Meal Planning at any time can be challenging…
But Meal Planning during the holidays can be downright stressful!
Not only are there usually more people that you are cooking for, but you are often hosting for multiple days at a time.
So how do you set up a killer meal plan that your family will love, without making yourself go crazy with all the extra work?
It’s not as hard as you think!
Here’s how it’s done:
1) Stick With The Routine
If you typically use a simple weekday breakfast every day of the week, like I recommend in this post, then continue doing that!
You don’t have to prepare fancy breakfasts every day just because you have a company.
If you like to do more elaborate breakfasts on the weekend as I talk about in this post, go ahead and do that if you’d like, but don’t make things too complicated!
Since you will be doing a lot more cooking than usual during the holidays, I recommend doing easy breakfasts every day (aside from maybe a special brunch on Christmas Day.)
Especially since you will be putting in all the work of making delicious food every evening, it doesn’t hurt to get two meals out of each time you cook!
Just have an alternate easy meal ready for lunch each day that you have guests.. just in case you do not have enough leftovers.
Here are some examples of easy lunches that you can have on stand-by if needed:
- And any other Meals that are Easy to Make!
If you don’t end up using the easy meal for lunches because you had plenty of leftovers, use the food for dinners the following week after everyone leaves… then you can save yourself a trip to the grocery store and a bunch of extra time in the kitchen after a busy holiday… you’re welcome.
If you are using my Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning Technique and have created Theme Nights for every night of the week, don’t throw your plan out the window just because you have extra company… use it to your advantage.
Other than the specific holiday, like Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, keep all of your theme nights the same.
So if I were hosting the Thanksgiving Weekend at our house, it would look like this:
- Thanksgiving Day: Special Holiday Family Meal
- Friday Night: Build-It-Meal Night
- Saturday Night: Dips and Chips/Crackers
- Sunday Night: Family Favorites Night
So the only night of the week that changed was the Thanksgiving night meal.
When we have Christmas at our house, I like to do a special dinner on Christmas Eve, but I keep the other meals the same on Christmas Eve.
When we host Christmas Day, I like to have a special brunch in the morning, a light lunch, and a bigger holiday dinner. Or we will have Christmas “Dinner” around lunchtime and have a light supper… it isn’t always the same every year, but it is generally one of those two options!
2) Plan The Holiday Meal(s)
Look at How Many People are Coming
Take into account how many guests you will have for the big holiday meal… Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas Dinner, Christmas Eve Dinner…etc.
Do a headcount and figure out how many people will be joining you for the meal.
Decide How Elaborate You Want to Be
Just because it is Thanksgiving or Christmas or whatever other holiday you are celebrating, doesn’t mean that you have to spend a day, or week, or month preparing for the dinner.
If your family loves pizza, and you want to eat that for your holiday dinner, so be it!
We like to get takeout Thai food or Chinese food on Christmas Eve because I will be cooking a lot the following day. (And because we love Thai and Chinese food… who am I kidding!)
Don’t feel like you have to follow any sort of rules, just do what works well for your family!
Decide on Your Main Dish
If you are having an involved meal (that is something more than takeout or pizza ;)), then you will want to decide on your main dish first.
Unless you adore cooking, I suggest only making one main dish (unless you can outsource as second main dish, see number 3 down below!).
Our main dish for all of our holiday meals is a vegan Special K Loaf. It’s a family favorite at our house and it goes well with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce and traditional holiday side dishes.
Think About Your Side Dishes
You may feel like you have to have all the sides, especially if you are planning a traditional holiday meal… but side dishes are optional!
Think about which side dishes are important for you. Then throw out everything that you don’t love to eat or want to make (unless you can outsource it, see number 3 down below!).
Some side dishes that we love to have every holiday meal are:
- Mashed Potatoes
- Green Bean Casserole
- Cranberry Sauce
Decide on Dessert
Decide on how many desserts and which desserts you would like to eat at your holiday meal (and throughout the weekend ;).
My must-have holiday dessert is an ah-MA-zing Key Lime Pie that my mom makes (if you aren’t afraid of making complicated healthy desserts, check this cookbook out! Everything we’ve tried out of it is divine.)
Most people like to have a few different options for dessert, but desserts can take a lot of time, energy, and oven space to make.
One easy way to have a lot of variety with your dessert is to have each family that is coming be responsible for providing one dessert in addition to anything else that they are bringing.
This also ensures that every family will have their favorite and no one will complain that you didn’t make their favorite dessert because they could have brought it themselves!
3) Determine Who Is Cooking What
Decide What You Are Making
When you are hosting, you get the first pick of what you want to make (yay!).
Many hosts like to provide the main dish, but it isn’t a must, especially if you know someone else who would enjoy making the main dish and do a great job with it.
After you decide if you are going to make the main dish or not, choose any side dishes that you want to make.
Ask For Help
Since most people don’t enjoy making decisions, instead of asking people what they want to bring, tell them what would be helpful for them to contribute to the meal.
Try to assign dishes to people who would be good at making them.
I always have my mom make the desserts because she does an amazing job and she is able to make desserts that fit with my wacky diet (vegan and sugar-free isn’t easy for most people to navigate!)
If someone coming doesn’t enjoy cooking, ask them to bring a salad or store-bought desserts.
But remember not to overload your guests. They may want to take a break from cooking if they are not hosting!
I find it helpful to list out all of the dishes that you want to have on a piece of paper and write down who will be in charge of each one.
Now send those texts or make phone calls to let people know what you want them to bring!
Decide What You Are Buying
If you aren’t able to make or delegate all of your dishes (or you just want a break from cooking altogether!) you can purchase just about anything that you want for your holiday meal at most grocery stores.
But be sure to order in advance so that you don’t have to worry about things being out of stock on the busiest grocery days of the year.
And that’s all it takes to create your amazing holiday weekend meal plan!
I’d love to hear what you are going to have for your holiday meal! Let me know in the comments below!
Are You Ready to Stop Feeling Stressed About Meal Planning?
Then check out Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning!
In Set-it-and-Forget-it Meal Planning, you will learn how to plan your meals without feeling overwhelmed, spend less time in the kitchen, and feed your family healthy meals (while still having time for yourself!)
Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning walks you through my unique method for setting up your meal plan so you will never have to start from square one again!
Plus you will receive a Set-It-And-Forget-It Meal Planning Template and email support from me anytime you have questions.
I hope to see you inside the course!
(Or if you are more of a do-it-yourself kind of gal, you can just grab the Set-It-and-Forget-It Template and work through it yourself. 🙂
You May Also Enjoy…
If you’d like to set up your own weekly theme nights, check out The Secret to Meal Planning for the Absolute Beginner | Plus 50 Theme Night Ideas for Your Meal Plan.
If you want a step-by-step guide for setting up your meal plan, check out How to Begin Meal Planning When You Don’t Know Where to Start.
For ideas about how to eat everything you buy, read How to Work Leftovers into Your Meal Plan.
If you want to learn more about Decision Fatigue, check out Why Is Meal Planning so Difficult.
For Quick, Healthy Breakfast Ideas, read How to Get Started Planning Quick Healthy Breakfasts.