To say the holidays are a busy time of year would be an understatement. Shopping, decorating, meal planning, baking, wrapping, cooking, entertaining… the list goes on. Add to that list your responsibilities as a caregiver and you can see how holiday meal planning can become a last minute thing.
That’s why it’s especially important for family caregivers to simplify their routine as much as possible this time of year. Simplifying everyday tasks, such as preparing meals, can make the holidays more manageable so you have time to enjoy the festivities!
Here are some ideas to help you with meal planning over the holidays:
Plan meals ahead of time
This advice cannot be said enough! Set aside some time every week to plan out your holiday meals. This is also a good time to take inventory of what you have in your fridge and pantry and make a grocery list. You can also find inspiration by checking the weekly flyers.
Even something like washing and chopping fruits and vegetables ahead of time can help make holiday meal time easier and leave you with ready-to-go snacks in the fridge.
If you’re entertaining guests over the holidays, prepping your holiday meals a day or two in advance can help to cut down on the stress of getting everything ready in the hours before your guests arrive. Think about what you plan on serving, and then think about what can you do a day or two in advance.
Here’s another time-saving holiday meal planning tip: Some stores extend their hours during the holiday season so you may want to do your grocery shopping in the morning or later in the evening. Grocery shopping during off-peak hours ensures that finding a parking spot will be easier, there are less people in the store, and that the checkout lines are shorter, which will help reduce your stress and increase productivity.
Make the most of leftovers
Cooking holiday meals in large batches will leave you with leftovers that can be eaten over the next few days. You can also freeze the leftovers in single serve portions for quick meals you just have to thaw and re-heat. You can find plenty of holiday leftover recipes online and having some pre-made meals in the freezer can be especially helpful on particularly hectic days.
Get help planning holiday meals
When you’re the one hosting over the holidays it can feel like it’s up to you to prepare everything from the dinner rolls to the dessert. Friends and family are often more than happy to pitch-in by bringing holiday dishes. Make your holiday event a potluck by asking everyone to bring one part of the meal.
Friends and family often appreciate when you let them know you need them — it’s okay to ask for help. Ask if they are able to put together a freezer-meal (or two) for you and the person in your care. In place of a gift, a prepared holiday meal is often much more appreciated.
Even if you’re not hosting over the holidays, as a family caregiver you may find it difficult to maintain a healthy meal schedule. This is a great opportunity to check out a meal delivery service, or, try out a local restaurant.
Cook or bake holiday meals together
Spending time in the kitchen with the person in your care can be an enjoyable part of your caregiving duties. It also allows the person in your care to feel as if they are contributing to the household and have a sense of control over the holiday meals they will be eating.
Preparing meals and holiday treats together gives you some time together doing something other than the typical caregiving tasks. It can also be a way to catch up with the person in your care while having fun and accomplishing a necessary task.
Document any dietary restrictions, preferences, or allergies of the person in your care. Keep this document up-to-date and readily available in your kitchen. It’s also a good idea to provide it to anyone you may be visiting over the holidays. Always be prepared when out visiting or shopping during the holidays with the person in your care. Carry some snacks and water with you so that you’re never left scrambling to find something the person in your care can eat or drink.
Many people, especially seniors, find comfort in routine. It is important that you try to maintain regular routines over the holiday season. This includes maintaining regular mealtime routines or preparing familiar dishes.
Entertaining and changes to regular mealtimes can be disruptive for the person you’re caring for. Although it’s a good idea to stick to familiar mealtime routines as much as possible, that’s not to say you can’t try new things or treat yourself and the person in your care to a holiday specialty.
The goal of holiday meal planning for caregivers is to make your life simpler, more organized, and full of healthy meal options for you and the person in your care. The holidays should be enjoyed and that includes enjoying good, healthy food. What are your favorite holiday recipes?