Obviously everyone has their own special dishes they love making at the holidays. Get out those recipes and make a list of the ingredients. Divide it into items that can be bought ahead of time to put in the pantry, refrigerator or freezer, and the items that have to be bought fresh. Watch the sales and buy the items that can be stores ahead of time. Put your fresh ingredients list on the bulletin board, or in your organizer.
This list is a general list of items most everyone will need at some point during the holidays.
If you haven't replaced these two items in the last year, then it's time.
It's much cheaper to buy a jar of yeast instead of the small packets. The one I have in my refrigerator is good until April 2013 and cost $4.99 on sale last month.
All Purpose Flour
Buttermilk Baking Mix
I keep both on hand at all times. I buy 10 pound bags of flour, and keep the baking mix on hand (stored in the refrigerator) for biscuits and dumplings.
Granulated White Sugar
I buy a 1o pound bag of the granulated sugar and 2 pound bags of the others.
Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Milk Chocolate Chips
White Chocolate Chips
I buy 4 bags of the semi- sweet chips, plus 2 each of the others.
These are the spices I use the most for baking during the holidays. I always have vanilla extract and cinnamon on hand, but I just bought small amounts of cloves and allspice.
I stock up on all of these items during November and December. The sales have started, and over the years I've found the closer it gets to Christmas the less they put these things on sale. There are exceptions, but I grab them when I see a good sale.
These are a few of the other items I keep on hand during the holidays to make cookies and breads.
Vanilla and Coconut Pudding
Assorted Cake Mixes
On OFL we have an article on emergency substitutions: