11 Clever Products to Take the Stress Out of Hosting for the Holidays

Elena Danileiko / iStock via Getty Images
Elena Danileiko / iStock via Getty Images

The guests are coming in a few days, your holiday shopping list seems to be getting longer, and the line at the grocery store never seems to end. The season is in full swing, and while the holidays are a lot of fun, they can be equally as stressful.

In order to help make things just a bit easier, we searched the internet to find products that will help take some of the stress out of preparing meals and hosting a house full of guests. Alongside making life a little simpler, these items could double as great presents, too, helping you cross another item off your to-do list.

1. iPstyle Pan Lid Holder; $8

Pan holder
iPstyle / Amazon

Hot, dripping pan lids and food-covered utensils are an easy way to make a mess on counters and floors while cooking big meals. The iPstyle Pan Lid Holder provides a place to set down both without getting food everywhere, giving you one less thing to worry about.

Buy It: Amazon

2. Kraft Paper to Cover the Kids' Table; $24

Paper to put on the table
DIY Crew / Amazon

While kids definitely make the holidays more lively, their short attention spans and penchant for spillage can definitely complicate your peaceful dream dinner. Covering the kids’ table in kraft paper, however, will not only keep them occupied—it’ll also make for the easiest clean-up imaginable. Toss in a pack of crayons or washable markers, and let your tiny guests’ imaginations do the rest.

Buy It: Amazon

3. Silpat; $17

Silpat matt
Silpat / Amazon

Even if you enjoy baking cookies for the holidays, you may be less fond of the clean-up that comes afterwards. The easiest way to avoid scrubbing burnt messes off your baking sheets is to use a silicone mat. The Silpat makes any surface non-stick, which means that baked goods come off clean every time without messy sprays and oils. The best part is that it keeps the tray beneath clean, and all the mat needs is a quick wipedown before it's ready for your next baking session.

Buy It: Amazon

4. Super Sonic Scrubber; $24

Sonic scrubber
Sonic Scrubber / Amazon

Cleaning up after the holidays doesn’t have to be backbreaking work. This super sonic scrubber helps remove stubborn stains and sticky residue from stoves, dishes, and sinks, to name just a few—leaving you more time to spend with family and friends (or to catch up on a Hallmark holiday movie marathon). The set comes with five removable brushes that you can switch out, depending on what and where you’re cleaning.

Buy It: Amazon

5. 16-Piece Rubbermaid Food Storage Containers; $56

Rubbermade
Rubbermaid / Amazon

Whether you’re hosting or being hosted for the holidays, there are going to be leftovers. So you may as well be prepared. This 16-piece set comes in all different sizes and is 100 percent leak-proof and airtight, keeping your food fresh for longer.

Buy It: Amazon

6. Automatic Pan Stirrer; $25

Pan stirrer
Uncommon Goods

Sometimes, when you’re working in the kitchen, you could really use an extra set of hands.With the automatic pan stirrer, you can have them. For recipes that call for continuous stirring, simply put the wand in a simmering pot, set the timer, and let the stirrer go to work as you continue crossing other items off your to-do list.

Buy It: Uncommon Goods

7. Cookbook Stand; $60

Cookbook holder
Uncommon Goods

Made from salvaged wood, each of these cookbook holders has a unique design that makes a beautiful and practical addition to any kitchen. Alongside its beautiful look, you can adjust the angle, and it has a convenient space for charging cords if you're using a tablet. When you're not using it, the stand collapses flat, making it a snap to store.

Buy It: Uncommon Goods

8. Wine Dispenser; $65

Wine dispenser
Uncommon Goods

Wine is a pretty important part of holiday gatherings, so make sure it’s served in style. All you need to do is pop in the bag from your favorite boxed wine or fill the included three-liter bag with your favorite bottle—or bottles.

Buy It: Uncommon Goods

9. Cheeseboard; $85


Uncommon Goods

What holiday party is complete without cheese? This board has four spaces for ceramic serving bowls, a section for crackers, and a drawer with three cheese knives.The best part about this board is that when you're done, it folds down to half its size for easy storage.

Buy It: Uncommon Goods

10. Power strip; $30

Power Strip
Echogear / Amazon

A house full of guests means a house full of gadgets. To keep everyone's favorite accessory nice and charged, pick up the Echogear power strip. It includes six rotating outlets that keep power adapters out of the way, plus two fixed side plugs, so no one will have to fight over a charger.

Buy It: Amazon

11. Wine cooler; $26

Wine cooler
Tezzorio Bar Supplies / Amazon

This marble cooler makes it easy to serve chilled wine without having to think about it. Simply put the chiller in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it and it will keep your bottles cool for up to two hours. The marble cylinder is also padded at the bottom so it won’t scratch surfaces. You can also get it in white for $30 on Amazon.

Buy It: Amazon

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Each State’s Favorite Christmas Candy

CandyStore.com
CandyStore.com

Halloween might be the unrivaled champion of candy-related holidays, but that doesn’t mean Christmas hasn’t carved out a large, chocolate Santa-shaped niche for itself in the sweets marketplace. And, of course, we can’t forget about candy canes, peppermint bark, and the red-and-green version of virtually every other kind of candy.

To find out which candies merrymakers are filling their bowls and stomachs with this holiday season, CandyStore.com analyzed survey responses from more than 32,000 consumers across the nation and compiled their top responses into one mouthwatering map.

