Fun and Festive December Meal Ideas

This post may contain affiliate links. See full disclosure here.

Fun and festive, along with easy and budget-friendly,  is on the menu for December!

December Meal Plan

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, it’s the hap-happiest season of all. They’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for roasting, and caroling out in the snow. Okay, maybe when Andy Williams sang this roasting marshmallows was a Christmas-time thing, but it’s not a tradition at my home. Is it for you?

I do have to admit, I kind of love the idea of a snowy-day bonfire. Maybe it could be combined with one of the “parties for hosting.” 🙂

After a hearty Thanksgiving dinner, the first several days of the month feature lighter, inexpensive fare. We’ll utilize the broth made from the turkey carcass (it keeps well at the back of the fridge for at least a week, or move it to the freezer for longer storage).

In the third week, we’ll reach into the freezer for the stashed turkey from the Thanksgiving feast. Christmas Eve, Christmas Dinner, and New Year’s Eve all feature delicious and festive treats without breaking the bank.

Featured proteins: Turkey leftover from Thanksgiving, eggs, canned salmon, 3 chicken thighs (or breast), a whole chicken, 3 1/2 pounds ground beef (or your favorite ground meat), flank steak, bacon, beef roast for Christmas (a semi-inexpensive rump, chuck, or shoulder roast becomes a wonderful centerpiece with a little extra pre-cooking treatment). This menu assumes you’ll add additional produce based on what is fresh and in season (affordable) for you.

This menu serves four or five average eaters. You can make needed adjustments based on your family size and personal desires. And also, these meals build off of each other. Please refer to November Menu Ideas for meals in Week 1. This plan features whole, real, and traditional foods. Foods are often (but not always) fermented, cultured, soaked, sprouted, or soured.

Don’t have a sourdough starter? Learn how to catch a wild starter. Be sure to scroll down to find a To-Do List and Notes. You’ll find valuable information in this section!

 

Week 1

Sunday: Savory Custard 
Monday: Mujadareh (Read more about this in the To-Do List and Notes)
Tuesday: Creamed Onion with Thyme and Sage (use broth from Thanksgiving turkey)
Wednesday: Garam Marsala Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk (Read more about this in the To-Do List and Notes)
Thursday: Salmon Cakes with Homemade Lemon Mayonnaise
Friday: Sprouted Lentil Tacos (even my meat-loving husband enjoys these tacos!)
Saturday: Tom Kha Gai

Week 2

Sunday: Crockpot Chicken, potatoes, carrots, celery, onion
Monday: Easy Black Beans and Yellow Rice (Read more about this in the To-Do List and Notes)
Tuesday: Chicken Stir-Fry
Wednesday: Chicken and Black Bean Bowls (Read more about this in the To-Do List and Notes)
Thursday: West African Beef
Friday: Creamy Black Bean Soup, savory muffins
Saturday: Black bean and Cheese Quesadillas (Read more about this in the To-Do List and Notes)

 

Week 3

Sunday: Red Beans: Rajma Style
Monday: Turkey tetrazzini (from Thanksgiving turkey stashed in the freezer. Use this recipe subbing homemade mushroom soup)
Tuesday: Beef and Bean Enchilada Casserole
Wednesday: Spanish Omelet
Thursday: Main Dish Salad (Read more about this in the To-Do List and Notes)
Friday: Southwestern Haystacks (Read more about this in the To-Do List and Notes)
Saturday: German Pancake with this buttermilk syrup

Week 4

Sunday: Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Monday: Barley Soup, soaked buttermilk biscuits
Tuesday (Christmas Eve): Appetizer Buffet! (Read more about this in the To-Do List and Notes)
Wednesday (Christmas): Marinated Roast Beef, mashed potatoes, buttered carrots, Yorkshire pudding popovers (here’s a keto version which looks promising), and gravy.
Thursday: Instant Pot Mediterranean Spinach Feta Pie
Friday: Almost Take Out! Egg Flower Soup and Fried Rice
Saturday: Curry Lo Mein Style Dinner (See notes for budget-friendly option)

Week 5 (Partial Week)

Sunday: Breakfast for Dinner: Farmer Boy Pancakes
Monday:  Eggs in Marinara
Tuesday (New Year’s Eve): Loaded Baked Potato Soup, No-Knead Emergency Bread

To-Do List and Notes

 

Week 1

Sunday:

No advance prep needed for tonight’s meal.

Put five cups (two pounds) of lentils on to soak for this week’s Stretchy Bean.

Monday:

This week’s Stretchy Bean is lentils. Instead of cooking a big pot of lentils, I prefer to sprout a big container. I find sprouting lentils results in a much nicer consistency as opposed to cooking and reheating. Early in the morning, drain and rinse the lentils in a colander, after soaking overnight. Put the colander on a plate and cover with a towel (to keep out dust and such).  Soak 1 cup brown rice for tonight’s Mujadareh.

About an hour before you wish to eat, take out 6 cups of lentils for tonight’s meal. Rinse the remaining lentils, put on a plate, and cover with a towel so they will continue to sprout. Follow the instructions in this post for making Mujadareh.

