Let me start with this: I love holidays. I am the person guiltily playing Christmas music in the car before Thanksgiving. I have themed outfits to embarrass my children. I love sitting around moaning about eating too much and playing semi-drunken card games until the wee hours of the morning with family.
But, by the time my oldest child was two or three, I found myself sort of dreading holidays, which made me feel pretty bummed out. After thinking about where this dread was coming from, I landed on one thing: the mental gymnastics of all of it, specifically planning, shopping for, and cooking a holiday meal.
I actually really enjoy cooking and baking. I’m no Giada, but I like experimenting with over-the-top decadent desserts, fancy DIY cocktails, and interesting-sounding recipes from thirty-second Instagram videos.
Nobody likes wrestling a frozen turkey into a gigantic cooler of ice water brine you’re frantically googling the recipe three days beforehand. Nobody likes peeling twenty pounds of potatoes. Nobody likes writing out equations to make sure everything is prepared at the proper temperature and done, ready to eat at the same time.
So, I decided to do what I do best: I started outsourcing our holiday meals. And it was by far the best thing I’ve ever done for my holiday sanity.
My first step was research. I had no idea if buying holiday meals was even a thing people could do, as I was raised by a family of enthusiastic holiday home cooks. I did a little internet sleuthing, and surprise! This is actually a thing people do! (I found this Facebook group to be incredibly helpful! With the pandemic happening this year, the group are great at updating on any relevant changes local restaurants are making.) There were lots of great options for everything from heat-and-eat full holiday meals to carry-out pies, rolls, and side dishes.
A few tips for outsourcing your holiday meal
- I was initially worried about cost, but quickly figured out that it actually winds up being cheaper for our family to order a pre-made holiday meal! They are surprisingly affordable, especially if you’re cooking for a crowd. Grocery shopping for all the holiday meal staples always winds up being way more expensive than buying from a restaurant that has access to bulk ingredient suppliers.
- If there’s a special family dish you look forward to every holiday—guess what? You can still make that! But the pressure is off to make everything else. I usually order a full Thanksgiving dinner, but add my own fancy macaroni and cheese or sweet potato casserole. Making one dish is way more fun than 47, trust me.
- Plan for leftovers! Restaurants usually have a few packages based on how many people will be at your holiday meal, and I learned after my first year to always inflate the number a bit so we could enjoy those delicious day-after turkey sandwiches, too.
- See if you can do any substitutions. We are not a stuffing family, so I have started asking if we can swap the stuffing for extra mashed potatoes or something else we WILL eat.
- Be creative and flexible. Do you absolutely have to have the traditional holiday meal? Consider ordering outside your comfort zone for a change of pace.
- Read the instructions the day before. They’re usually pretty straightforward (as in, stick in the oven for 30 minutes), but better safe than sorry!
- Order early. Most places set a limit on the number of holiday meals they will make and they always sell out a least a week or two in advance. Remember: Be diligent now so you can be lazy later! You’ll thank me when you’re watching the Westminster Dog Show on the couch in your PJs.
And to get you started, here’s some Kansas City restaurants that usually offer to-go heat-and-eat holiday meals:
- Cracker Barrel
- Fareway Meat Market & McGonigle’s KC BBQ
- Avenue’s Bistro
- HyVee (contact your local store for details)
- HoneyBaked Ham (locations throughout the metro for pickup)
Go forth, order NOW, and actually ENJOY your holiday!