By contributing writer, Victoria
The holiday season is officially upon us. Thanksgiving is coming up only to be followed by the busy Christmas season. While this time of year is definitely a wonderful season to enjoy celebrating all that God has blessed us with, including the birth of our Savior, it can also be a season where we are just plain busy.
From school plays, concerts, church events, community festivals, work celebrations and parties, it always seems that the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving all the way through the first of the year, are a constant go-go-go of events and commitments.
Unless you just love spending hours in the kitchen on top of all the other holiday prep work, the last six weeks of the year are usually best to keep things simple, quick, frugal and super easy in the kitchen.
Meal planning is a must especially if you have several evenings where you will be out of the house. It also helps you to stay on top of making sure your family is eating healthy balanced meals when sweat treats are beginning to sprout up all over the place!
During busy seasons, like the upcoming holidays, I like to keep my meal plan as simple as possible. Easy go to meals will be helpful especially this season where not only will my family be partaking in all the holiday goodness, but also because we are expecting Baby #3 either smack dab in the middle of Christmas or the week after.
Basically this mama is not only going to be tired but she is also going to be big! Which is why I will also be keeping our weekly meals as simple as possible by following some of these simple meal planning tips for the holidays.
The Slow Cooker is Your Best Friend
I love that I can throw all the ingredients in during the morning while I’m cleaning the kitchen and not have to worry about dinner again until I have to scoop it out of the slow cooker onto plates. Pretty much everything can be placed in a slow cooker from soup, chili, pot roast, whole chickens and pork or beef roasts.
Use the Freezer to Your Advantage
Cook once, doubling or tripling your meal, and eat two or three times. Having a well-stocked freezer can be so helpful during those busy weeks. Having a variety of pre-made meals as well as individual ingredients can help build meals.
Things I like to keep stocked in my freezer for quick go-to meals are frozen vegetables which are convenient for stir fry’s, soups or steamed for a side dish. Homemade chicken stock for soups and stews, an assortment of cooked black beans and kidney beans for chili or taco night. Cooked ground beef and turkey which can easily be add to meat sauces or tacos, cooked shredded chicken and shrimp which both can be added to a number of different meals like this super simple shrimp scampi.
Meals I love to double and freeze are baked chicken pasta, burritos, chicken fajitas, enchiladas or big batches of soups just to name a few. It’s always best to freeze meals that you know your family already loves so don’t try experimenting with new recipes just to fill the freezer.
One Pot Dishes Are a Must
Oh how I love a meal that I can make all in one pot! Not only does it make dinner prep oh-so-easy but it also helps with the clean up as well.
I love stir fry’s where I can cook the protein and saute the vegetables together, although usually I have to make a side of rice but that’s not a hard dish to make.
One of my family’s favorite meals, not to mention easiest, is just some cut up chicken breast sprinkled with salt and pepper, cooked in a little coconut oil and then I add in some fresh vegetables to cook alongside. You have a complete one-pot meal that cooks in minutes!
Along with one pot meals, 30 minute or less meals are such a time saver too. Leigh Ann has a whole book filled with quick and easy meals that can be made in minutes which are perfect for those busy nights when you have to get dinner on the table quickly to make whatever evening activity you have planned.
Stick to What You Know
The busy holiday season may not be the best time to experiment with new or complicated recipes. Instead use your time and energy to plan and prepare meals that you know and can throw together without referencing a recipe card.
Keep your pantry and refrigerator stocked with ingredients that you can use in a variety of different ways from beans, rice, pasta, and diced tomatoes in the pantry, to plenty of fresh vegetables and meats in the refrigerator.
Use a Meal Planning Template
I like to meal plan according to the seasons meaning that I follow a two week rotation of different themes. It still allows for plenty of variety but helps to make meal planning as simple and quick as possible. I share more about meal planning through the seasons, as well as provide a free printable here.
Don’t Be Afraid to Eat Out (Occasionally)
There just may be some evenings during the upcoming holiday season where you just need a break and need to eat out. A little planning ahead can help keep eating out budget friendly as well as planning for restaurants that have plenty of healthy options on the menu. Don’t feel guilty for occasionally taking a break and enjoying a meal together at a restaurant or through carry out.
Having a plan for easy, simple meals and keeping the pantry and freezer stocked with plenty of easy ingredients can help get dinner on the table quickly during the busy holiday season. Meal planning during this time doesn’t need to be complicated or stressful but in fact can still be healthy, nutritious and quick to make.
What quick and easy meals do you and your family enjoy during busy seasons?
This post contains my affiliate links. See the full disclosure policy here.