If you hate to cook, here’s how to enjoy the holiday without the stress

About 90% of people find cooking a holiday meal stressful, according to one survey.

Cooking isn’t fun. Cooking is especially not fun during the holidays.

There’s no two ways about it.

People love turkey during the holidays, but it’s also an item that people don’t like to cook. (Adobe Stock)

Some 45% of Americans hate to cook, 45% are ambivalent, and 10% love it, according to a Harvard Business School study. That means nine out of 10 people could take it or leave it.

About 90% of people find cooking a holiday meal stressful, according to one survey. People worry that the food won’t taste right, it won’t come out on time, or there won’t be enough. What if they burn the meal, overcook it, or worse, undercook it, and guests get sick? (You can get anxious just by reading this paragraph).

It also doesn’t help that the holiday foods people love — cranberry sauce, stuffing, and cornbread — are among those that people can’t stand cooking.  

The process of cooking can be just as stressful as the act itself.  

Your oven is only so big, and with a large turkey taking up space, it’s hard to fit in other items. It’s also confusing if you have one dish cooking at 325 degrees (like a turkey) and rolls that cook at a higher temp (425). It’s doable, but adds more anxiety.

Who needs that? Here are a few ways you can make a meal while cutting down on the stress.

Make a meal from store-bought items

There’s nothing like a home-cooked meal. It’s tastier because you control what goes into the dish. It’s often healthier because you can adjust the amount of fats and salt, add more vegetables, and substitute ingredients.

But for those who hate to cook — and that’s most of us — a meal with store-bought ingredients will do, and it won’t break the bank. This menu suggestion feeds six and costs about $40 (remember, prices vary).

Macaroni and cheese is a popular holiday item. (Adobe Stock)
  • Rotisserie chicken: $8
  • Boxed stuffing: $2
  • Two cans of green beans: $1.60
  • Pre-cooked mashed potatoes, 32 ounces: $5.49
  • Pre-cooked family-size macaroni and cheese, 28 ounces, $5.49
  • One dozen rolls: $3
  • One pumpkin pie: $8
  • Ice cream: $5

You’d be all over it if someone told you this was a holiday meal. There’s no turkey, but a stress-free chicken is a good alternative. This meal should cost even less, with items likely to go on sale. Also, the prepackaged items have improved over the years, and you won’t be embarrassed serving something from the market’s cooler.

All you have to do is open some cans and put stuff in the microwave. If you’re concerned about health, get low- or no-sodium products and substitute the mac and cheese or mashed potatoes with another vegetable.

Then, eat!

The half-and-half: Half from the store, half homemade

The holiday turkey and/or ham is a staple on the family table. They’re also the biggest pain. Getting the turkey thawed out and prepped, getting up early in the morning, and ensuring the bird is well-cooked without being dry can give anyone a headache. Getting fancy — frying a turkey or smoking one — adds another layer of complications. 

Hams are easier, but not everyone eats pork.

Pick what you want to make. If it’s a turkey, purchase as many pre-made sides as possible. 

If you decide to buy a pre-cooked turkey and only have to heat it through, that gives you the flexibility to make a few more sides. Don’t try to make them all because that just adds to the stress.

You get the best of both worlds without the anxiety by doing half store-bought and half homemade.

Buy a complete meal

Lots of markets offer complete meals, but they’re pricey. Expect to pay at least $150 to feed four and $200 and up for eight people. Some boutique shops charge $500 and more for a meal. And there’s another consideration. You don’t know when the food you’re getting was prepared. Was it a day ago? A week? If you get it and you’re not satisfied, you’re stuck.

And if none of those are appealing options, there’s one method that never fails.

Go to Grandma’s house

That’s it. Grandma makes the best food. She will likely feign offense if you offer to bring anything. Do it anyway, but make sure you make it at home because if it’s from a store, she’ll know and give you that look. You know. The “what is that doing on my table” squinty-eye look. 

Don’t get the squinty eye.

Make that cornbread.

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