UNITED STATES—With less than 2 weeks before Christmas is upon us, many are already planning their meals for the big holiday. Rather that includes you taking a dish to someone’s house or perhaps you are playing host to the holiday, Christmas dinner or brunch can be just as stressful as Thanksgiving. However, there is one slight difference: Christmas is not as grand as Thanksgiving people. Let’s just get the cat out of the bag: nearly everything is closed on Christmas Day except gas stations, movie theaters and a few pharmacy stores.

That means if you are cooking or planning to bring a dish to someone’s house, you need to ensure you do all your shopping on Christmas Eve or a few days before. Take it from me, it’s wise to do that shopping before Christmas Eve, I worked at a grocery store while in high school and to put myself through college. If you think the mall is chaotic on Black Friday, try visiting a grocery store the day before Christmas. Its non-stop action from the moment the doors open until the last 15-20 minutes before the store closes.

Everyone wants to get home to start planning for the holiday so don’t be that person who waits to the last minute and thinks all will be well. You’ll be disappointed if you do so. Christmas is a bit lighter when it comes to preparation compared to Thanksgiving, where you sometimes have to start at least 2-3 days in advance. However, I will still warn it’s never a bad idea to start some prep work the day before Christmas to cut down on stress. This means if you have those side dishes that you want to prep go for it; even though none of it needs to be cooked until Christmas Day.

I would argue it’s never a bad idea to knock out a few desserts if you are cooking them ahead of schedule. Have those dishes complete that way you can focus on the main course. Now for most people when it comes to Christmas the main dish is either ham, beef tenderloin or perhaps a prime rib. I’ve had ham every year for as long as I can remember, so this year I plan on going with either beef tenderloin or a prime rib.

The prime rib seems much more enticing, even though its way pricier than tenderloin and a ham. However, when I think of Christmas I always think of something that is meaty, hearty and potatoes. Potatoes go well with ham, tenderloin and prime rib. Rather you choose to utilize roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes or scalloped potatoes; you’re likely to have some fashion of potatoes on the table.

I really haven’t considered other vegetable dishes for the big feast, but one that always comes to mind is string beans with garlic and lemon and almonds for garnish. Simple, flavorful and a dish that is certain to please most palates without all the stress. You could also cook up some hearty greens, corn or even Brussel sprouts. My advice for Christmas sides is try to keep things light. You don’t want dishes that are way too heavy people. Why?

You’re likely to have more house hopping on this festive day than other holidays. Everyone likes to see everyone on Christmas and with so many families having families within the family you chat and go. So while it’s not fully finger food, you don’t have to create a massive spread either. Look at things this way, as soon as Christmas ends, we’re all getting prepared for New Year’s which is less than a week ago, and that is where indulgence really takes place in full force. Why? You get to eat all things you want because as 2018 ushers in, you’re likely eliminating many of those things from your food list as you try to eat healthier! Happy cooking America!

Written By Kelsey Thomas