A note from Tsh: I asked Jessica of Life as MOM to write this next step in our Relaxed Christmas series. Why? Well, she’s awesome, for one, but also because this mother of six knows how to feed an army—she recently released a book called Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook, and her Christmas e-book, A Simpler Season, is chock full of practical ideas to keep you sane. If you feel a bit overwhelmed about dinner during the holidays (I’m raising my hand here), then Jessica’s your gal.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
You’ve heard the music blare from the mall’s speakers or tuned into the refrain from your car. And it is. Christmas is a wonderful season where peace and goodwill abound.
Or at least it could be. Sometimes.
But, it’s also a season of increased busy-ness. In our efforts to craft a jolly holiday, we add more to our plates: Christmas concerts, church plays, holiday get togethers, and office parties. It’s tough to handle the day to day when we squeeze in numerous festivities amidst our daily life. We’re easily wired to short circuit.
One way to plan for peace is to set your family table for success—and I don’t mean making sure you can seat a party of 12.
It’s in our best interests to simplify family meal times so that we enjoy a calm breather and eat nourishing food during this busy—and most wonderful—time of year.
Here are some ideas to help you do that.
1. Make a meal plan.
Knowing in advance what you’ll serve for dinner helps you two-fold. You’re neither wondering what to serve, nor are you scrambling to find the right ingredients. Having a written-down menu helps you plan your day and your grocery shopping. Whether you approach it weekly or monthly, jotting down meal ideas will save you headaches when tummies are rumbling and the kids are crying for something to eat.
2. Try batch cooking.
My freezer buys me time—I love it. I recently stocked up on chicken breast on sale at a great price. As soon as I came home, I mixed up a number of different marinades, trimmed the chicken, and bagged it in freezer bags to stash in the freezer.
The hard work is done for the coming weeks, and I can now pull a bag from the freezer the night before and bake potatoes and steaming vegetables for dinner.
Freezer cooking, also known as batch cooking, is not that hard. There is an unbelievably wide variety of freezer-friendly recipes, and if you stage a mini-cooking session, you’ll save time and money during the holidays.
3. Eat simply.
Save the fancy meals for the parties and get togethers—at least this month. Take the rest of the week off to enjoy your family. Simple meals are often the best: meatloaf and mashed potatoes, spaghetti and meatballs, tacos. They don’t take a lot of legwork to pull together.
If your mind is off meal prep, you’ll be better able to concentrate on more important things.
4. Keep a stocked pantry and avoid the drive-thru.
Making “a run for the border” can pinch the wallet and contribute to that hurried feeling we actually want to avoid during the holiday season. It can also tip us over budget.
Instead, fill your pantry with quick “cheater” meals like mac and cheese, pasta and red sauce, or my favorite, beans and rice. Whether from scratch or from a box, they really don’t take that much longer to cook than a run through the drive-thru, but your evening will be more enjoyable at home with more pennies in your wallet.
5. Use take-out strategically.
It would be unrealistic to say that we’ll never eat out this month. But, you can use take-out strategically. Plan your favorite Chinese food as a special treat for movie night. Bring home a pizza the night you trim the tree and play Christmas carols. Make a reservation at your favorite restaurant the night you go lights looking.
Let the dining out experience be purposeful and fun, not hurried, last minute, and over-budget.
Christmas can be peaceful, wonderful, and everything you hope it to be. So your task this week? Take a few moments to plan out your December dinners, and you’ll be a few steps closer to the holiday you want.
Head here to watch for all of this year’s six steps (and feel free to pin it to make it easy for you to find).
How do you make the most of mealtimes during the holiday season?