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.
I was serious about the first Thanksgiving meal I prepared as a wife. I was adamant 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. Surprising even myself, I slayed it right out of the gates.
It was so great my then 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 now ex-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 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 were 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. All the 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.
Here’s what you need for a cheater’s holiday feast:
- Turkey: Go to the deli and ask them to slice your favorite turkey breast thick. I like Boar’s Head brand. You could do ham instead the same way. I get two pounds for my little family so there are leftovers.
- Mashed potatoes: There are several varieties in the refrigerated section. You just heat and serve.
- Sweet potatoes: Mashed sweet potatoes are right next to the regular variety in the refrigerated section. Or make my Instant Pot mashed sweet potatoes super easily.
- Stuffing: Grab a box of Stovetop!
- Gravy: The jars of gravy are usually in the same aisle as the Stovetop stuffing.
- Veggies: Pick up a bag or two of frozen veggies to steam in the microwave. Stir in some spices and butter while they’re hot – or get a preseasoned variety.
- Cranberry sauce: I prefer the whole berry can. My daughter likes the kind you slice. We get both.
- Dessert: Frozen pie! Marie Calendar and Edward’s are our favorite brands. Both have whole pie or individual slice options. Sometimes we do the individual slices for a variety.
This cheater store bought holiday meal takes less than 10 minutes to prepare and is under $40. It would be even less if I could get it together enough to use coupons. It leaves lots of leftovers when it’s just my daughter and I. We like leftovers.
This worked well for us – traditional food I craved, without 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.