The ultimate guide to a stress-free Christmas lunch – free printable

November 21, 2016 (Last Updated: December 13, 2022)
12 Day Christmas Plan – A guide to a stress-free Christmas lunch

The most important part of Christmas is spending time with your family. To make sure you’re at the table enjoying the day as much as everyone else is, you’ll need to do a little more planning beforehand. And it all starts on the 14th of December. We’ve put together a 12 day Christmas menu and plan with tips and advice to ensure that you have a stress free Christmas lunch.

Scroll down to view the plan or alternatively click on a day below. 

The perfect Christmas menu               Day 12: plan your menu                                    Day 11: shopping list 
Day 10: clean out your fridge              Day 9: buy turkey & gammon                           Day 8: get crafty 
Day 7: make dessert                              Day 6: make a festive wreath                            Day 5: recipe prep  
Day 4: cutlery & crockery                    Day 3: grocery shopping                                    Day 2: prep, prep, prep 
Christmas Day: get cooking 

The perfect Christmas menu

Click here to download our FREE Christmas planning checklist

perfect christmas menu

The Roast

What would Christmas be without turkey? Make this French-roast turkey with sage, pear and bulgur wheat stuffing and a succulent crowd-pleasing Naartjie and ginger-beer glazed gammon.

The Sides

Three-pea salad with mint dressing

Lemon-ginger cured trout with herby mayo and fennel

Honey-roasted vegetable crumble

Garlic and rosemary roast potato

The Dessert

Ditch the traditional fruit cake or Christmas pud and go for a raspberry and shortbread ice cream log with toasted marshmallow or a spiced chocolate cheesecake with Christmas-cake crust

On the 12th day of Christmas…plan your menu

  1. Devise the ultimate Christmas master plan and work out your menu. Once you’ve written it all down, you won’t feel so panic-stricken.
  2. Allocate simple tasks to friends and family. Put them in charge of drinks and ice so you can focus on the food. If someone offers to help, always say yes! Asking guests to bring a dish means one less thing to worry about and will also help cut costs.


  • Remember to ask your guests in advance for any dietary requirements.
  • When planning a menu, consider how many dishes need to be baked and at what temperature. You don’t want 12 recipes that will have to be cooked on the stove or in the oven, with all of them needing to be ready at once.
  • Check how much each recipe makes so you allow enough food per person. Generally plan for about 200g – 250g of protein, 225g side vegetables and one portion of dessert per person. Use our guide for catering quantities per person if you get stuck.

On the 11th day of Christmas…make a shopping list

Click here to download our FREE Christmas planning checklist

Create a shopping list for both groceries and craft supplies. Keeping festivities frugal is all about planning and creating a shopping list with exact amounts you need. This will prevent over-buying and getting distracted by all the pretty (and expensive) goodies in the shops.


  • Subdivide your shopping list according to areas of the supermarket, i.e. dry goods, dairy, meat, and bakery. This will save you time and prevent you from getting flustered during the busy festive period.

On the 10th day of Christmas…clean out your fridge

Start cleaning out your fridge and freezer. Set yourself a challenge to try and use all your food leading up to Christmas so that, three days before the day, you’ll have a virtually empty fridge and freezer. You’ll be surprised by how much money you will save too. Plan your meals around ingredients that will go off first.

On the 9th day of Christmas…buy your turkey & gammon


  1. Shop for all your non-perishables and drinks.
  2. Purchase your turkey and gammon.
  3. Buy all your craft supplies.


  • When buying your turkey, make sure you have a roasting tray big enough for it to fit into!
  • If fridge or freezer space is an issue, order your turkey and gammon now from a butcher and collect on day 3 when you do your last shopping trip.
  • Check that you have the equipment you need to get the job done – if you’re missing anything, now’s the time to make a plan. If you just need a few extras, ask one of your guests to bring a set of plates and cutlery on the day.
  • Avoid queues entirely and shop online. Most supermarkets will deliver items the next day.

On the 8th day of Christmas…get crafty


  1. Fold the five-pointed origami stars for the Christmas table. Click here for illustrated instructions on how to make these stars.
  2. Fold origami Christmas trees for the table. See instructions below.
  3. Paint your napkins. Here’s how.

hand painted christmas napkins


  • Turn family and friends into origami masters – get them folding stars and trees while watching TV in the evenings.
  • Allow yourself enough time to fold the origami. You will find that the more you make, the better the origami will look – it’s a skill that takes practise.
  • Wash and iron your napkins before painting them to save time later.

How to fold Origami Christmas Trees

On the 7th day of Christmas…make dessert

Cook in advance: prepare the ice cream log and cheesecake then freeze. Both desserts can be made a week in advance and kept frozen. Although you may be tempted to make everything as close to Christmas day as possible, getting dessert done and dusted in advance will take a lot of pressure off.

