Plan Ahead Menus – Free up your Time to Celebrate and Enjoy!

We are often so busy trying create plan ahead menus for the holidays, we either forget to plan for ordinary evening meals, or dread preparing them because we have already been in the kitchen baking for days!

Delicious and nourishing meals are one of the easiest plan-ahead things we can do.  And if we ‘play our cards right’, we can add other benefits above and beyond ‘delicious and nutritious’.

mixing bowl in preparation for plan ahead menus

Plan Ahead Menus for the Holidays

With our holiday menus, often we are faced with trying to re-create Aunt Martha’s sweet potato casserole, or just want something a little different.  The recipe doesn’t look difficult to make, but will it taste as good as it sounds?

Now would be the perfect time to try it out.  Find an evening on your Weekly Menu where it would work well as a main dish, a side or as a dessert.  This not only gives you practice in creating it, but you also have available taste testers at your fingertips – or rather, at your dinner table.

You can even make it more fun for your family by giving them ‘score cards’.  A 5 rating means it will be perfect addition to your holiday table.  A 1 or Zero means you need to find a new recipe.

(Pssst… Planning Ahead also means stocking up. Get some great tips from Lisa on this at Stress-Free Christmas!)

can soups and vegetables to use with plan ahead menus

‘Make Once, Eat Twice’ – the Plan Ahead Menus Mantra

In most cases, it doesn’t matter what you are preparing. The secret to successful plan ahead menus is to double you recipe.  Place 1/2 of the bowl in a baking dish for tonight.  The other half goes into a freezer container to serve for later.

It doesn’t matter what I am making – enchiladas, casseroles, vegetable dishes, or even soups and stews.  I always double or triple my batch. 

The other evening I fixed a huge pot of Vegetable Beef Soup.   We enjoyed it that evening.  After dinner, we got the pressure canner out and put up 7 quarts of soup to have later in the year.

You can do the same with spaghetti sauce, Chicken Noodle Soup (just don’t add the noodles – they get very soggy and unappetizing in the canning process.  Add them when you start cooking), and beans.

We love canning pinto and red beans.  When we need a quick meal, we just add some sliced sausage, heat it up, make a pot of rice, and dinner is served.

a stack of leftovers to use with plan ahead menus

Don’t forget the Leftovers

To serve with our Vegetable Beef Soup, I made a couple of loaves of Tabasco Cheese Bread.  One loaf was wrapped and put in the freezer.  The other we enjoyed with our dinner.  But there was also over a half loaf remaining.

No problem.  We had spaghetti on the menu a few nights later.  I just sliced the leftover bread, and placed the slices on a baking tray.  I melted butter and added garlic powder, then placed the tray of bread under the broiler. 

Since that spaghetti sauce had been frozen, it took me less than 30 minutes to complete a full meal. (Here’s a thought – almost any bread can be transformed into delicious garlic bread!)

Whatever you are planning for dinner, find ways to use the leftovers for a meal later in the week.

a slow cooker filled with vegetable beef soup

Use your Crock Pot

Do you have Christmas play practice this week?  Holiday school activities coming up? Plan ahead menus often take advantage of a Crock Pot.  There are so many wonderful meals you can make with them.

When I know I am going to have a particularly crazy week, I start out by making a Pork Roast in the Crock Pot.  I simply season it and place it in the pot.  I slice a few onions and add them.  In a large bowl or measuring cup, I add hot water (approximately 4 + cups) and approximately 1 Tablespoon of Chicken Bouillon powder.  Once it is mixed well, I pour it over the roast.

Put the lid on and bake it for 6 to 8 hours.  For a side, an hour before dinner I slice a couple of sweet potatoes in the oven, and steam some broccoli.  There is prep time for this, but it is minimal.  And the rest of the day I can accomplish at least some of the things on my To Do List.

Later in the week the leftovers from the Pork Roast make delicious pulled pork sandwiches.  Just chop it up and put it in a pot.   Add your favorite barbecue sauce and heat it through.  Serve it on hamburger buns with chips and pickles. 

Not sure what to cook in your Crock Pot? Check out Lehman’s mixes designed just for that!

save time and money by using plan ahead menus

Plan Ahead Menus save Time and Money

Holidays usually means stretching your regular daily schedules to accommodate planning, shopping and getting organized.  By using plan ahead menus now, you will spend less time baking, and more time preparing for the upcoming holidays.

Creating plan ahead menus also means saving money. Instead of giving in to time pressures and eating out or going to a drive-thru, you can save that money to spend on gifts or other things.

And if you double up now, most of your holiday baking may be accomplished ahead of time, so you can spend more time celebrating.  From my perspective, that is just a win/win SUCCESS!

have a merry, simple Christmas ebook banner

Want More Tips for the Holidays?

Get your copy of Have a Merry, Simple Christmas!  Find some great recipes, meal planning tips, organization ideas, DIY gifts and plenty of printables to help make this the most organized Christmas you have had. 

And being organized now means more time to relax, enjoy and celebrate your holiday with friends and family. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

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Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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