43 Days to Christmas! Plan Holiday Baking

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.

Rolling pins ready? Time for a baking plan:

Holiday Baking Planner

44 Days to Christmas! Round Up Holiday Recipes

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.

We've got help with a free printable recipe form:

Holiday Recipes

Ready to organize new recipes that catch your eye? List them on this printable inventory:

Recipes to Try

45 Days to Christmas! Check Your Spices

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)

46 Days to Christmas! Plan Thanksgiving Dinner

Turkey Day cometh ... will you be ready? If you're hosting the meal, it's time to plan.

What will you serve--and what will you serve with? Who will sit where--and where will you place the dreaded children's table? Will you have time to make or buy a pretty centerpiece?

Menus, seating, serving and tabletop, it's time to put it all together now. (Or maybe it's not to late to scour the town for Thanksgiving dinner reservations ....):

Holiday Menu Planner

47 Days to Christmas! Prepare For Pantry Bargains

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.

Free Printable Pantry Inventory Form

Need a shopping list? Print one here:

Free Printable Shopping List

48 Days to Christmas! Order Mailing Supplies

Long lines at the post office are a true holiday hazard. Shorten your time in line by buying stamps while shopping at the supermarket, or ordering them by mail from the postal service.

For simplest shipping, use the USPS Print & Ship online service to buy and print mailing labels and arrange package pickup at your door.

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!

Order Stamps and Mailing Supplies from the Postal Service

49 Days to Christmas! Time For Christmas Card Tips

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:

Simplify Season's Greetings: Using Computers To Send Christmas Cards