December Dinners Challenge
December is a time filled with many activities. Our time runs short when it comes to cooking dinner every day. If you want to reduce stress and save money during December, plan your December dinners and don’t get caught up in the “let’s just eat out, I’m too tired” trap.
Take time to write out how you would like to make your December Dinners. Think about your family and how you usually handle dinners. Do you cook meals in the slow cooker? Do you practice freezer cooking? Do you eat out? Assign different nights to different people to cook? No matter what your answer is, a little planning for December Dinners goes a long way.
We will begin making lists to help plan out our December Dinners. I encourage you to fill out the lists even if you only have one or two ideas to add to the list, allowing you to refer back to the lists later on in your planning.
Challenge # 1 – Favorites and Ideas
Let’s think about all our favorite meals and list out ideas for December dinners. On a sheet of paper or corresponding Christmas Organizing planning page, make a list of the following and place in your Christmas notebook:
Slow Cooker/Instpot/Freezer Meal Ideas
Quick and Easy Meal Ideas
Later, you can refer back to your lists to help fill in your December Dinner plan.
From Krisann, the Christmas Coach: For the Favorite Restaurants planning page, I ask other family members their top 3 places to eat out and list them along with their name. Getting input from others now when we are not trying to go somewhere helps during December when (and if) we go out to eat – at least we have narrowed the list down already! Another thing I do with this list is to divide the restaurants up into price ranges for quick reference.
Challenge # 2 – 30 Favorite Meals
Make a list of 30 meals your family likes to eat for a quick and easy list to pull from for filling in dinners on your December calendar. Use the Christmas Organizing planning page, 30 Favorite Meals, or make a list on notebook paper.
If you have the Christmas Organizing Planner, you will find this form in the Christmas Kitchen section. If you printed out the planning page or are using a sheet of paper, place your list in your Christmas 3-ring binder notebook.
From Krisann, the Christmas Coach: When filling out this list each year, I sit down with my family and ask them about meals they like also. I put their name next to what they tell me is their favorite dish and try to make a favorite dish from each person once during December.
Challenge # 3 – Calendar with Dinners
Now that you have your list of 30 meals, fill in your December dinners on your calendar. Yes, I know you do not know all your activities yet, but go ahead and fill in all your days, but Christmas day – you can cross off meals when you have an event come up for that day. If you use an electronic calendar, consider creating a sub-calendar just for meals. Use a pencil if you are using a paper calendar.
From Krisann, the Christmas Coach: When filling in my calendar for December, I assign a “type” of dinner to each day of the week and then fill in a meal from my list. For example, pasta night is every Monday, chicken night is every Tuesday, and I find corresponding meals on my list to add to that day of the week on my calendar.
Challenge # 4 – Meal Planning Cards
The meal planning cards are like recipe cards, but it is where you list out the “recipe” for your dinner, including main dish, sides, and if the meal is freezer friendly. Meal planning cards help flush out the “what are we going to eat for dinner” dilemma.
Print off eight copies of the Meal Planning Card sheet on card stock and cut apart. Utilize your 30 Meals We Like planning form when filling out your Meal Planning Cards.
File your meal planning cards in a recipe box or your notebook in the order you plan on preparing the dishes. This will help you with grocery shopping any items you did not purchase earlier and quickly and easily make your grocery list for the week.
You can also use the cards year-round and add new meals throughout the year, so you have a good variety of meals to chose from for your December Dinners list each year.
The Meal Planning Card printable template is available to Candy Cane Club via Patreon, and you can download it here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/40993958
From Krisann, the Christmas Coach: After printing out my meal planning cards, I keep them in a recipe file in the kitchen to use throughout the year for dinner ideas. I have blank cards in there, so when we try a new dish, we like I can add it to the selection.
Challenge # 5 – Make-ahead List
Make a list of December Dinner meals or parts of meals that you can make ahead of time to save time making meals during December. Think about browning all your ground beef up and placing in freezer bags, separated into the amount needed for your recipes, doubling recipes that you can freeze whole, etc. and start this process well before the December rush.
From Krisann, the Christmas Coach: Looking at my list of meals for December that I have selected, I make a note of how many use cooked ground beef and cooked chicken. I make a note of the total pounds of that particular meat I need and schedule one day in October to purchase, brown, and bag up the meat with the meal and date on the freezer bag. Another thing that I do is in November I make a meatloaf, double the recipe and use the 2nd part for a small meatloaf and my meatballs that I freeze uncooked, but formed. Freezing the meatloaf and meatballs allows me to pull them out and cook during December easily.
Challenge # 6 – Supplies List
Make a list of the supplies you need for your December Dinners. If you are making full meals such as a casserole, you may want to purchase metal throw-away pans. Other items you may need include different size freezer bags. Use a sheet of paper or the corresponding Christmas Organizing planning page to make your list.
From Krisann, the Christmas Coach: My supplies list for December Dinners includes freezer bags based on the meals I will be freezing, metal pans with lids, left-over containers, and paper plates and cups. Having a stash of paper products to use in December for meals was a big help in my stress level because dishes did not pile up as much. Paper items are not for every night, but it is excellent for meals such as hotdogs, hamburgers, pizza, and other quick dinners during December.