1 Bring some recipes. When packing for a trip, bring some recipes and offer to prepare some dishes to compliment meals. Your host (especially if it?s Mom) might want to fix the main dish, but you can make the potatoes, vegetables, or salad. Of course, if you live within driving distance, you can prepare dishes at home and bring them with you.
2 Take a day. If you and other family members are visiting in the home of your parents or relatives, try assigning days. For instance, you and your family might be responsible for all the meals on Friday, your sister?s family can take Saturday meals, and your mother can take Sunday. This would include planning the menu, buying the groceries, preparing the meals, and cleaning up. If your visit is short, at least take one meal, such as breakfast Christmas morning, so that Mom can concentrate on Christmas dinner.
3 Do it together. Maybe Mom has always baked the Christmas cookies and desserts. But there?s no reason everyone can?t get involved, and you might start a new tradition! Suggest that all family members bake cookies and desserts together on a certain day of your visit. You might even introduce some new recipes. If all the generations bake together?grandma, kids, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, cousins?the treats will be that much sweeter.
4 Give the gift of paper. Stores have beautiful paper (or plastic) plates, cups, napkins, and flatware. So buy some attractive sets and bring them with you (put this on your list for after-holiday sales!). Even the most fastidious decorator probably won?t refuse attractive disposable ware if you?ve already bought it. And this lifts the burden of cleanup.
5 Hire it out. Picking up some pizza or other take-out food or even hiring someone to cook a portion of a meal can give everyone a needed break. Does a friend or church member make a particularly appealing dish? Ask them if you can pay them to cook it ahead for your family gathering. And one of the nicest things you can do for your hosts is to take them out to a restaurant?your treat.
Beverly Eliason is a freelance writer from Newtown Square, Pennyslvania.