Attitudes to holiday baking fall into two general categories: you love it, or you hate it. Whether you're dreaming of the Christmas bakefest as early as July, or dreading it as the season approaches, you need a plan.
A written holiday baking plan makes sense--and cents--of holiday baking chores. Knowing what you'll bake, how much you'll bake, and when you'll bake keeps the budget in line, and helps foster a realistic view of that scarcest of holiday commodities: your time.
Finally, if you bake for kitchen gifts, a written plan can track gifts completed, frozen or sent.
There's no panic like the one the morning of Thanksgiving day, when you realize you've forgotten just which cookbook contains the family's favorite sweet potato casserole.
Twenty minutes later, books, notecards and torn magazine pages litter what was a once a clean kitchen counter.
Fight back--and save your sanity--by spending a few minutes organizing holiday recipes before the season arrives. Whether you use a computer software program, tuck magazine pages and index cards inside page protectors, or print out recipes for your Christmas planner, make sure you can find them when they're needed.
November's here, and holiday cooking will soon be in full swing. Do you know how old your spices are?
Fresh, savory seasonings are a must during the holiday season--but in many kitchens, jars and tins of spices languish for years, losing flavor over time.
Check your spice rack for freshness today. Newer products often include a "use by" date as a guideline. Otherwise, open each jar, and use your eyes and nose! A spice that has caked, changed color or lost it's smell should be replaced.
No "use by" dates on your containers? Try these general rules:
Ground spices: 2-3 years
Whole spices: 3-4 years
Blends: 1-2 years
Herbs: 1-3 years
Extracts: 4 years (excepting vanilla, which keeps indefinitely)
Attention bargain shoppers! The year's lowest prices on pantry staples will be seen in at the supermarket during the weeks to come. Do you know what you'll need to stock the pantry for the holiday season?
Today, make a quick pantry inventory. Sort and organize stored foods, and make out a shopping list for baking supplies, mixers, snacks and other holiday needs. Make a list of non-perishable items, and be alert to grocery store discounts in the days ahead.
Knowing what you have--and buying only what you need at discount prices--is the fast track to holiday food savings.
Best, order free flat-rate mailing boxes directly from the United States Postal Service ... and did I mention that the boxes are free? This year, USPS offers holiday-themed boxes, a sweet touch for a happy time. Order now and put the postal service to work ... for you!
Smart tips can make it easier to address, write and send Christmas cards. Try these ideas to keep the cheerful in the chore:
Christmas Card Tip: Many Hands!
Involve the whole family when signing and addressing Christmas cards. Divide cards between spouses and older children, or do a quick round robin, with each family member adding a short line to each card. Many hands make light work--and ease the writers' cramp!!
Christmas Card Tip: Break It Down!
Break card chores down into do-able segments. Penning three or four greetings every day or so yields a livelier correspondence-and is a lot easier on the pensmanship than signing a hundred cards in a single frenzied sitting.
Christmas Card Tip: Harness Computer Power
With computer use on the rise, few subjects stir as much Christmas controversy as using technology to simplify seasonal greetings. Should we use a computer to address the cards? Write a Christmas letter on inkjet letterhead? What about pre-printed signatures? Is it okay to use e-mail to send holiday greetings? Get some answers here:
Cleaning out the refrigerator is a great time to track actual consumption. Food items that are thrown away signal that you're overbuying at the supermarket. Scale back--or cut out--these items on your next shopping trip ... and save.