Today’s post is a guest post from Angie Trueblood of Meal Planning Mama. She’s sharing with us 7 ways to simplify meal planning during the holidays. I believe simplifying things during this time of year, as well as all year round, can help us to reach our wellness goals as moms! I know you will love this post from Angie.
It’s the holiday season–one of the most exciting, memorable, and fun times of the year. It’s also the busiest season for many mamas, who are filled to the brim with holiday events, school functions, gift-shopping and wrapping, baking, and cooking!
So, it’s no wonder that at the end of our busy days, the last thing on our to-do list is to cook dinner on a boring old Tuesday night.
But, the truth is, our family still expects to eat dinner every boring old Tuesday night. So, how do we balance all of the special-ness that we have going on over the holidays with the never relenting expectation of providing dinner to our family?
7 TIPS TO SIMPLIFY MEAL PLANNING DURING THE HOLIDAYS
Even if you NEVER meal plan and really have no interest in it, I’d encourage you to JUST consider the simplest of plans for this season.
It could be as simple as jotting down on a dry erase or chalkboard what you’ll be eating each night of the week or as elaborate as starting to plan your own meal planning system by making a couple of key pre-planning decisions.
Another option to consider is switching the day of the week that you plan to better suit your schedule.
If you typically meal plan on the weekends, you might want to switch that to a weekday during the holidays. I know our weekends are chock full of holiday activities so if I left the meal planning up to a weekend, I’d never get it done.
Lately, I’ve been planning on Wednesdays and putting my online grocery order in for Thursday pick up and it’s working out wonderfully.
- Go simple.
This time of the year is no time to start adding 2 or 3 new recipes into your weekly rotation. In fact, I’d encourage you to not add ANY new from scratch recipes into the mix.
We all know how empowering it can be, as a mom, to say “no” the responsibilities that don’t fulfill us.
The same holds true in the kitchen. If you are fueled by cooking, then go ahead and keep it new and fresh. But, if dinnertime is a stressor for you, then come up with a simple, do-able plan.
[bctt tweet= “If dinnertime is a stressor for you, then come up with a simple, do-able plan.”]
That could include choosing a meal planning style that works for you and repeating it week after week through the holidays. If making every Wednesday in December a ‘Pasta Night’, then go right ahead!
- Get help.
Almost every grocery store chain that I can think of now has a prepared foods section, where you can buy freshly prepared, fairly healthy and wholesome meals. Some are even cooked ahead of time.
During the holidays, keep your eye on the prize of enjoying your family and taking time to relax and recharge.
If that means having a designated meal or two per week that is already prepared, then allow yourself that. I still recommend planning it ahead of time, though, so that you aren’t constantly thinking during the day of what you’ll be having for dinner.
- Plan “easy nights”.
One way to simplify your meal planning during the holidays is to brainstorm a couple of “easy night” meals.
Does your family love soup and sammies? If so, plug that into the mix each week. My family loves breakfast for dinner so I always have frozen, homemade pancakes on hand, so it’s a win-win.
For me, a slow cooker meal is also an easy night for us. There’s minimal prep once you turn it on, and usually, there’s minimal clean up.
We also love taco night and have several different twists on the traditional Taco Tuesday so every Tuesday doesn’t from feeling like Groundhog Day.
- Plan off nights.
Remember, the goal of meal planning is to feed your family. Simple as that. And, some nights, taking the night off and heading out to dinner is the perfect solution, for you and the rest of your crew.
Often, by the end of the week, I am D.O.N.E. I’m done thinking, I’m done cooking, and I’m done cleaning. My hubs is awesome about taking the lead and helping out but, usually, by Friday, I don’t even want to be near our kitchen.
So, we have a shortlist of a couple of great, kid-friendly restaurants where we can all relax and unwind. If you have an especially busy week Monday-Wednesday, maybe Wednesday is your night out?
Planning these ahead of time does cut down on the spontaneity factor a bit, but it also gives you something to look forward to.
- Work in leftovers.
I have become a master remixer, as I like to call myself. I’ve heard some of my clients say that their families don’t like leftovers. But I often wonder if the problem is that they just don’t like to keep eating the same meal, prepped the same way, OVER and OVER again.
The key here is to mix it up and change the meal using ingredients you already have prepared.
A couple of options to work in leftovers is to take thinly sliced leftover meat (chicken, pork or steak), a great jam of some sort, some cheese and grill it. We can also whip together a quesadilla or rice bowl with most any leftover.
And, soups can be an easy way to repurpose leftovers. Throw in some meat, chicken stock, and veggies, and you’ve got a simple, healthy meal.
- Respect your schedule.
During the busiest of seasons, it’s important to honor your time. If you know that the week before the kids get out for school will be filled with candy-making, gift-prepping fun, then don’t plan meals that take 30 minutes of active prep and cook time.
When planning meals, be sure you are meal planning AROUND your family’s busy schedule, not right through it.
We’ve made efforts over the past year to really simplify our schedule, mainly through saying no, which has been a bit liberating. There are still times, though, when we have an insane week ahead of us, so I totally adjust our meal plan to fit it.
On those weeks, I keep our meals as simple and as easy as possible. This mama is not afraid to throw a hot dog night into the mix so that we can all sit around the table, relax, and reconnect.
[bctt tweet = “Be sure you are meal planning AROUND your family’s busy schedule, not through it.”]
I hope you’ve found these suggestions on how to simplify meal planning during the holidays to be real-world tips that you can start to apply in your own life TODAY.
At the end of the day, the GOAL of meal planning really is to simply get food on the table, in the easiest possible way.
If you’re looking forward to this holiday season with a tinge of nervousness as to how you might fit it all in, then carve out a bit of time to do some pre-planning. For sure, it will be worth it in the long run.
Angie Trueblood is a Virginia wife, mom of two kiddos, meal planning consultant and blogger! She has been helping busy moms simplify dinnertime through meal planning and prepping for almost 3 years. When she’s not helping other moms, she loves exploring parks and playgrounds with her kids, checking out new restaurants with her hubs, and laughing about motherhood over cocktails with friends.
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