Skip To Content
  • Viral badge
  • Tips & Hacks You Totally Need badge

16 Little Holiday Tricks, Habits, And Hacks That'll Make You Say, "Huh, I Wish I'd Known That In Previous Years"

These are actually really smart.

The holidays are an incredibly busy time — so it makes sense we're always looking for ways to make cooking, decorating, and entertaining just a little easier.

Hallmark

To help with that, we decided to test out a bunch of popular holiday hacks and habits! Below, you'll find our favorites that worked and that we think are definitely worth your time.

New Line Cinema

1. Freeze Cool Whip on a sheet pan, then use cookie cutters to make hot chocolate floaters.

Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

THE IDEA: According to No Biggie, you can spread Cool Whip (or fresh whipped cream) on a foil-covered sheet pan, let it freeze overnight, and use cookie cutters to make fun holiday shapes to float in your hot chocolate.

This is fun (and so easy!) as long as you have the freezer space.

Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

A few more tips: Let the Cool Whip thaw a little in the fridge before you try to spread it on the cookie sheet (I didn't, so spreading it in an even layer was a *challenge*). Make sure your Cool Whip layer is pretty thick. And because Cool Whip won't freeze completely solid, leave the cutter on your shapes and peel the edges away when ready. Then use a thin spatula to transfer them to your hot chocolate.

2. Add vodka to pie crust to make it flakier.

Ingredients for pie crust.
Marie Telling

THE IDEA: The wetter your dough, the less likely it is to break when you're prepping a pie. That being said, a dough with too much water will also be tougher once cooked. The key to straddling this fine line, according to Cooks Illustrated, is replacing part of the water with vodka when making your dough. 



Vodka adds moisture to the dough (making it easier to handle) but most of the moisture from the alcohol evaporates during baking so that your pie crust is deliciously flaky.

Two pies with different crusts.
Marie Telling

THE RESULTS: The vodka hack seriously works. To test it, we baked a second pie using the same recipe, except we left out the vodka. While assembling the pie, the vodka dough held up better without breaking, but it was also much stickier because of the moisture. It was a bit of a mess, so you might want to avoid if making a lattice crust. 

Once baked, the vodka crust was definitely flakier and crumblier that the test pie, but it still held together well. If you really love super flaky pie crust, this trick is worth the extra effort. 

3. Make no-knead challah bread that's virtually impossible to mess up.

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

THE IDEA: To many people (including me), the idea of baking bread from scratch is very intimidating. So when I saw this recipe for no-knead bread on Food52, I was intrigued, especially after reading all the positive comments. I figured it would be tough to mess up.

Basically, the recipe explains that by using time and a few simple turns of the dough, you can mimic the effect of kneading. At first glance, I was shocked that this recipe takes over 24 hours. But then I realized that there’s very little active cooking involved, and most of the time is just waiting for the dough to rise in the fridge overnight.

I’d never made challah in my life, so I seriously couldn’t believe how well this bread turned out.

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

First, I made the dough. Then every 30 minutes for the next two hours, I would grab the edges of the dough, fold it into the center, flip it over, let it rest for 30 minutes, and repeat. (If that sounds confusing, the Food52 recipe does a great job of explaining the process.) Once I finished the folding process, I braided the dough into two loaves and baked them in the oven for 20 minutes. 

To my surprise, the challah came out perfectly. It was yellow and moist on the inside, with a tougher, glossy crust. Not to mention, my apartment smelled like amazing, freshly baked bread all day. If you’re committed to following the directions and taking this methodic approach to baking, anyone can make this recipe. 

4. Slide a sock onto your cup for a reusable coffee cozy.

Emily Shwake / BuzzFeed

THE IDEA: Cut the foot off from a lone sock and slide it onto your cup to keep your hot drink insulated. From Diana Rambles.

THE RESULTS: This is super straightforward and was an awesome way to repurpose a lone sock (this one was from my favorite pair😪). Though it was a little awkward to try to stretch a sock around a hot cup of coffee, I surprisingly loved this. The sock also works so much better than that flimsy piece of cardboard from the café because it actually insulates the cup. Plus, it covers the entire thing rather than just a small sliver, so you won't burn your hands. 

5. Add some fresh cranberries to ice cubes to make your drinks or punch look extra ~festive~.

Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

THE IDEA: It's super straightforward! Fresh cranberries + ice cube tray + water = cute ice cubes. Just make sure to rinse your cranberries first.

Loved these! Tried 'em in two different ice cube trays: one with a lid, which pushed the cranberries down into the ice cubes, and one without, where they floated to the top. (Both looked equally good.)

Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

Worth noting: We liked these best when they had 5 or 6 cranberries in them, but the cubes with just 2 or 3 took longer to melt. Oh, and they did eventually turn the water a light pink, but we don't mind a little cranberry ~infusion~.

