You may plan the big meals but there's no reason not the plan all the OTHER meals. Why blow your budget on eating out when you can make meals at home?
Make Meals Easy During the Holidays
by Katie Cullum
In the last post (link), we talked about planning the big meals during the holidays. But guess what?! We eat more than those big meals! We still have to eat every day. You may be like me, and you focus on the big meals…and then wonder what in the world we’re going to eat TONIGHT. And it’s easy to just pick up something in between a drive-through Nativity, or looking at lights, or other events, instead of eating at home. But eating at home is better for your budget…and your waistline especially during this holiday season!
You may get tired of hearing this, but planning is really your best friend! Just make a list of some favorite meals. You know, those favorites that everyone likes. I tend to like the ones that don’t need specific sides – just add a salad, fresh veggies, fruit, etc. This way, you’re saving money that you’d normally spend eating out. You’re probably eating healthier too!
I have a great recipe to make a freezer dish of Chicken Pot Pie. But Chicken Pot Pie is also easy enough to keep very simple by using canned chicken (with more sodium than I’d like) or using chicken I’ve bought on sale and cooked ahead (watch how to do that here on another blog post).
I also like to find ground beef or turkey on sale and buy in bulk. When I get it home, I cook and crumble some to put in the freezer (about 1-pound in each bag). I freeze them flat in bags, which makes it pretty quick to thaw out and use quickly! I make up meatloaves with the rest and freeze that also. When it’s time to eat Sloppy Joe’s, I can thaw the meat quickly. I add it to the sauce, and dinner’s on the table!
What else can you cook ahead?
Use Your Leftovers
You may have some leftovers in the freezer. I like to freeze extra holiday meat in small bags. It thaws out quickly and it usually enough for one meal. Use some leftover ham or turkey to make a breakfast casserole or a soup.
Use Your Tools
Some of my favorite, and most-used, kitchen tools are my slow cookers. And they are great to use during the holidays for everything from dressing to egg dishes to pork for sandwiches. You could prepare a recipe for a "dump meal", and freeze it in a freezer bag before cooking (just be careful with using raw vegetables by reading this quick article from Clemson University). Thaw out, and put in the slow cooker for a very quick and easy meal one night. My electric pressure cooker is also a great tool – I use it most often to boil eggs! Boiled eggs are great to keep around for a quick protein at breakfast, or to make a batch of deviled eggs.
I could make up a batch of my Chicken Pot Pie for the freezer. I could also make a big batch of soup, and freeze part of it to have later during the holidays. Casseroles are also great to keep in the freezer – just allow enough time to thaw.
For more fast meals at home, read Carla Due’s (She's the FCS agent in Miller County) tips in her article Fast Meals at Home.
On the back of your Holiday Meal Planning Worksheet, write down some of YOUR favorite meals. Watch for sales on meat or other ingredients. Gather ingredients on shopping trips, cook ahead, freeze ahead, and you’ll rest easy during the holidays!