Inspire Me

Make Christmas Day easy by preparing your feast in advance

We’ve brought together the ultimate guide to planning and preparing your Christmas dinner in the weeks leading up to the big day – so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with friends and family!
Christmas feast on table turkey salad

The Christmas feast is a beautiful paradox: for many, it’s the most hotly-anticipated part of the festive season, but for others it’s a source of pure stress. The difference between the two groups of people usually comes down to who is in charge of preparing the meal and who manages to skive off from all responsibility and is free to spend the day relaxing with a drink in hand.

This year, everyone can enjoy Christmas dinner stress-free, with the help of our guide to festive feast preparation. Chip away at different parts of the meal, and all other food-related tasks, during the weeks in the lead-up to Christmas, and by the time the day swings around you will be so relaxed you won’t know what to do with yourself!

And don’t worry, you’re not going to end up with tasteless and texture-less meal that’s been completely pre-cooked, frozen and then thawed on Christmas morning – these hacks are simply here to make life easier, without compromising on deliciousness.

Four weeks before:

1. Start with the cake

There’s no time like the present when it comes to making your Christmas cake or pudding – in fact, the earlier you make it, the better it will taste! If you haven’t already created your masterpiece for this year’s celebrations, schedule a baking day in for Stir Up Sunday – which is the traditional day reserved for making Christmas pudding. This year, Stir Up Sunday falls on the 24th of November, leaving plenty of time for those delicious flavours to infuse before Christmas Day. We’ve already rounded up our top 15 recipes for Christmas cakes and puddings, so all you need to do is take your pick and get started!

2. Get your fruit mince on

There’s nothing quite as festive as the aroma of gently-spiced fruit mince drifting through the house! Similar to Christmas cakes, your fruit mince needs to be made weeks before the 25th to allow the beautifully subtle spices to develop, so get it brewing around a month in advance. You can then either store in sealed jars or divide your fruit mince into Christmas pie pastry shells and freeze, baked or unbaked, in their tins.

3. Plan out your menu

Four weeks in advance is a good time to work out who’s coming to celebrate with you, so you can plan your menu and make your shopping list with plenty of time to spare. If you’re opting for a ham, chicken or turkey now is a good time to place your order, as prices are usually lowest at butcheries and supermarkets in November. If your Christmas feast is going to look more vegetarian or vegan based, find inspiration from our collection of meat-free Christmas ideas. Most importantly, if you’re concerned about not having enough time to enjoy the day, stick to recipes that are simple and stress-free – Christmas in Aotearoa is anything but traditional anyway!

Three weeks before:

1. Get gift wrapping

Nothing says you care quite like a homemade gift, especially for Christmas! Whether the budget is tighter this year or you just want to get creative, get a head-start on your gift list this week by whipping up some edible treats to give to friends and family. Whether you want to wrap up some beautifully decorated gingerbread, fill a jar with Christmas biscotti, whip up a batch of festive jams and chutneys, or all of the above, a homemade present adds such a sweet personal touch to the festive season.

2. Plan the drinks list

The drinks menu is another important thing to sketch out in advance, so you can purchase any beverages you need before the prices rocket skywards in the lead up to Christmas. Make sure you consider alcoholic and non-alcoholic options so you can cater for all of your guests – kids included! This collection of drinks made for sharing makes things extra simple, as the recipes are measured in big batches so you can whip up the ultimate summer punch.

Two weeks before:

1. Prepare your trimmings

Save time making your main dish on Christmas Day by preparing your stuffing in advance – it freezes perfectly and still tastes like the real deal! Whip up a batch two weeks beforehand and freeze in small bunches, so all you need to do is fill your thawed chicken or turkey with the frozen stuffing and you’re good to cook! If you’re really organised, you could even prepare your gravy in advance and freeze that too – simply roast some chicken wings and vegetables, make your gravy as you usually would, then freeze in containers until thawing and reheating on Christmas Day – too easy!

2. Have a spring clean

You don’t want to wait for Christmas Day to swing around to realise all the condiments in your fridge are past their best-before date. Set some time aside a couple of weeks out to give your fridge a deep clean, noting down any extra ingredients you might need to purchase. Get rid of anything that’s past its best – you’re going to need all the space you can get to fit in that beautiful Christmas ham!

3. Make your gingerbread house

Get everyone into the spirit of Christmas by taking part in the tradition of creating a gorgeous gingerbread house as a family. A couple of weeks before Christmas is a great time to make yours, as you will be able to appreciate the festive charm it brings until the day finally arrives! Just make sure you store it in a cool, dry spot with protection from dust and ants – ideally in a glass cake stand or cellophane wrapping.

One week before:

1. Stock your fridge with deliciousness

Fresh is best when it comes to fruit and vegetables, and for a summer Christmas the in-season produce can often be the highlight of the meal. Track down your nearest farmers market for locally-grown, organic goods that will make your Christmas meal pop, or find the freshest picks at your local supermarket as close to the day as you can manage. It’s things like the gorgeous summer berries, new-season potatoes, vibrant capsicum and juicy green beans that make Kiwi Christmas feasts so memorable, so make sure you get the best of the bunch!

2. Get your side dishes on the go

If you’re worried about coordinating all the different side dishes to be ready on the table at the same time, fret not! There are so many dishes that can be prepared in the week leading up to Christmas to make things easier for you on the day – with some even able to be made up to the point of serving. Potatoes can be roasted the day before, then reheated for 15 minutes until crispy, salads can be prepped and chilled, capsicums can be stuffed and cooked. It depends on how far you want to take it, but as long as you store everything correctly you will be in for an easy-breezy Christmas Day!

3. Chill those bevvies

To really make sure you have a relaxed and enjoyable Christmas, this step might just be the most important – nobody wants to be sipping on lukewarm drinks on a hot summer’s day! Get all your bottles in the fridge at least a day before the 25th, including any mixers that you’ll be using for cocktails. Then all there is left to do is pour a glass and be merry!

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