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Time-saving Holiday Cooking Tips

Carrots are one of the many vegetables you can cut up the day before and refrigerate. Others include peppers, onions, radishes and celery. Tomatoes and cucumbers are among those you have to hold off on. See more pictures of vegetables.
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It's often challenging to raise the extra effort needed to survive a whirlwind holiday season. Added to your already rigorous daily chores is a list as long as Santa's; there's shopping for presents, decorating the tree, stringing the lights, writing out cards, hanging the stockings, wrapping the presents and so on.

If you're one of the poor souls who gets nominated to host Thanksgiving or the big holiday dinner for your extended family, it can feel like a dark cloud descending on what should be a merry time of year. You're in for a massive trip to the grocery store, another couple of trips to pick up forgotten items, hours of slaving in the kitchen, the pressure of pleasing everyone's palates and then a huge cleanup effort to put everything back in order. Sounds like so much fun for you!

But don't panic. It doesn't have to be such a struggle if you follow a few simple steps that will help save tons of time and effort -- leaving your schedule open for, say, a couple of seconds to sit down and relax.

First thing first: You need to make a game plan. Running around like a chicken with its head cut off is a surefire way to increase the amount of valuable time you waste. To prepare for the big day (or days, as the case may be) compile a master grocery list grouped according to grocery store aisles, as well as a list of all the tasks that need to be accomplished.

Once you have those set, determine a timetable of what needs to be done when. Remember, not everything has to be crowded close together -- many tasks can be done a day or two ahead of time. Save yourself a little stress by cooking some dishes early and freezing or refrigerating them. Also, many items can overlap. Your bird of choice doesn't have to hog the oven; pop in a casserole or some sweet potatoes. While the rolls are reheating, turn your attention to the gravy. You'll finish up faster and have more time to enjoy your get-together, as opposed to wasting extra hours cooking and spending the whole time watching everyone else having fun from the confines of the kitchen.

One the next page we'll dive into some more time-saving tips that are truly worth the couple of minutes you'll devote to reading them.