10 Tips for Better Meal Planning During the Holidays

published Dec 10, 2014
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(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Meal planning is such a great tool to help you shop smarter, cook smarter, eat smarter, and even spend less on groceries. But even in the best of times, it can be tough to stay on top of keeping it organized. Now add the busy holiday season to the mix, and all of a sudden keeping your meal plan on track is a whole lot harder.

We want to help you stick with it, so we’re sharing 10 tips to keep your meal planning going strong during the holiday season.

Between trimming the tree, shopping for gifts, going to holiday concerts and dinner parties, and visiting friends and family, it’s safe to say we’re in a busy time of year. But meal planning doesn’t have to fall to the wayside just because your schedule is packed.

The key to good meal planning, especially during the holiday season, is to stay organized, and keep things easy and convenient. Here are 10 ways to do it!

1. Use your calendar.

It’s a busy time of year. Between holiday parties, shopping, decorating, and a bevy of other activities, it’s likely that you may not be home for dinner every night of the week. Limit grocery shopping and meals to just the nights that you’ll be cooking each week. Mark these with their own time slot or event on your planner or calendar!

(Image credit: Anjali Prasertong)

2. Don’t forget a shopping list.

I always go to the store with a list, even if I’m just picking up a few basic items. I do this for a few reasons. First, I try to limit grocery shopping to just once a week. So, a well-planned list with items for meals, snacks, household items, and any special projects, like holiday baking, is essential. Having a shopping list also keeps me on track with buying only what I need. This helps prevent wasted food and overspending.

3. Don’t plan too far in advance.

It feels like now, more than any other time of year, it’s so easy for last-minute plans to pop up. Play it safe and don’t plan meals for much more than a week in advance. For right now, less is more.

4. Keep a well-stocked pantry … and use it.

Rely on the items in your pantry to pull together simple meals, like pasta, polenta with beans, or a rice bowl.

  • 75+ Pantry Dinner Recipes for a Busy Week

5. Prep dinner components.

Set aside a little bit of time before the end of the weekend to work on dinner prep for the week ahead. This could mean peeling and chopping vegetables, roasting winter squash, cooking a pot of rice, or lentils. It’s so much easier and more convenient to cook dinner when even just a little bit of the prep work is already done.

(Image credit: Coco Morante)

6. Keep healthy snacks within easy reach.

If your kitchen is anything like mine right now, there are homemade cookies in every direction. When hunger hits, it’s way too convenient to reach for a few cookies. I like to make it just as convenient to reach for a healthier snack, like clementines, cut-up pineapple, or carrot sticks. I’m always more likely to snack on fresh fruit and vegetables when they’re prepared and ready to eat.

7. Prepare breakfast the night before.

If you’re not a morning person, this is especially helpful! It’s a lot easier to eat a good breakfast when all you have to do is pull something from the fridge, or reheat some precooked oats. This could mean making a pot of hard-boiled eggs, cooking a big batch of oatmeal or porridge and portioning it into individual containers, or baking muffins.

8. Keep things simple.

You’ve already got a lot on your plate, so this isn’t the time to make fancy dinners or experiment with new, complicated recipes. Keep meals simple, quick, and easy.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

9. ‘Tis the season for the slow cooker!

We love slow cookers anytime of year, though they hold a special place in our hearts during the winter months. While dinner does its thing in the slow cooker, use that time to finish your shopping, wrap gifts, bake cookies, or get your house ready for guests.

10. Rely on leftovers.

I really appreciate leftovers when the week is busy! Repurposing leftovers for dinner is faster and easier than making a new meal. And, of course, leftovers always make a good lunch.

More Meal-Planing Tips

What are your best tips for meal planning during the holidays?