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7 Holiday Dinner Shortcuts

This holiday season say goodbye to stress and hello to holiday dinner shortcuts that will make your life easier!

Holiday Cooking Shortcuts

While we may like the idea of a formal Thanksgiving dinner, it’s often not practical for today’s young families. Juggling jobs and parenthood leaves us with little time to plan and prep like our mothers and grandmothers did when we were young. Thankfully, our Main Line Parent Community is filled with some of the savviest folks around, and they’re always happy to share their holiday dinner shortcuts. Check out their meal-planning advice below.


Must-Try Holiday Dinner Shortcuts


1. Have your meal catered in whole or part.

From the full dinner to a few sides, spend less time in the kitchen and more time with family by having your meal catered. Nicole Scherer agrees and recommends a local business, HomeCooked. “HomeCooked in Paoli does amazing Thanksgiving food! I used them last year for my sides and just made the turkey,” she says. “Best decision ever!”

“We did Whole Foods last year for the prepared (not cooked) turkey and a ton of sides, and it was amazing!” Kristen Calderon says pointing out other options. Stefanie Heron-Birl concurs, “We’ve done both Wegmans and Whole Foods for the entire meal and loved both.” No matter where you get your platters, it’s sure to help get you out of the kitchen sooner.

2. Utilize the slow cooker and prep ahead of time.

A slow cooker for holiday dinner prep? Our Main Line Parent Community raves about them. Kathi-Lyn Coker even admits, “A few years ago I bought a couple of extra crockpots and made the mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potato casserole, gravy, and stuffing in the crock pots so I could either make them ahead of time or cook them in the crockpot. Then the oven was free for the meat. Made it easier!”

One of the most recommended slow cooker side dishes? Mashed potatoes. “I make the mashed potatoes the night before,” says Tracy Flynn. “In the [morning I take them] out then [put them] in a crock pot. [I’ve] been doing this for a couple of years and get lots of compliments.”


3. Ask guests to bring a side.

Today’s busy lifestyles mean there’s less time than ever for days of holiday dinner preparation. “I see no problem with asking guests to bring something for the meal,” says Monica Gianopulos.


“You can ask them if they have any specialties, or assign them a category, vegetable side, dessert, etc. In this day and age, I think it is a huge imposition to expect any host/hostess to be able to cook everything and everything from scratch.”


Even dessert is fair game when asking guests to contribute. “I’m not a baker,” Krista Devlin says, “so I always have my mother-in-law bring the pies.”


4. Get help with the turkey.

Many stores and local catering companies offer everything from fully cooked turkeys to prepared turkeys that you cook at home to just the turkey breasts. Take the most time-consuming part of the meal off your plate and consider alternatives.


“Two years ago, I hosted 19 people for Thanksgiving with a 9-month-old and a 3-year-old. We made all the sides, etc., but I got the turkey from the Gladwyne market already sliced and just had to re-heat it. Everyone said it was delicious! And then there was more oven space for the rest… yams, stuffing, etc.,” explains Emily Perl.


5. Use plastic utensils and paper plates.

“I’m all about easy clean up!” emphasizes Linda Smith. Pamela Badolato agrees, “For some, the holidays are about getting fancy and pulling out all the stops, and that’s awesome. For others, it’s a chance to take some shortcuts and still have just as nice of a day. If someone is offended by my [paper plates], they can eat somewhere else next year!”

Alina Stubbs explains why she also opts for paper plates, ” After years of using dishes I was tired of spending my entire Thanksgiving cleaning up dishes and serving dishes. Best choice I made was to switch to [disposable dishes]! Do what works best for you.”


6. Pick up a pie.

Don’t worry about baking the same day, do what Chelsea Jacobs does and purchase one from the store or farmers’ market. “I get mine days before the Thanksgiving rush,” she says. “I put it in a freezer bag and freeze it. Super easy and they’re delicious.”


7. Have dinner on a different day.

Enjoy the actual holiday day and have dinner at another time. Erin Stancill tells how her family does it. “Last year we started a tradition of doing our big Thanksgiving meal on the Saturday of Thanksgiving Weekend instead of Thursday,” she explains. “It was so much more relaxing having more time to get ready when everyone was relaxed, my husband was home, etc.”


And if all else fails, Meghann McElroy offers a more fluid piece of advice. “I have a well-stocked bar with a signature drink, and then my meal looks and tastes amazing to guests. I’m not known for my culinary skills,” she jokes.


No matter what you do for your meal this holiday season, we hope you take time to spend the day with those who matter most.




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