Tuesday:

Rinse your lentil sprouts both morning and evening. No advance prep needed for supper.

Wednesday:

In the morning,  soak 1 cup brown rice for tonight’s Garam Marsala Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk. Rinse the lentils.

About an hour before supper, drain the rice and take 1 1/2 cups of sprouted lentils from your container. Rinse the remaining lentils and continue to sprout. Follow instructions in this recipe, subbing the soaked rice and sprouted lentils as appropriate. I often use 4 cups broth and 4 cups water in place of the 8 cups water.

Thursday:

No advance prep needed.

Friday:

In the morning, rinse the lentils. If you’d like to make your own sourdough tortillas for tonight’s lentil tacos, this recipe is my favorite.

If you still have lentils leftover after making the taco filling, freeze for future soups or Sprouted Lentil Burgers.

Saturday:

No advance prep needed. I’ve made this soup several times, but have yet to use the lemongrass stalks, galangal, or kaffir lime leaves. I’m sure it would be even better with these things, but I can’t find them where I live! So instead, I add a splash of lime juice at the end and serve with lime wedges. Still delicious! I also use regular mushrooms instead of oyster and red pepper flakes (about 1/2 tsp.) instead of bird’s eye chili.

Week 2

Sunday:

Cook a whole chicken in the crockpot with potatoes, carrots, celery, and onion.  Serve a little under half tonight along with the vegetables. Divide the remaining bird in half and refrigerate in glassware for future meals. Save any accumulated stock in a mason jar.

If you have two crockpots, put the bones back in to make broth. Or start one batch of broth tonight (which you can use to cook tomorrow’s beans), then save the bones in the refrigerator while you cook tomorrow’s beans in the crockpot. Afterward, make a second (and third!) batch of broth.

The broth will keep in a mason jar in the back of the fridge for at least a week. You’ll need broth for Tuesday’s stir-fry, Wednesday’s bowls, cooking beans and soup later in the month. Freeze for longer storage. TIP: Freeze in ice cube trays then move to a baggie for instant broth as needed.

Alternatively, you could cook the beans on the stovetop. Put five cups (two pounds) of  black beans on to soak.

Monday:

Black beans are this week’s featured Stretchy Bean. Drain off the soaking water and rinse the beans. Start in the crockpot (on low) about 6 and a half hours (or in the morning before you leave for work) before supper. I love cooking beans in broth to increase the nutrition. Broth acts as a protein sparer, helping to stretch a small amount of meat into a complete meal. You’ll use about 3 cups of cooked beans in tonight’s dinner. Divide the remaining beans as follows: 3 cups beans and (a little) broth for Wednesday, 2 cups beans only (no or little broth) for Saturday, the rest (lots of broth and some beans) for Friday.

Tonight’s dinner: Easy Black Beans with Yellow Rice, use this recipe, substituting cooked beans for canned. Use a traditional fat (tallow, lard, butter, coconut oil) in place of vegetable oil.

Tuesday:

If using brown rice for the West African Beef, you may wish to soak early in the day, then cook in your Instant Pot for a speedy dish.

Wednesday:

If using brown rice for the Chicken and Black Bean Bowls, you may wish to soak early in the day, then cook in your Instant Pot for a speedy dish.

Chicken and Black Bean Bowls is adapted from a recipe at Traditional Cooking School.

  • 4 cups cooked black beans with broth (saved from Monday), divided
  • 1 cup of broth (can use water) to desired consistency
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (additional to taste)
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional, but recommended)

Combine 2 cups of beans plus remaining ingredients in a saucepan over low heat.
Mash with potato masher until smooth. Add remaining 2 cups beans and mash a little more. How chunky would you like it?
To serve, put rice in the bottom of each person’s bowl. Top with a scoop or two of seasoned black beans, chicken chunks (leftover from Sunday) and choice of toppings, such as diced onions, sliced olives, diced avocado, shredded cheese, cilantro, sour cream, salsa, etc.

Thursday:

If using brown rice for the West African Beef, you may wish to soak early in the day, then cook in your Instant Pot for a speedy dish.

Friday:

Put muffin batter to soak early in the day.

Saturday:

No advance preparation is needed unless you’d like to make your own sourdough or soaked whole wheat tortillas.

The Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas are so, so quick and easy. Mash or puree the beans (you may have already done this earlier in the week). Spread a generous bean layer on the tortilla, sprinkle with shredded cheese (to your own taste) and top with a second tortilla. Grill in a hot cast iron skillet (I like to add a little butter so the tortilla crisps nicely) until the first side is lightly brown. Carefully flip and repeat with second side. If desired, you can add thinly shredded meat to the pureed beans and cheese before grilling. Yum!

After dinner, put five cups (about two pounds) of red beans (sometimes called kidney beans, large or small size okay) on to soak.

Week 3

Sunday:

Again, I love cooking the beans in broth to increase nutrition. Broth acts as a protein sparer, helping to stretch a small amount of meat into a complete meal. If using your crockpot, start the beans in the morning and let them simmer all day. Allow 45 minutes to an hour to prepare the Rajma. When the beans are finished, portion out 3 cups for tonight’s Rajma, 3 cups for Tuesday, 1 cup for Thursday (optional), 1 1/2 cup for Friday. Any leftover beans can be frozen for future use.

