If Christmas dinner duty usually falls to you while the rest of the family sift through presents/ watch telly/ head to the pub/ start revving up for an annual row, then now’s the time to redress the balance. This year, it’s going to be all about delegation so you too can nestle into an armchair before nightfall.
Two weeks before
Speak to everyone, let them know that this year it’s a family affair and that each person is going to get involved. Emphasise the fun factor!
Before you allocate tasks, think about what people are able to do/ good at/ enjoy. It’s not much use asking the kids to prepare braised red cabbage on a hot stove if they think it’s vile and are likely to end up in A & E. Some relatives might like to lay the table but not cook, some would rather bring a dish from home, others will happily stand side-by-side in the kitchen. Some are best left to their own devices for everyone’s sake…
The preparation you do at this stage will really help you on the big day.
If you’re lucky enough to have the day off work on Christmas Eve, this is an ideal opportunity to get ahead. The pressure isn’t really on yet so you can enjoy cooking at your leisure with whoever’s around. Here are some of the jobs you could do or delegate:
Laying the breakfast table
One less thing to do in the morning when there’s a sackful of presents that need attention.
Preparing the veg
One of the easiest jobs to delegate, give your helper a peeler and off they go. Potatoes can be immersed in a saucepan of water and left overnight. Most other veg will be fine peeled and popped in a freezer bag in the fridge.
If you’re pre-preparing vegetable dishes like braised red cabbage or cauliflower cheese (and haven’t managed to convince a family member to bring it with them), print out the recipe and give this to older children or an adult, along with all the necessary ingredients. Allow a bit of time as they’ll probably have questions for you.
Even the youngest of children can have a go at pigs in blankets. Don’t be too precious about how they look and make sure they wash their hands before and after. Set up a production line for stuffing and stuffing balls – older kids can help younger ones or do them on their own.
If you’re shunning the Christmas pudding or preparing a more child-friendly option as an alternative, get this made and ready the day before. A chocolate log or trifle are both desserts that are fun for kids to help out with. Again, try not to worry about appearance, the idea is to get everyone involved and enjoy the process.
If you’re doing the main meal, you’re well within in your rights to let someone else tackle breakfast – let them know in advance.
Get their buy-in by asking them what they’d like for breakfast and swiftly follow it up with, ‘Would you mind making that while I get on with lunch preparation?’ If they say they can’t, nudge them in the direction of something they feel confident with and let them know clearing up is part of the deal!
The big lunch
You’ll need one person who coordinates getting everything on the table – that should be you. Print off our timeplan and stick it on the fridge so you can orchestrate what happens when.
If there's any last-minute chopping – pass this on.
Get your family to take it in turns to keep on top of washing up and ask someone to lay the table.
Appoint one useful helper to be your wing-man for the final push – re-heating, draining and serving up.
Designate another helper or two to take plates and dishes to the table.
Clearing up should be a communal effort too. No one is going to be keen after a big meal so save up your sweetest voice and ask for exactly what you want – clearing the table, washing up, drying up and stacking the dishwasher. Everyone can play a role.
Above all, make the day fun. You may meet with a little resistance but if you’ve sat down, thought out, planned and printed your way to a calm Christmas meal, then your confidence in the plan will win through. Set the scene, get the Christmas carols playing and enjoy!
Take a look at our Christmas recipes for inspiration.