How to Level Up Your Meals This Holiday Season

This post is sponsored by Sparkling ICE but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

I have a confession, friends. I dread the holidays.

Or I used to. All the prep, the family coming to visit, the stress…it almost doesn’t seem worth it.

So this year I decided to do things a bit differently. I decided that we were going to celebrate sans guests and do dinners and festivities our way.

And you know what? It’s been awesome so far.

We’ve got big plans for Thanksgiving, including smoking a turkey, my amazing mushroom risotto (instead of dressing), homemade cranberry sauce (because that’s a must), and a single awesome pumpkin pie with some non-dairy whipped cream.

And maybe some green beans if I’m feeling super motivated.

But y’all. That.Is.It.

How To Level Up Your Meals This Holiday Season

For Christmas, Smalls has requested a ham (which I have never, ever cooked before…help!), and he wants traditional dressing with it.

Ish also wants some mashed cauliflower with the ham, but I think that will do for this meal.

With keeping the food so simple, I can’t help feeling like we’re missing something a little special…so I’ve been brainstorming ideas to make the meal extra special and kid-friendly.

I’ve come up with a few (I think) brilliant ways to make both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners feel super special without driving myself into a tizzy trying to get everything done.

Dry Erase Placemats

One of my favorite things as a kid were these placemats that my mom found. You could write on them with crayon and they’d just wipe clean. I’ve been on the hunt for something similar for the kids that either had letters and numbers for handwriting practice or was blank.

Thankfully, I found both, so the boys will get to choose which placemats they want to use for each meal (and probably quite a few between).

Pare Down the Extras

I know, I know. Paring down doesn’t seem like it would level anything up, but I promise that if you serve just the sides everyone loves, the meal will be so much more relaxing for you (and you’ll have a lot more fun). For us, that means deciding between risotto or dressing, cranberry sauce or gravy, green beans or mashed cauliflower, jello or fruit salad, rolls or french bread, sweet potato casserole or green bean casserole, pumpkin or apple pie…

You get the idea.

Pick one or two or even three sides that you like (or more if you have a larger family), and save yourself some work. And if you must have them all, you can do what we’re doing this year and split them between Christmas and Thanksgiving.

how to survive holiday bustle

Have Some Bubbly

Everyone in our family is absolutely obsessed with Sparkling Ice, and their new cranberry flavor (that’s seasonal, so go grab some!) is delicious. Plus, Sparkling Ice is packed full of vitamins and antioxidants with none of the bad stuff (that means zero sugar, zero calories, and naturally sourced colors and flavors).

surviving holidays

Being able to order all 16 flavors of Sparkling Ice on Amazon makes this a no-brainer. I can order everyone’s favorites in a variety pack and skip the store (which is super helpful when Michigan weather decides to unceremoniously dump about a foot of snow on the ground just because).

Having a beverage that everyone likes makes planning so much easier. And it makes dinner feel a bit more special if there’s a sparkly, bubbly drink to go along with it.

Set up Buffet Style

This tip may be a total no-brainer, but after about 10 years of trying to fit dinner all in the middle of our small dining room table, this year I have decided to create a buffet in the kitchen and let everyone serve themselves.

This means I won’t have to move everything into serving dishes so it’s pretty on the table, and it will save me a ton of dishes.

Plus, if I really want to use the pretty serving dishes, I totally can…but I don’t think I will. Because I won’t have to.

Keep the Dishwasher Running

This final tip may be the best one, y’all.

Raise your hand if you love hand washing dishes because the dishwasher is full?

That’s what I thought, y’all. I get you. I don’t like it either.

That’s why I’ve adopted a policy that the dishwasher runs all day long when we’re cooking a large meal.

Even if it’s not totally full. Why? Because that way I can load things as I finish with them, and keep the sink and counters clean (or mostly clean).

Plus, that means that I can sit down and watch Christmas movies with the kiddos after we eat instead of spending hours in the kitchen cleaning up the meal I just made.

So there you have it-some practical and some fun ways to spice up your holiday meals.

How To Level Up Your Meals

What’s your top holiday meal tip?

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