Tomorrow is Christmas and while we will not have our big Christmas dinner until the 26th, the menu has been set and preparations are in full gear. I am not a huge menu planner on a regular basis because I am very much a cooking from the pantry style cook. When it comes to special occasions and holidays, I do menu planning. In this case, menu planning helps to keep me organized so I can make sure I have everything on hand for the dishes I will be preparing, do pre-prep as needed and make things streamlined so the meals go smoothly.
We know we will have two of our kids with grandkid overnight on the 25th staying through the 26th but not overnight. Then two of our kids with two grandkids will be arriving around noon on the 26th and staying until noon on the 28th. That means I have to plan for three hot breakfasts, four snacks, one lunch, two dinners plus the main meal along with all the snacks and appetizers during the day. Menu planning in this case works quite nicely for me.
Here's a few menu planning tips:
- keep it simple - This is the number one rule in menu planning, KISS. For example, bacon and eggs with toast and hashbrowns is simple enough for breakfast but a breakfast casserole is simpler.
- number of meals - Simply figure out how many breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners you need for that time period then decide upon a main dish for each meal and work from there.
- TNT - Stay with tried and true (tested) dishes. This isn't the time to fuss with a dish you've never made before.
- attention to detail - What really makes holiday meals is the extras like homemade condiments and garnishes. Chives, parsley, rosemary and citrus are easy garnishes so be sure to add them to your shopping list if necessary. Don't forget to add beverage specific garnishes (eg. pickle spears, olives, pineapple)
- beverages - Make sure you have plenty of mix and non-alcoholic beverages.
- snacks - Keep the snack trays to easy to prepare finger foods like fruits, vegetables and nuts.
- appetizers - As a guideline, plan on 3 to 4 appetizers per person unless the gathering is appetizers only then double that.
- shopping list - Create your shopping list from your menu plan. Buy only what is needed for that holiday menu plan plus $5 - $10 extra to restock the pantry.