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20 Holiday Time-Savers

Veer

Map out the stops you have in counter-clockwise order and you'll never have to sit in a traffic line or make a left-hand turn.

Avoid supermarket crowds by shopping on Mondays and Tuesdays, when grocery stores are usually least crowded.

Forget to pick up the pumpkin pie spice? Check Foodsubs.com

To stave off a whinefest during errands, make your kid her own picture shopping list. She'll be so busy trying to find the onions for the stuffing that she'll forget she's bored.

Next: Shortcuts to great desserts

Fake a great dessert by sprucing up a ready-made mix
Fake a great dessert by sprucing up a ready-made mix

Duncan Hines Devil's Food Cake Mix
Add one package (10 oz.) of peanut butter chips to batter and frost with dark chocolate frosting. Top with a dollop of whipped cream for extra holiday flair.

Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix
Add 1 Tbs of lemon juice to the mix and sprinkle decorative sugar on top.

Pillsbury Pumpkin Quick Bread and Muffin Mix
Follow quick-bread directions and drizzle raspberry sauce over slices. (For raspberry sauce, melt 1 Tbs of seedless raspberry preserves per slice in the microwave.)

Next: Hostess at a moment's notice

Be prepared for spur-of-the-moment company
Be prepared for spur-of-the-moment company

Don't let your family attack the homemade fudge or cookies your neighbor gave you. Hide the goodies and serve 'em to your guests (who may assume they came from your kitchen).

Got a sink full of dishesand a full dishwasher? Pop the dirty plates in the oven till your friends are gone.

Steer everyone to the room that sees the least kid traffic. Or have a chat wherever you have the most of your holiday decorations: Those'll distract guests from the Legos underfoot.

Keep a stash of store-bought eggnog in the fridge, sprinkle with nutmeg, and serve in pretty glassware. You'll look like a festive, happy hostess—even when you're at your wit's end.

Next: Gift-wrapping secrets

Gift-wrapping secrets
Gift-wrapping secrets

Buy solid-color or striped paper, which can work for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza, and birthdays throughout the year. And if you run out of paper, don't run to the store. Instead, improvise with comics pages, maps, or aluminum foil.

Think outside the boxliterally. Paper towel tubes and empty oatmeal containers are good for more than art projects. Slip Dad's new tie into one so he won't guess what's inside.

Keep wrapping supplies in one place to avoid a mad search for scissors or tape. We love the Portable Gift Wrap Organizer

Next: Easy ways to give back

Fast Web ways to do good
Fast Web ways to do good

Here's what your $25 donation can do:

Supply ten books to special-needs children. (Reading is Fundamental, rif.org/donate Provide breakfast for a week to a young cancer patient. (St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, stjude.org/donate

Next: Clear the clutter

Clutter buster: The dining room table
Clutter buster: The dining room table

Set the table. No need to be elaborate. By putting out just a tablecloth and a centerpiece, you'll create the idea that it's ready for a meal—not the contents of your child's backpack.

Take out additional leaves: A smaller surface means less space for things to pile up.

Keep a basket in the corner of the room for stashing stuff until you can sort it.

Next: Get the best of Mom!

Get the Best of Mom
Get the Best of Mom

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