6. Upgrade mac 'n' cheese into a restaurant-quality dish with a secret ingredient: boiled cauliflower.

Jesse Szewczyk

THE IDEA: This little hack comes from the one and only Gordon Ramsay. Supposedly, the addition of cauliflower to homemade mac 'n' cheese instantly upgrades the dish. This hack isn't supposed to be a sneaky way to add vegetables to pasta— it's just supposed to enhance the flavor and texture.

Ramsay's recipe says to boil cauliflower in salted water, fish it out, then cook the noodles in the same water and tosses it all together with butter. He makes the sauce with milk and three cheeses (in this case, cheddar, Lancashire, and Cheshire) and then mixes the cooked cauliflower and pasta into it.


Adding cauliflower to the mac 'n' cheese was absolutely (and surprisingly) delicious.

A baking dish of mac 'n' cheese.
Ade Mangum

THE RESULTS: You almost couldn't even tell there's cauliflower in there — the florets became super tender and almost melted into the pasta. The cheese flavor was out of control, but not in an overpowering way. It tasted like something you would get in a fancy restaurant — like mac 'n' cheese all dressed up. I loved the texture (especially with the breadcrumb topping) and I couldn't stop eating it.


7. Make the easiest latkes ever with frozen Tater Tots or hash browns.

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

THE IDEA: Latkes can be kinda tedious to make and grating potatoes on a box grater can be a bit of an arm workout. The easiest alternative? Tater Tot latkes. According to blogs like Wonder How To, you can use frozen Tater Tots or hash browns instead of fresh potatoes to make latkes.

These are great if you're looking to save time. Frozen hash browns from Trader Joe’s were the star here, and about five frozen patties made a big plate of latkes.

A plate of crispy latkes
Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

THE RESULTS: The Tater Tot version didn’t taste exactly like traditional potato pancakes with their wispy, crisp edges and tender center. (They were much thicker and chewy all around.) But with a dollop of sour cream and chives on top, they were really tasty. After making regular latkes, I can definitely see the appeal in skipping the potato grating and taking the easy way out. 

8. Fill squeeze bottles with icing to make cookie decorating a little easier and a lot less messy.

Emily Shwake / BuzzFeed

THE IDEA: Mix food coloring into the icing, and then pour it into a bottle with a thin nozzle. I got a few from Michael's for $1.99 each. From blogger Bake at 350.

This was the best part of the day, TBH. Just doodling on cookies — and there wasn't a ton of cleanup.

Emily Shwake / BuzzFeed

THE RESULTS: This would be great for kids. The bottle allowed me to draw on the cookies with a little more dexterity, and you don't have to deal with a bunch of messy piping bags. And the bottles clean out really easily, so you can use them again and again. It took a bit of patience to pour the frosting into the bottles, but a set of dry measuring cups (you can get a set from Amazon for $9.99) with pour spouts that made it easy.

9. Use less filler by sticking an empty toilet paper roll in the middle of your hurricane vase.

Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

THE IDEA: According to the blog Dandelions and Dust Bunnies, the toilet paper roll will take up space in the middle of your vase that you'd otherwise have to use filler to, um, fill.

After some trial and error, I hacked this hack. The mini ornaments didn't completely cover the bottom of the roll, so I wrapped it in a few inches of red fabric ribbon.

Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

Then, I realized that in order to put filler on *top* of the roll, I needed to close off its top — enter the square sticky note and tape. But in the end, I had a festive vase with a secret inside!

10. Refrigerate your mixing bowl before making whipped cream to get it extra fluffy.

A cold stainless steel bowl and heavy whipping cream.
Marie Telling

THE IDEA: I've heard this tip often, and it's a classic baking hack that even my grandma swears by. Given its popularity, I wanted to see if it was just a myth or if it actually works. All you have to do is refrigerate your stainless steel mixing bowl before beating whipped cream in it to make the cream super fluffy.

Turns out, this baking trick is totally legit. We made two batches of whipped cream and beat both for the exact same amount of time at the same speed.

Whipped cream in a cup
Marie Telling

THE RESULTS:  Pictures don't exactly do it justice, but the whipped cream that was prepared in the cold bowl was much more airy and light than the one made in the room-temperature bowl, which was more limp. Now all you have to do is add this fluffy whipped cream to your hot cocoa or holiday baked goods.

11. Use vanilla pudding mix in your cookie dough for chewier, softer cookies.

Vanilla pudding mix.
Michelle No

THE IDEA: For those who prefer a soft and chewy cookie to a crisp one, adding a serving of a simple store-bought ingredient, pudding mix, to your cookie recipe is supposed to result in softer, moister, and chewier cookies. 


This really worked. The cookies made with the vanilla pudding imx turned super moist and tender. They were a crowd favorite.

