After they were all typed, they became the first pages in the new recipe binder. When I got to the next holiday, I just worked on the next batch of recipes. One month after another, I put them in the binder in the order of the year. Here’s a look at a page from December:

By the time Thanksgiving rolled around next year, my holiday recipe book was done. Not only do I now know where these recipes are stored, but my husband does, too, and can we can tag team organizing the grocery lists much more easily. It is also nice to have clean, printable versions of favorite family recipes to share with other family members and friends.

While I was making these pages, I also added in a couple of helpful cheat sheets, like this one from Real Simple:

No more digging around for random tips and slips of paper when we plan or while we cook. I glued my favorite holiday cheat sheets onto a pieces of cardstock and they all get stored together for their holiday between the relevant pages.

That’s my little system for sanity through any holiday cooking extravaganza. I can’t tell you how nice it is to never have to dig around for those recipes every year. Do you have a special way to store your favorite recipes? Have ever lost a favorite recipe? How many recipes do you cook up at your biggest holidays? Share your stories in a comment!

Looking for more home organizational ideas? You can see my running list of them right here, including one of my other favorite cookbooks. Looking for more recipes? Here’s the link to everyone I’ve posted so far.

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Posted on November 8, 2011, in Food, Lifestyle, Organization, Other. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Love it! I have actually been working on the very same thing for a while. I use almost all the same recipes every year so I’m also making grocery lists for various events–cookie making, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas breakfast, etc. When they are in page protectors, I can mark off items as I shop, and when it’s all over wipe it clean and use again next year.

  2. Love this, it’s how I store my recipes as well, though I never thought of the scrapbook paper. That idea will really improve the boring rank of plain white binders on my cookbook shelf.

    The first time I took on cooking a whole holiday meal, I asked my Dad the retired chef for pointers. He suggested I make a schedule for the day, (there’s a good template in Martha Stewart’s Thanksgiving 101, I think) as well as a plan for how each dish will be cooked (range top, oven, reheated, slow cooker, etc.) and in what utensil. Absolute lifesaver. You don’t end up surprised by three things that need to go in the oven and only one baking dish, or dishes getting cold while you catch up.

    Fun post, now I’m ready for some holiday food.

    • Fantastic ideas, ladies!
      I think I may be bulking up my holiday cookbook with lists and a few timetable templates.

      Anyone else out there have great tips to add?

  3. I salute your organizational prowess.

    I’ve only gotten as far as making a folder full of magazine pages with tips and recipes. I’ll have to get the sheet protectors.

    May I also say that it would give me immense pleasure to have one tidy binder that I could pull out in front of my mother-in-law and work from. My copy of Joy of Cooking…you definitely can NOT wipe down spills made on the pages!

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