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Managing Holiday Stress

The following information may help you avoid a stressful holiday season.

Nashville, Ark. – It’s here! The holiday season is upon us. Extra guests, cooking, and decorating can cause extra stress. Planning ahead is the key to reducing holiday stress.

            If you are planning to entertain large crowds, do not wait until the last minute. Planning will involve whom to invite, what foods to serve, where extra guests will stay and it could even include how they will stay entertained.

            Since Thanksgiving is all about sharing, feel free to ask guests to bring a dish to compliment the main course. Most guests are willing to bring a side, rolls or dessert. As the host, you might prefer to prepare the main dish or other items that do not travel well such as mashed potatoes and gravy. Be sure to make a list of what everyone is bringing to avoid duplications.

            Other planning tips involve:

  • Take inventory. Are there enough chairs, place settings, cookware and tables for your guests? Do you need to borrow or rent more to accommodate the crowd?
  • Write out your menu. Know what you are planning to prepare. Calculate how much baking time is needed for preparing the foods. Can some be made ahead of time and frozen? How much time will you need to allow to thaw and reheat?
  • Think about thawing the turkey. It takes approximately 24 hours thawing time for every 5 pounds of turkey. Therefore, a twenty-five pound bird will take about 5 days to thaw. Now is the time to start purchasing the turkey!
  • Clean out the fridge and the freezer this week. Do you have room for a twenty-five pound turkey to thaw safely? With all the cooking that will be done in advance, be sure there’s a place for it to be safely stored.
  • Find your food thermometer. No one wants to be sick from a foodborne illness during the holidays. Make sure you cook the turkey to the right temperature. Poultry and stuffing  should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F. If you can’t find your food thermometer, purchase one. Be sure it is calibrated correctly. For information on calibrating a thermometer, contact me at the Extension Office.
  • Confirm your guest list.
  • Are you trying a new recipe? If so, you might want to cook or bake a run-through now to be sure the recipe works.
  • If possible, try to grocery shop as early as possible. Pick a time that won’t be as crowded as the weekends or right after work. As the time gets closer, you might need to pick up some last minute perishable items.
  • Take your shopping list with you to the grocery store. Sometimes when you get in the store you see so many ideas for side dishes, desserts, appetizers, and beverages that you can get overwhelmed and feel unprepared or make extra purchases. Stick to your menu and your list!
  • Do you usually purchase pie crusts? Why not make your own this week and freeze them. Allow them to thaw about 30 minutes before baking.
  • Set up the buffet or table. If possible, go ahead and set the dining table this weekend. That’s one less job you will need to do at the last minute. If this is not possible, solicit help from your guests. Even small children can fold napkins.
  • Determine which serving dishes you will use. Do you need to wash them beforehand? If you use them only for special occasions, they may need to be washed before using.
  • As time gets closer, wash and prep produce. Chopping and slicing of vegetables can be done the day before Thanksgiving. You can go ahead and prepare the stuffing, just wait until right before putting the turkey in the oven to stuff it. Better yet, prepare dressing in a separate pan and refrigerate until ready to bake.
  • On Thursday, stuff the turkey and put it in the oven to bake or bake the dressing. Make potatoes and gravy. Bake those last minute items such as rolls and reheat any dishes you made ahead of time.
  • Finally, set out the appetizers and the pies.
  • After the meal is over, enlist the help to clean up.

By planning ahead and doing some of the prep work beforehand, you can reduce stress and enjoy the holidays along with your family and friends.

If you would like some additional information on holiday food safety or stress management, contact the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse. You might also check out our website at Another great website is USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at

Recipe of the Week

Try this recipe for pumpkin pie this year. You family and friends will not miss the extra calories or fat. This pumpkin pie saves 151 calories and 12 grams of fat per slice from the traditional version and tastes the same!

The Best Light Pumpkin Pie

1 cup ginger snaps

16 oz. can pumpkin

½ cup egg whites (about 4)

½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, ginger, cloves)

12 oz. can evaporated skim milk

      Preheat oven to 350°F. Grind the cookies in a food processor. Lightly spray a 9” glass pie pan with cooking spray. Pat the cookie crumbs into the pan evenly. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Pour into the crust and bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Store in the refrigerator.

Yield: 9 servings

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 165 calories, 1.5 g. fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 1.5 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 32 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 6 g protein.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


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