A Blueprint for Easy December Dinners

Container of single serving of meal prep
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Start with an already busy schedule, add a dash of holiday bustle, and a sprinkling of seasonal festivities and you have a December calendar with less time for your usual daily tasks, like preparing dinner. If you need a simple way to plan for the non-holiday dinners that you’ll be eating this month, we have you covered. The blueprint includes making the best use of cook-once, eat-twice recipes, creative use of leftovers, and suggestions for preparing meals with less effort.

Cook Once, Eat Twice

Avoid cooking every night with these family-friendly recipes that yield several servings of easy dinners. Two nights of cooking, four meals:

Eggroll Bowls
Egg Roll Bowls – 2 Guiding Stars

Meal #1

Prepare this recipe for Egg Roll Bowls, which hold up well and makes great leftovers. When I make this dish, I typically use only a full pound of 93% lean ground turkey, as it’s convenient to purchase in this quantity. While browning meat, add an additional pound of turkey to save for meal #2.

Quick Black Bean Mexican Soup
Quick Black Bean Mexican Soup – 3 Guiding Stars

Meal #2

Add cooked ground turkey to this simple, but delicious Quick Black Bean Mexican Soup to boost the protein content and yield heartier servings. With the extra protein, you’re likely to have leftovers on hand for a second meal. This soup comes together so quickly, so if you use a slow cooker, you can likely prep it before a busy day and return home to a warm meal.

Nextover Magic

Nextover dinners are made from parts of another meal, brought together as a new dish. We have several helpful posts devoted to these “intentional leftovers” that highlight how helpful they are for making easy dinner meals happen with less effort. Nextovers have gotten me through many time-crunched weeks and can become a meal prep “bestie” for you too. A “nextover” week could look something like the below, and we have lots more nextover concepts to explore.


Panko breaded, thinly sliced chicken baked in the oven along with sheet pans of roasted mini potatoes, broccoli, and peppers (make more than you need of everything), and a side salad (prep extra veggies for convenience, school lunches etc.).

Nextover #1

Turn that simple panko chicken into an Asian-inspired rice bowl with optional toppings like thinly sliced daikon radish, scallions, and a drizzle of the sauce used in this recipe.

Nextover #2

Make pizza topped with roasted broccoli and peppers and prepped fresh veggies on the side.

Make-ahead Easy Dinners

If December has you feeling like the greatest gift you can give yourself is a night off from cooking, then make-ahead meals might top your holiday wish list. A few make-ahead meal strategies:

  1. Pick a day you can be home to prep and cook.
  2. You picked the day, now make the most use of it with one pot meals and casseroles that are easy to divide, freeze, and reheat when you’re ready. Select recipes with some overlapping ingredients to save time.
  3. Package and clearly label foods for the freezer, with the reheating instructions written on them so that other members of your household can simply follow them to get dinner on the table .

Better-For-You Convenience

Finally, making meals with less effort begins by shopping for foods in a more simple way. Luckily, you’ve got Guiding Stars to help you find nutritious foods faster so that you can get back to savoring the holiday season. Pick up Guiding Stars earning microwave grain pouches, sauces, frozen foods, and packaged products that help you cut corners without compromising on nutrition.

Check out these other posts for more content on meal prepping and planning during busy times: