Christmas is an exciting time, but also a busy time and planning your meals over the festive period can make a big difference to your stress levels, your wallet and your food waste.
There are five people in my family plus various guests coming and going over the Christmas season, but once I’ve finished ‘The Big Food Shop’ for Christmas, I like to return home knowing I won’t need to venture to a food shop again until at least January 2nd. A little bit of time spent planning meals can pay huge dividends and allow you to not only relax and enjoy more time with friends and family, but save money too.
I’ve put together the following meal plan from the recipes available on my website, www.therealmealdeal.com which means you can drop them into the meal planner, change the number of people you are cooking for and then automatically generate & edit your shopping list! It’s that easy. Over the nine days, I’ve included three meat, three fish and three vegetarian dishes for variety and also to make sure I use up all those leftovers.
24th December. Christmas Eve is an exciting time. I like to serve Salmon Parcels as they make a really colourful dish that can be prepared in advance. Why not decorate the parcels to make them extra festive? Use some of the pastry off cuts to make little holly leaves or even mini Santas!
25th December. Christmas Day. The main event and everyone has their own take on this. Shops will try to sell us ‘Turkey with all the trimmings’, but ALL the trimmings can be way over the top. If no one in your family likes sprouts, don’t buy them! According to research, one in five of us buys food we don’t even like at Christmas. Also, try not to over cater. It would take the average family four days to eat the food bought for Christmas Day alone. A good measure is 3 x 75g of vegetables per person. Check out my recipe for Boxing Day soup as a good way to use up all the leftover cooked veg.
26th December. Boxing Day. There is bound to be some leftover turkey and maybe even some ham. These can make fantastic meals and there is so much you can do with them. Most dishes that can be cooked with chicken, work well with turkey, so whether you like a good curry or are more of a pie person, there’s a delicious dish out there for you. I’ve loads of ideas in my 10 ways with Leftover Turkey blog.
27th December. We enjoy a break from meat and a lovely Winter Fish Pie goes down a treat. If you’re still feeding a crowd, this works well. Fresh fish usually only last 2 – 3 days so I always freeze the fish when I buy it then cook it from frozen in this fish pie.
28th December. Blue Cheese and Winter Veg Gratin. Stilton is a traditional cheese over Christmas, but doesn’t always get used up. This dish is perfect for using up remnants of any blue cheese and also includes lots of great winter vegetables which store well. You can also prepare this in advance, perfect if you’re going out for the day.
29th December. Winter Vegetable Curry. There are no hard and fast rules with what you can put into a curry so if you have some other vegetables that need using up, just add them in. This curry is not too spicy for the kids and can also be frozen so it’s a good way to avoid waste.
30th December. Cullen Skink . Another great fish dish that the whole family can enjoy and can be cooked using frozen fish. The vegetables store well so even if you bought them a week ago, they are still good. I buy some part baked loaves to cook from frozen to go with this so we have some ‘fresh bread’.
31st December. New Year’s Eve. Chicken Chasseur. This might be cheating, but I do cook this before Christmas and then freeze it as obviously any fresh chicken bought prior to Christmas would definitely be unsafe to use at this point. That said, casserole type dishes are great as you can just de-frost them and re-heat, leaving you more time to get ready for any parties. It’s also a good hearty meal that really sets you up for a long evening ahead.
1st January. New Year’s Day. Bean Goulash with Jacket Potato. After all the festivities of New Year’s Eve, a Bean Goulash is a great start to the year. Full of flavour and healthy too. Plus, it can be cooked from store cupboard ingredients which is what you need on New Years Day. Jacket potatoes store well so these can be bought before xmas. If you don’t want to use soured cream, just sprinkle with grated cheese.
2nd January. You may need to reacquaint yourself with food shops today, but hopefully you’ll feel confident that a little bit of planning can go a long way and help you spend less, waste less and have more time for other things. Happy New Year!