Be prepared: Stress-free Christmas Dinner

READY, steady… stop. Before you hit the accelerator pedal and go full speed ahead into the festive season, take a word of advice from food writer Caitriona Redmond. “Christmas is a marathon, not a sprint,” she says.

“Remember to pace yourself”, she says, with the same kind of no-nonsense advice that gained the mother-of-three a loyal following since her book Wholesome, Feed Your Family Well for Less’ was published in 2014.

The mother-of-three has now teamed up with Lidl to help you negotiate your way through the 12 days of Christmas and beyond. The secret to minimising stress is not only to get organised, but to manage all family expectations, she says.

Top of the stress list for many families is the Christmas dinner, but festive food should add to the enjoyment of the holiday season rather than take from it, says Redmond.

It’s vital to plan ahead, she says, offering this tick-list for Christmas Eve

  • Cook your ham and prepare your vegetables. Potatoes can be peeled and immersed in cold water in a covered saucepan.
  • Cut carrots into batons and immerse in cold water.
  • Cut the stems off Brussels sprouts and peel away the outer leaves. Put a cross in the base of each one and put them in a dry bowl in a cool spot. No water is needed.
  • Always have a tub of ice cream in the freezer as a contingency for dessert disasters. It’s my go-to standby.
  • Don’t forget to store your raw meat, covered, on the bottom shelf of the fridge away from cooked food and dairy. Use lots of hot soapy water to clean the area when you’ve finished preparing the meat.
  • When it comes to the day itself, the secret is delegation, delegation, delegation.

“Give the small family members the task of setting the table, or greeting guests. For the elder lemons, nominate one to prepare the vegetables, and another to take care of drinks. Don’t leave the bulk of the preparation or entertaining down to one person on the day; it’s meant to be a celebratory day for the whole family,” says Redmond.

She is also keen to point out that turkey and ham don’t have to be on the menu. “If the budget is tight, there’s nothing wrong with cooking a roast chicken with rashers on top instead,” she says.

Whatever is on the menu, try not to overdo it. Enjoy your sweet treats, but
beware that sugar can give you just as much of a hangover as alcohol, she warns.

“The sugar crash the following day after gorging on sweet treats and drinks is
incredibly difficult. Ask any seven-year-old how they feel an hour after a birthday party! Try to reach for healthier and savory snacks such as dips with fresh vegetables, salsa and pitta breads.”

Having lots of water to hand is also a great way to avoid overindulgence. Factoring in fresh air and a digital detox will also do wonders for your mental health, Caitriona says. “It can be incredibly stressful heading out to parties or hosting over the holidays. Sometimes it’s completely liberating just to shut the door, pull the curtains, and hang around in your pyjamas for the day.”

What do with your leftovers:

  • When you’re using up leftovers it’s all too easy to get caught up in the excess again because you feel under pressure to use up the leftovers from the main meal. The freezer is a brilliant ‘pause’ button. Take them out when you need them.
  • Cut up all the leftover meat and section it out into meal-size portions, then wrap and freeze.
  • Use up leftover vegetables in light stir fries and soups rather than making another heavy pie.
  • Make the most of fresh herbs and spices rather than adding more butter or cream.

If you need some inspiration, try Caitriona’s leftover recipes. For leftover turkey, try this turkey tray bake with flavoured salt:

A ham soup with dumplings will take care of the ham glut:

And traditional bubble and squeak will use up all those leftover veg and potatoes:


What’s better for your health – sleeping naked or in pyjamas?

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