Do you ever get into overwhelm and despair and feel like you spend the end of November and the whole month of December in the kitchen? A few December food planning strategies can really help.
Being in charge of holiday meals, especially when that means living up to memories and magical expectations can be really heavy. So how do you find joy in that?
Remember that the holidays are about community and lean into that. Start with joy — and keep coming back to that.
Divvy up the cooking. Melissa talks about having lasagna for Christmas eve dinner, and instead of making them all herself, they have a family cookoff and everyone brings a pan of lasagna. Somebody brings a salad. Divide things up to take the burden off one person.
Plan a potluck. You don’t have to provide a meal. Have people stop by whenever they want. Bring something if they want. It takes a lot of pressure off of people to be there at a specific time, and it takes the pressure off one person to cook.
Choose food you can prep ahead. Lasagna, enchiladas, a big pot of chili … having foods you can prep ahead and heat, make things a lot easier. Try crockpot cooking.
Batch cook for December. Melissa says, “There are so many other things I want to do, right? I want to, I want to get crafty and like hand-write notes for holiday cards and I want to make, you know, neat things,” and those things take time. When you batch cook, you free up some time from making dinner every night.
So there’s the time factor, but there’s also what we’re eating and how much. Here are a few tips to not get so off track with eating during the holidays:
- Measure out portions and store them in individual containers, ready to grab.
- Set boundaries (no eating candy from the bowl on everyone’s desk, limit your beverages, etc.)
- Start with water.
- Create an indulgence calendar. Choose when you will indulge, instead of just mindlessly doing it all the time.
- Choose a healthier version of your favorite holiday food.
Every time I bring something, I try and bring something that is a version of what we all love to eat during the holidays, but it’s a healthier version.
Whether it’s holiday food or day to day eating in December, prep ahead. Cook some rice. Get your herbs ready. Chop some veggies. It’s so much more efficient to do it all at once. “That prep ahead … makes the week so much more joyful, because when you start to get busy and you have those things, and there’s a sense of pride about it… doing the work so that you can have more joy with your family.”
Melissa Lanz is a former internet marketing executive who quit her day job to promote good eating habits in the midst of a national health crisis. As the founder of The Fresh 20, Melissa strives to bring fresh food back to the household table and reduce the number of processed ingredients being used. During the fall of 2009, Melissa dedicated her efforts to creating this tool for busy families and singles stuck in a takeout rut. To further her goal to be a part of The Food Revolution, she wrote The Fresh 20 Cookbook (Harper Collins 2013) and also promotes education in nutrition and healthy cooking through speaking, locally in Southern California and throughout the country.
Doable Changes from this episode:
- Batch Prep. Take some time on Sunday (or whatever day works best for you) to prep ahead for the week. Make a batch of rice (or other grain). Chop and roast some veggies. Make a batch of soup that you can reheat through the week.
- Set Your Indulgence Calendar. Depriving ourselves of all the things we are used to having or really want to have can set us up for failure. Choose the food you want to indulge in or a particular event where you will be more indulgent.
- Upgrade a Food. Find one healthier version of a food you love. Maybe it’s a lighter dip or a healthier cookie. Choose to serve this at a party at home or bring it to an event.