If making sourdough flatbread, start early in the morning when you put the beans on. Here’s a delicious yeast-based recipe for naan you can start a few hours before supper.

Use 1/2 pound of ground beef (or your favorite ground meat) for tonight’s supper. Save the other 1/2 pound for Tuesday.

Monday:

No advance prep needed.

Tuesday:

No advance preparation is needed unless you’d like to make your own sourdough or soaked whole wheat tortillas.

Wednesday:

No advance prep needed.

Thursday:

Even when the temps are dropping, a nice big salad hits the spot! We scour the fridge and freezer for bits of meat and veggies to top the salad. I cut all of the fresh vegetables, cooked meats, beans (use 1 cup from Sunday) or legumes, and cheeses and put them on a large cutting board, which then becomes the serving board. If I don’t have any cooked meats lurking in the fridge, I’ll hard boil some eggs and/or mix up salmon or tuna salad (from a can).

We’ll add small bowls of shredded cheese, olives, sunflower seeds, peanuts, etc. Then, everyone fills their plate with salad greens and whatever toppings he or she wants. Finish it off with a homemade dressing and maybe a nice crusty bread. It is so good!

Friday:

Visit this post for instructions for making Southwestern Haystacks.

Saturday:

No advance prep needed.

Week 4

Sunday:

If using brown rice as a base for the sweet and sour, you may wish to soak it early in the day, then cook it in your Instant Pot for a speedy dish.

Monday:

Start the biscuits early in the day. The batter needs to soak to increase digestibility.

This makes a very generous portion of soup. You’ll have plenty of leftovers for lunches.

Tuesday:

This is definitely a fun and festive meal! Make your favorite (easy) appetizers and snacks then set out buffet style. We often add a large green salad to help round out the meal.

Suggested appetizers and snacks:

Wednesday:

Merry Christmas! Put the roast beef on to marinate early, it needs at least 4 hours. This menu is fairly simple, so you can spend more time visiting and less time cooking.

Thursday:

You’ll love this egg dish! If your budget won’t stretch to allow feta, you can substitute cheddar cheese with excellent results. I use 1 cup of cheddar (in place of the 1 1/2 cups of feta). If you don’t have an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, this can also be baked in the oven. Use the instructions in my custard recipe for how to bake.

Do you have chicken broth left from earlier in the month? Or maybe broth stashed in the freezer? Take it out for tomorrow night’s dinner. No leftover broth? You can make a simple vegetable broth using vegetable scraps (ends of onions, celery, potato skins, carrot skins, etc. and (washed) eggshells. Put everything in a stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Skim as needed. Then lower to a simmer and cook for 2 hours. Strain out veggies and eggshells. I’ve done this many times when money is short. It works!

Friday:

You’ll need rice for tonight’s dinner. If using brown rice, you may wish to soak early in the day, then cook in your Instant Pot for a speedy dish. Allow a little time to cool so the rice is easier to handle. No other advance prep needed.

 

Saturday:

If your budget is stretched to the max, omit the flank steak in the Curry Lo Mein Style Dinner and replace it with 2 or 3 eggs (notes at the bottom of the recipe).

Week 5 (Partial Week)

Sunday:

No advance prep needed. Don’t have a sourdough starter? Use your favorite pancake recipe. Learn how to make a sourdough starter here.

If you are serving tomorrow night’s egg dish over polenta, you’ll want to begin the soaking process.

Monday:

Unless using polenta, which should have been put to soak yesterday, no advance preparation is needed.

Tuesday:

When I was a young child, we lived with my grandpa. Every year for New Year’s Eve, we’d have two soups. A potato soup (my mom’s favorite) and oyster stew (my grandpa’s favorite). Even after all these years, potato soup is still a festive occasion meal for me! Pair it with homemade bread slathered in butter. Oh, my!

Looking for more menu ideas? Check out the meal plan archives here.

Traveling for the holidays?

Love the idea of eating real food on the road but don’t want to be chained to the stove while on vacation?

Real Food Hits the Road will be your guide to saving the budget, keeping your digestion working well and enjoying real food away from home while letting you enjoy the trip and not “cook” all of the time.

Real Food Hits the Road is not just a cookbook, it is a tutorial in making real food simple and enjoyable while away from home. Many of the recipes and concepts are based on teachings from the Weston A. Price Foundation and encourage traditional preparation methods, while keeping things as simple as possible. Click here to learn more.

Millie Copper
Millie Copper is a Wyoming wife and mama. After reading Nourishing Traditions in early 2009, her family began transforming their diet to whole, unprocessed, nutrient dense foods—a little at a time while stretching their food dollars. Millie is passionate to share how, with a little creativity, anyone can transition to a real foods diet without overwhelming their food budget. Millie began blogging in late 2009 and has amassed a collection of frugal recipes and methods. Her specialties include cooking with wild game and creating “Stretchy Beans”. Discovering a love of writing, she has penned four books focusing on healthy eating on a budget and is trying her hand at fiction writing. Learn more at MillieCopper.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *