The holiday season can get chaotic. Between gift buying, holiday activities, and keeping the house running as usual, the life of a mom in the months of November and December can feel crazy.
Eating healthy is almost always on the top of my list, but it isn’t the easiest when I’m feeling spread so thin with so many things to do and such a little amount of time to get it done.
I’m always a fan of menu planning, but particularly so during the holiday season. These are my top 3 tips for menu planning during the busiest time of year:
1. Stick to your standards
The holiday season is not the time of year to reinvent the wheel with menu planning. With a busy schedule and lots to get done, being innovative is the last thing I think about. I want to get a good healthy meal to the table with as little amount of time spent in the kitchen.
That’s where my standby recipes come in. Choose meals and recipes that you know like the back of your hand and can easily get to the table quickly. The tip here is to turn any of your standard meals that you enjoy regularly into a little healthier versions if possible.
One of my go-to recipes is pasta with meat sauce. I make it healthier by using brown rice noodles instead of semolina ones, and adding pumpkin puree or chopped bell peppers, onions, and zucchini to my meat marinara sauce.
2. Leverage quick and simple cooking methods
When time is precious, I always return to my favorite quick cooking methods like grilling, sautéing, stir-frying, steaming, poaching, blanching, and broiling.
The best part about these cooking methods is that they are among the healthiest! Grill up a lean meat, stir-fry some veggies and toss it on a plate. Or better yet, serve a quick-cooking meat over salad and get dinner to the table super fast.
Another favorite cooking method that I rely on this time of year is using my slow cooker. No, the actual cooking time isn’t quick, but since it takes only a few minutes to prepare ingredients, it meets my requirements for a fast meal. Plus, there’s nothing more wonderful than putting in minimal effort with big rewards.
3. Dress up simple ingredients
One of the easiest ways I have found to get meals on the table quickly is by not overthinking it. Many times during the year – the holiday season or not – I will cook up a few different ingredients, then make a hodge podge on the plate.
I’ll make a lean meat or pot of beans, cook up a vegetable or two, and a pot of brown rice or quinoa. Then go crazy with condiments, like hot sauce, salsa, or soy sauce (gluten-free tamari in my case).
The best part is that you can cook up a bunch of different ingredients, then everyone in the family can mix and match condiments to make it all their own. We do this in my house often, because my husband would eat Mexican food any night of the week – and I could put vinegar on anything that goes on my plate. This way of menu planning keeps things simple for the cook, and keeps everyone happy.
Creating simple meals, leveraging quick cooking methods, and sticking to the recipes you know best can make menu planning and preparing meals super easy this time of year.
What are your best tips for getting healthy meals to the table during the busy times in your life?