One of the best things you can do to enjoy your holiday season is to plan ahead! It helps you lose the stress and enjoy the moments. A favorite thing thing about the holidays is the treats but if you don’t plan them, you either don’t make them or are too stressed doing them it’s not very much fun. Plan out your holiday treat calendar now- you’ll thank yourself come December.
We use Google Drive to plan our holiday treats so I can access it when I’m at the grocery store or tell my husband to pick up the ingredients on his way home. It makes it really easy. We made our schedule with Google Sheets, the Team Roster Template. Use whatever works for you. I find the spreadsheet style fits my organizational style. Our list has the following columns:
Date to Bake
Month (makes it easier to see the bigger picture)
Recipe Found (online or in a cookbook)
Who to Share it With
What Else Do We Need (things we don’t typically have on hand)
As you go through and plan your treats for the rest of the year, here are some tips to keep in mind.
First List All Your Favorites
When planning your treats, start by asking your family what their favorite treats are for each holiday season. This is a great way to reevaluate what you want to keep and what can go by the wayside. Then if you want to add new treats, head to Pinterest for loads of ideas. I like to pin some of my favorites to a special holiday board then ask my kids to help me pick from that. If I don’t, they end up picking all the things I don’t want to make or don’t have the skills or patience to make. The whole point of this calendar is to make our lives easier, not harder! Give your children control within your own boundaries.
Then Sort by Season
After you’ve dumped all your favorite ideas on the list and any new ones you want to try, sort them by seasons or months. This makes it easier to see if you have over scheduled yourself which chances are at this point, you have. Start to think about how often you really want to make treats. I’m a no more than once a week person and even then I like to have weeks in between. I also know I’ll be good at the beginning of the season and tired at the end so if there is something I can make and freeze in September and enjoy in December, that’s going to be better for all of us. I color code our list by months to make it easier.
Now Pair It Down
Now the hard part, weeding out the things you will actually make. What days do you actually have to do some baking? Count them up and decide how many treats you want to make at time. Now you know how many you can keep and how many you should toss. It will also give you an idea for what things you should make in September to freeze for later versus what you can make fresh later. When pairing down your choice, first highlight the nonnegotiable ones. For me, that’s always the fudge and the caramel pears. Be sure to include your whole family in this discussion. It may make things trickier at first but in the long run, it’ll be worth it.
Then go through and see what things are similar and pick only one. For example, we often pick a lot of sugar cookies because there are so many fun ways to decorate them. So, we either pick one design to try or make a big batch of sugar cookies one time then freeze the extra cookies for later. It gets hard to pick which treats to keep at the end of your sorting but it’s so much nicer later because you made the list as a family. Everyone agreed to what treats you will be making and there doesn’t need to be any guilt over not making something. It becomes quite freeing in the end which means your holiday season just got better.
Who Will You Share Them With
This category makes your baking more purposeful and solves many of your gift problems later on. Make your life easier and plan who to share all your treats with. It helps you minister, give thanks, and not eat all the goodness yourself. Plus if you plan it right, you can include food for your own holiday parties. For example, some of the treats you make you’ll want for Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas Eve. Some ideas for sharing: Teachers, your children’s friends, your friends, church leaders and teachers, Santa, ministering families, the Sunbeams, other ward members, grandparents, to leave at houses with your favorite Christmas lights, neighbors, your children’s class, for a party you’ll be having, firefighters, mailman, and of course, you can keep some all for yourself too.
Holiday Treat Ideas
Here are some of our favorite recipes plus some new ones on our list this year to get you started thinking about your own fun treats.
Fall Leaf Cookies- Simple sugar cookies with added colors for extra fun. Print some free tags too if you want to share them!
Apple Baskets- These are super cute and fun to give but slightly difficult to eat (although tasty!). The apples can take a while but were quicker than I thought they would be.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread or Cookies- I don’t know about your house but my husband whips up a batch of pumpkin bread as soon and as often as he can. Ha, ha. As for the cookies, we throw pumpkin into whatever our favorite cookies are at the moment. We don’t like the spices most put with pumpkin cookies but we do like pumpkin. We just cut back on the butter when we add pumpkin. Grab the free Happy Fall printable bread wrapper too.
Oreo Acorn Balls- Cute and delicious! Super fun treat to share with others.
Caramel Pears- Okay, most of you will probably do apples but we do pears in my house since I’m allergic to apples. Not the same crunch but still super yummy!
Owl Pretzels- Fast and easy! If you are in a bind, you can skip dipping the pretzels or just buy chocolate pretzels to begin with.
Ghost Cookies- I like how these are simple enough to make but you can go as crazy as you want decorating them.
Turkey Cookies in a Jar- I still haven’t made these yet but they are on my list! This year it’ll happen!
Tepee Cupcakes- Perfect for Thanksgiving week. If you plan your cards right, you can use them for Thanksgiving day. Cute decor and yummy treat.
Handprint Turkey Cookies- These are definitely some of our favorites! Tip: Trace a small hand. Last year we did my 7 year old’s hand and we were worried it’d be too big. It turned out okay but if you have a cookie that is too big it’s not as fun to decorate. The hand cookie cutter we had though was a little too small. Play around with some templates and see what works best for you. We used candied sunflowers above but mini M&Ms seem to work well too.
If you plan on giving these treats away, be sure to print out some of my free 50+ Christmas tags. There is bound to be one you can use!
Pinecones- We made ours with normal muddy buddies instead of the Fiber One cereal but I think we’ll use chocolate Chex next time. The tricky part is taking them apart to eat them but think of these in a Gingerbread house scene.
Fudge- My favorite recipe is on the back of the Jet Puffed Marshmallow Fluff jar. It’s simple and just what fudge should be (minus the nuts).
Chocolate Caramel Marshmallows- These are pretty easy too- they just take time. You can enjoy these as you watch Polar Express with some hot chocolate or another favorite Christmas movie. Psstt… hot chocolate is easy to make festive. All you need is some spray whipped cream and a box of Christmas decor candies that people normally use on cupcakes.
Chocolate Chip Cheesecake- This is what we eat on Christmas Eve every year but mine comes from a cookbook at home. The recipe I linked to is similar though.
Peppermint Bark- Throw some of these simple treats into the mix to give yourself some breathing room. You’re still making something fun but you don’t have to stress about how perfectly it goes. Plus it’s good filler on a plate full of goodies.
Chocolate Nugget Candies- Speaking of simple, skip the baking all together and just cut and tape with this Christmas Nativity set. Great for Christmas devotionals, stocking stuffers, neighbor gifts, and more!
Gingerbread Houses- We throw a whole party for this one. After the mess we made one year I decided if we were going to make that much of a mess, we might as well have a party. Ha, ha. Buy a preassembled kit, use graham crackers, or go all out. Save some extra items for a date night with just your spouse too.
Cranberry Pound Cake- Looks delicious but this will be the first year we’re trying it.