Don’t Stress Over Dinner!
Tips for Weekday Meals during the Holidays
The holidays are meant for spending time with friends and family, not for stressing over what you are going to feed the brood. We are already stretched thin so advanced planning is a key “ingredient” to reduce stress. And remember, you also don’t have to do it all yourself (more on that below).
For the record, I am not a great cook but I do consider myself an excellent assembler. I make very simple meals. I rarely follow recipes and make almost nothing from scratch. I also have a child who needs to eat gluten free so that means I can’t rely on prepared meals from the freezer section. Planning a weekly menu, shopping with a list, and keeping my pantry and freezer stocked avoids multiple trips to the grocery store and saves my sanity. I have a few additional tricks up my sleeve for stress-free meals year round and really rely on these during the holidays.
Make One and Freeze One:
I usually do this when I’m making meatloaf. I also like to make a large pot of chili or soup and freeze some for another day. The key here is remembering to take it out of the freezer!
Stock Your Pantry:
Have the makings for several quick and easy meals on hand at all times. In my house, it’s Beans, Rice and Cheese (BRC, for short). We eat it in a bowl or in a tortilla, and add chicken or ground beef if I have it on hand. Another one is grilled cheese and tomato soup.
Have a few meals that your family enjoys, and simply rotate them. I have ten meals and this covers me for two weeks then I start it over. Your family may need 20 meals if they dislike repetition. If you have young children they likely prefer it.
Rather than just a side dish make salad the main course by adding protein. Empty your vegetable bin and toss in other favorite accompaniments (almonds, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, quinoa, etc). Especially good alternative during the holidays when we tend to eat less healthy.
Taco Tuesday, Pizza Friday. The ease of this is that you simply don’t have to think about or decide what to make for dinner. That’s half the battle with meal planning anyway, right? Who doesn’t hate the question, “What’s for dinner?”
Make breakfast for dinner! If your kids eat cereal or other quick breakfast food then there is a good chance they will love bacon and eggs, french toast, or pancakes for dinner during the holidays and throughout the year.
I grew up eating leftovers. Most of my dinners usually result in some amount of leftovers, and I rely on them as part of my meal planning. True, it’s not always the preferred dinner for my kids but it works in a pinch. My husband who arrives home late many weeknights happily eats leftovers.
Fend for Yourself:
Growing up I remember the nights my mother would just tell us to fend for ourselves. Of course, this was when I was older and actually able to help myself to whatever was in the fridge. I do this now with my family, and I think they enjoy it. It gives them a chance to eat whatever they want – cereal, nachos, ramen noodles – and be creative. I personally think this encourages independence (or am I just rationalizing this?).
Use the Crock Pot:
I’ve personally never mastered the crock pot. There are a few meals that I can make for large crowds (pulled pork sandwiches) but for some reason most of my meals just don’t come out right. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t leverage this tool for some delicious dinners.
Of course, not everyone likes to plan, shop, and cook. If this is you, consider alternatives to doing all of the work yourself. There are grocery delivery services like Amazon Fresh, companies that deliver fresh ingredients for you to prepare like Blue Apron, or entire meals you can order prepared and all ready to go (read on for more). During the holidays, maybe it’s time to take advantage of these options to lessen your stress and save some time.
In lieu of ordering fast food like pizza or Chinese, I recommend home delivery of healthy, prepared meals by Zing Meals. Elizabeth Girouard is the brilliance behind this concept. As a holistic health coach, she designs all the meals to be high on nutrition and and low on the bad stuff. I think this is an even better alternative to many of my go-to meals. Check them out on Facebook and look at the beautiful picture above. Her company delivers to Summit, New Providence, Chatham, and Mountainside and also offers pick-up in East Hanover if you are outside their delivery area. And, they are adding towns to their delivery schedule on a regular basis so your town may be next!
We are already running on empty with less sleep during the holiday season and it’s hard to maintain any routine. Try one (or more) of the above tips! It may just be what you and your family need to stay fueled through the holiday rush.
Here’s hoping you are better prepared to answer the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?
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Owner of Smartly Organized, LLC