On the 6th day of Christmas…make a festive wreath

Make this easy Christmas wreath that can be hung on the door or used as a table centrepiece. Here’s how.

christmas wreath diy


  • Keep the roots of the succulents intact to make a “living” wreath.
  • Hang the wreath at your front door for an extra festive touch.

On the 5th day of Christmas…it is almost time to get cooking

  1. Print out your recipes and keep them in a file so they’re all in one place and you’re not flipping through pages to find something.
  2. Create a cooking-time plan. Or just use ours (Click here to download our FREE Christmas planning checklist).


  • If your recipes are from a cookbook or F&HE, photocopy the pages to avoid messing on them during cooking.
  • Writing down a plan of what needs to be done by what time will not only make you feel prepared, but will make sure everything is ready when it should be.
  • Alternatively create a Pinterest board with all of your recipes and place your iPad or tablet on a stand.

On the 4th day of Christmas…prepare cutlery & crockery

  1. Unpack and polish any silverware, special glasses, candle holders, etc. that you’ll be using on the day.
  2. Allocate serving platters to specific dishes and stack them all in one place.
  3. Wash and iron tablecloths.


  • To clean silverware easily, place 15ml (1 tbsp) bicarbonate of soda and 15ml (1 tbsp) salt in a large aluminium-foil roasting tray. Gently pour over 125ml (½ cup) vinegar then 250ml (1 cup) boiling water. Drop in your tarnished silverware and leave to soak until clean for about 30 seconds – 1 minute. Remove from the water and buff with a soft cloth.
  • Write the dish names on adhesive notes and stick them on the various platters. This will help you remember which dish goes where on the day.


Christmas table decor

On the 3rd day of Christmas…do the grocery shopping

Do the grocery shopping for the remaining fresh items – salad leaves, herbs for napkin rings, etc.


  • Double-check your shopping list to make sure you have everything. Try and aim for this to be the last day you enter the supermarket as the mad rush would have started.
  • If you’ve ordered your gammon and turkey, today is the day to collect them.

On the 2nd day of Christmas…prep, prep, prep

  1. Defrost the meat: to defrost the turkey, place it in a bucket of water for a few hours (in a cool place), changing the water every now and then. Once defrosted, remove the bag and giblets, wrap in cling film and refrigerate until needed.
  2. Place the wine and soft drinks in the fridge to chill.
  3. Make the napkin rings using fresh herbs and leaves: place the napkin rings in a container lined with wet paper towel and place in the vegetable drawer of the fridge to keep them fresh.
  4. Set the table: setting the table a day before will give you time to make a plan if anything is missing.
  5. Prep all the vegetables so they can simply be popped into the oven or combined last minute.
  6. Remove any pre-made frozen foods (cheesecake, gammon, etc.) from the freezer to defrost.
  7. Parboil the potatoes for the roast potatoes and refrigerate them without covering.
  8. Make the stuffing.
  9. Prep the turkey – truss and get it ready for roasting.
  10. Make the crumble mix for the vegetables.
  11. Combine the salad ingredients in the bowl you will be serving them in, prepare the dressing and set aside.
  12. Water the Christmas wreath.


  • Weigh out any ingredients that need to be combined.
  • Go to bed at a reasonable time so you can get cracking early on Christmas Day.

On Christmas Day…get cooking

If you are eating at 2pm, you should be in the kitchen by 9:30am. Your to-do list will be your hero today.


  1. Remove the turkey from the fridge so it can be at room temperature.
  2. Preheat your oven to 180ºC.
  3. Plate the trout and keep in the fridge.
  4. Roast the vegetables and sprinkle with the crumble. Cover with foil to be reheated later.


  1. Plate your cheesecake, decorate and keep in the fridge.
  2. Unmould the ice-cream log and return to the freezer.
  3. Make the meringue, cover and set aside.


  1. Place the turkey in the oven.
  2. Prepare the roast potatoes.
  3. Cook the stuffing, then cover with foil to be reheated later.


  1. Remove the turkey from the oven and allow it to rest. When you take it out, wrap it with foil and cover with a few tea towels. This way, it will stay warm for a good hour.
  2. Place the gammon in the oven, covered with foil, to heat up. Remove the foil, brush with the glaze and increase the heat to 200°C to crisp up the skin.
  3. Once glazed, wrap in foil to keep warm.


  1. Reheat the roasted vegetables with the crumble on top.
  2. Reheat the roast potatoes and the stuffing.


  • Accept help from guests and allocate them to simple tasks such as filling up everyone’s drinks.
  • Luckily, we live in a warm country, so don’t stress too much about keeping everything warm. Most of the dishes on this menu will be just as delicious served lukewarm or even as a cold lunch.

Click here to download our FREE Christmas planning checklist

ALSO SEE: DIY Christmas decorations – FREE Christmas gift tags

DIY Christmas decorations – FREE Christmas gift tags

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