As it turns out, 13 states—from California all the way to New Jersey—are reaching for mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups over any other holiday candy. Something about that shimmery tinfoil really does make you feel like you’re unwrapping a tiny, tasty gift.

CandyStore.com Top Christmas Candy by State

Source: CandyStore.com

And, if you hoped everyone would kiss candy corn goodbye until next October, we have some bad news: “reindeer” corn, with red, white, and green stripes, is the top choice in a staggering eight states, all of which are in the eastern half of the country. Tied with reindeer corn was peppermint bark, which, given how much white chocolate it contains, is also a pretty polarizing choice.

Candy canes and Hershey’s Kisses clinched third place with a respectable six states apiece, but other Christmas classics didn’t perform nearly as well—chocolate Santas and M&M’s came out on top in only two states each.

After that, there were some rather unconventional competitors, including Starburst, Arkansas’s favorite holiday candy; and Pez, which somehow won the hearts of residents of both Louisiana and New Mexico. 

And, unless you’re time-traveling from the 18th century, you’re probably not surprised that sugarplums didn’t make the map at all—find out what they actually are (hint: not plums!) here. You can also search the full list of state favorite candies below.

Source: CandyStore.com

10 Simple Ways to Waste Less This Holiday Season

iStock.com/Allkindza
iStock.com/Allkindza

According to Washington University in St. Louis, “Americans throw away 25 percent more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday season than any other time of year. This extra garbage amounts to 25 million tons of trash.” Here are a few everyday ideas for reducing waste.

1. Use reusable bags when shopping.


VTT Studio/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Before you hit the mall or begin shopping for your holiday groceries, remember to bring along a reusable bag or three. Plastic bags are petroleum-based products and—let's face it—few of us use them more than once, and many end up in our oceans. Make bringing a bag a habit.

2. Send Christmas cards judiciously.


stacey_newman/iStock via Getty Images Plus

According to Washington University, the “2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 [stories] high.” Of course, your grandmother will be delighted to receive a handwritten note—and so may plenty of your friends—so feel free to mail away! But be honest with yourself: If there’s anybody on your list who is probably going to toss your thoughtful note into the trash five minutes later, just send them a digital greeting.

3. Buy light strands that are wired in parallel.

Red and white lights on a Christmas tree.
ehrlif/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Few things are more annoying than watching the whole strand of Christmas lights go dark just because of one cruddy bulb. According to the EPA, strands that are wired in parallel will still work if a bulb bursts, “so you won’t be throwing away ‘bad’ strands.” And if you’re the type of person who worries constantly about whether you turned the lights off, put your displays on a timer: It saves energy, money, and worry.

4. Skip the Secret Santa if you don’t know the people well.

A wrapped present on a desk with a tag that reads "Secret Santa."
Rimma_Bondarenko/iStock via Getty Images Plus

We don’t want to sound like Scrooges here. A gift exchange with your colleagues or acquaintances can be a delightful way to get to know people better. But let’s be real: If you don’t already know the people well, chances are you’ll give—and receive—something that will be thrown away within days. It’s OK to just say no.

5. Quit guessing (and stop other people from guessing about you).

A blank piece of paper labeled "gift list" surrounded by an iPad and candy.
MichellePatrickPhotographyLLC/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Here’s a tip: If you need a second or third opinion on a gift—"Do you think so-and-so would like this?"—don’t buy it. We all love planning a thoughtful surprise, but few things are as wasteful as buying somebody something they don’t want or need. Be forward and ask people what they’d like. And give helpful suggestions when people are shopping for you.

6. Buy experiences instead of things.

The legs and feet of a man and woman taking a dance class.
edwardolive/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Tickets to a concert or game, dance lessons, a reservation at a hotel, and other experiential gifts don’t require wrapping or packing peanuts. Besides, many people insist that they find experiences more meaningful than physical objects (and there are even some scientific studies that back that observation up).

7. Stop wrapping gifts.

A big teddy bear peeking out from behind a wall.
Simona Balconi/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Hide them instead! If you have small children, one of the most fun (or evil) things you can do is create a scavenger hunt. (This also works on adults who have refused to grow up.) Searching for gifts in mundane-yet-unexpected places like a pillowcase, a cookie tin, or in the pocket of a coat buried deep in the attic closet can be more surprising and fun than unwrapping them.

8. If you choose to wrap, use recyclable wrapping paper.

A woman holding a present wrapped in brown paper.
Kikovic/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Every year, millions of pounds of wrapping paper end up in the trash. “Some wrapping paper is recyclable—but it has to be not metallic, textured, or have glitter or ribbon on it,” Tim Donnelly writes in a great guide at Lifehacker. If you do buy recyclable paper, make sure to use it correctly and remove all the tape before recycling it. In fact, why not just skip the tape entirely and bundle the present the old-fashioned way with some string or ribbons (which you’re reusing, right)?

9. Make your own wrapping paper.

Wrapped presents, including one that's wrapped in newspaper.
nathan4847/iStock via Getty Images Plus

If you’re the creative type, gifts wrapped in old catalogs, newspapers, butcher paper, magazines, and other paper products lying around the house can actually look quite handsome. According to one oft-cited statistic, “If every family in the U.S. reused just 2 feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet."

10. Don’t pop that bubble wrap.

Bubble wrap on a blue background.
Xiuxia Huang/iStock via Getty Images Plus

We know. This one is nearly impossible—but resist the urge to pop any bubble wrap you receive. Save whatever packaging you get to be used later. (That includes those pesky packing peanuts!)

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