When I first got married, I thought it was my duty to slave away in the kitchen on the holidays. I was deeply offended at the idea of purchasing a store-bought holiday meal.
Nope. No way. In fact, I wasn’t taking shortcuts on any part of it.
Even though I barely knew how to cook.
(I’d tried to boil steak the previous year. And made Hamburger Helper that was inedible. Yes, I destroyed Hamburger Helper.)
But I spent the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving stressing, researching, making lists, collecting holiday recipes.
And it turned out great.some how I slayed it right out of the gates.
It was so great my mother-in-law passive aggressively muttered “beginners luck” when her husband raved about the meal.
I relaxed over years of marriage, but felt the pressure again when I became a mother. I got my daughter in the kitchen with me and tried to force traditions to take root on both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
But the roots didn’t take.
My husband and daughter sat me down a few years ago to make me hear what I already knew, but had been ignoring. They hated the way we’d been doing the holidays. They didn’t want a forced, formal meal with extended family over we hardly saw the rest of the year. They didn’t want to be stuck in the kitchen with me all stressed and grumpy for hours upon hours.
They didn’t even really care for the traditional holiday foods.
Why was I working so hard to make foods they are just kinda “meh” about?
I do love a traditional holiday feast. Turkey breast. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Stuffing. Sweet potatoes. Some sort of token vegetable. Cranberry sauce.
So I still make it – sometimes when it isn’t even the holiday season. But I make a ten minute holiday feast!
Yup, we love our store-bought holiday meal.
Publix is my go-to store-bought holiday meal source. They have a whole section of ready to go items in their deli section.
Here’s a little psa: skip the stuffing. I had to run back out for good old fashioned Stovetop because I am a stuffing girl and the ready made version from the deli was disgusting.
I get Boar’s Head oven roasted turkey from the deli and have them slice it thick. Then I hit the sides. They’re already prepared. I just have to heat them up. The steam-in-the-bag veggies (which I fancy up with butter and spices) take the longest – about 6 minutes of microwave time!
Marie Calendar and Edward’s make individual packages of pie (well, two servings per container…but let’s face it – most of us eat two servings of dessert on the holidays!)
We went with key lime and banana cream this year.
This cheater store-bought holiday meal takes less than 10 minutes to prepare and gives our family at least three days of eating for about $40. Less if I could get it together enough to use coupons.
So I get the traditional foods and they get to skip out on the stress.
What would you do with all that extra time to spend with your family at the holidays?
Here are some ideas….
- Drive around your town looking at Christmas lights.
- Go old school caroling around the neighborhood.
- Pillow fight!
- Curl up in bed together and take a nap.
- Make pine cone bird feeders to hang in your yard.
- Watch “Die Hard” or “Elf.”
- Spend time dishing up food at a homeless shelter.
- Visit friends, family, neighbors or even strangers who are all alone on the holidays.
- Play board games.
- Build a fort.
- Put on a family play, talent show, dance off or ping pong tournament.
It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are making memories together. So if cooking a big feast stresses you out, skip it. Get a store-bought holiday meal and spend time doing the things that you enjoy together.
And if you like cooking a big feast from scratch? That’s awesome, too.