Michelle No

THE RESULTS: You can tell from appearance alone that the pudding mix makes cookies moister. Just look how much shinier they look. I swear these cookies aren't under-baked, it's just the paler color the vanilla pudding gives them. When I took a bite out of a cookie that I had let rest for several hours, I was surprised by how well it had retained moisture. I brought a batch for my co-workers and everyone LOVED them and asked me for the recipe. This trick is a clear winner.

12. Seamlessly hang a wreath using an upside-down Command hook on the back of a door.

Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

THE IDEA: You can hang a wreath using an upside-down Command hook on the back of your door and some ribbon.

Pure holiday cheer — no wreath hanger or nails required.

Natalie Brown / BuzzFeed

You can adjust the exact height you want your wreath to hang. Btw, make sure to follow *all six* steps to hang your hook so it actually supports the weight it should and comes off cleanly in January.

13. Chill wine really fast by wrapping it in a wet towel and sticking it in the freezer.

Wrapping a bottle of wine in a damp dish towel.
Taylor Miller

THE IDEA: So your friends are a few minutes away and you forgot to chill the rosé. It happens! But I found a few different tricks for chilling a bottle of wine ASAP. One crowd favorite is submerging the bottle of wine in an ice bucket with salt, but even that takes a while (and not to mention a lot of ice). Then I saw this post, which says you can chill a bottle of wine in seven minutes flat by wrapping it in a wet dish towel or paper towel and popping it in the freezer.

THE RESULTS: This totally works if you're in a pinch and need to chill wine quickly. I started out with a lukewarm bottle of rosé. The poor wine had been sitting out in a sunny room all morning so it was in rough shape. I soaked a dishtowel in water (you'll want to make sure the dish or paper towel is really, really wet, not just damp), wrapped it around the bottle of rosé, and left it in the freezer for seven minutes. When I took it out the wine was pleasantly chilled. It was by no means ice cold, but then again, you don't want to serve freezing wine anyway.


14. Simmer fruits and spices in water to make your home smell like the holidays.

Fruit simmering a big pot
Emily Shwake / BuzzFeed

THE IDEA: Boil apples, oranges, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla in a large pot of water, then reduce to a simmer and leave the pot on the stove all day so that the steam can fill your house with lovely holiday smells.

RESULTS: So, I was really anticipating that the house would smell like Christmas on crack. It smelled wonderful around the pot and the steam really warmed up the kitchen, but the smell wasn't as strong as I wanted it to be. That being said, I might've just acclimated to the smell, because when my roommates came home they looked at me and asked, "OMG, what are you making?!" My guess is that the second your guests walk in the door, they'll feel like they just crossed the threshold into heaven. 

15. Boil potatoes in cream instead of water for the smoothest, richest mashed potatoes ever.

Taylor Miller

THE IDEA: Most recipes will say to boil potatoes in water and then mash them with butter and cream, but this Tyler Florence recipe instructs you to actually boil the potatoes in heavy cream with smashed garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. He then drains the potatoes, adds some reserved cream back into the mixture, mashes them up, and finishes them with butter, olive oil, and a big scoop of whole grain mustard. Supposedly boiling the potatoes in cream adds tons of flavor and a rich, luscious texture.


Tyler Florence was onto something here. These potatoes were legitimately SOO GOOD ― you could actually taste the garlic, thyme, and bay leaves

Taylor Miller

I was afraid the grainy mustard, which goes into the potatoes after mashing, would be overpowering, but it was surprisingly subtle and just added a nice flavor. The mash was extra creamy, perfectly salty, and flavorful without being aggressive.


16. When making cookie dough, replace regular butter with browned butter for the ultimate flavor boost.

Brown butter in a measuring cup.
Tasty

THE IDEA: It's hard to make a bad cookie, but the trick to a next-level delicious cookie: apparently, it's brown butter. While butter itself is delicious, brown butter adds a whole new depth of flavor and imparts a rich, nuttiness to the final cookies. To make brown butter, just toss butter in a sauce pan and bring it to a boil. After a few minutes of boiling, the butter begins to toast and turn brown.

We've tried making cookies using melted butter and softened butter, but neither holds a candle to brown butter. Browning the butter only takes about five minutes, but it adds a whole new dimension to the final cookies.

A chocolate chip cookie.
Tasty

While you're browning the butter, you'll want to make sure to stir constantly so it browns evenly. Once the butter has turned a nice nutty brown, remove it from the heat and pour it into a liquid measuring cup to stop the cooking. Give it a stir and add 2-3 tablespoons of cold water to the butter to bring it back up to 1 cup of liquid. Set it aside to cool to room temperature and then use it in your cookie batter.  (This recipe walks you through everything.)

Thanks to the brown butter, the cookies will be ever-so-slightly nutty with a deep, rich flavor. Be warned, it's hard to stop eating these.

Have a favorite holiday hack when it comes to cooking, decorating, or anything else? Share in the comments!