Christmas Menu Planning

Christmas meal planning evokes plenty of stories of stress and chaos! But by staying organised, a Christmas menu can actually be enjoyed by everyone – including the cook. The food will be ready on time and the cook won’t have to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of food or tied to the kitchen missing out on all the festivities.

Here are some tips that I’ve learned over time from the guru of Christmas food, my mum! She delivers a stress-free, precision-timed meal every time.

Start with a menu you can enjoy

If you want a relaxing Christmas, use recipes that you’re confident pulling off without too much stress. Christmas is not the time to decide you are secretly Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver and want to embrace your inner MasterChef. Simple, traditional Christmas recipes work for just about everyone.

Base your meal around one or two main dishes, depending on how many you’re feeding:

Or choose some BBQ/picnic favourites:

Add some side dishes:

Finish off the meal with a brilliant dessert:

And don’t forget a few tasty treats for between courses and present opening!

Don’t make Christmas harder than it needs to be

Buy frozen croissants and serve fresh fruit for breakfast, have a cold lunch that can be prepared the day before, and make up your salads in the morning. Make your Christmas cake or Chocolate pavlova or even Christmas pudding icecream in advance. Delegate! Share the load. Sit down, relax, enjoy your Christmas – a bit of forward planning, your lists and printables, and a few Christmas cocktails will see you right!

What to eat?

When doing your menu planning, think about the following:

  • Will you be eating at home or elsewhere?
  • If you’re eating outdoors consider dishes that are easy to package, serve and handle.
  • Will you be travelling with food? How will you contain it and keep it fresh?
  • What’s the weather usually like? Hot or cool? No one wants a full roast in a heatwave!
  • How much oven space will you need for hot menu items?
  • How many will you be catering for? Take into account dishes that others will bring.
  • Remember to include some simple/smaller options for younger kids

How to juggle fridge space at Christmas

The week leading up to Christmas puts your family on a mission: eat everything out of the fridge and freezer that’s not being consumed AT Christmas, thus freeing up fridge space. This saves you both space AND money – you aren’t throwing anything away!

  • If you’re entertaining lots of people, see if any of your friends, family, or neighbours either have a space in their fridge or a spare one you can borrow!
  • Frugal tip: Delegate some dishes to guests to bring that can be served on their arrival!
  • Don’t discount the trusty chilly bin; transfer all drinks to the chilly bin and buy some ice late on Christmas Eve. You can also clean out toy tubs to make for extra drink storage space.

Frugal tips to shop for Christmas food

  • Be absolutely thorough with your shopping list.  I follow my Mum’s rule to write out the menu, and then on another page write down all the ingredients needed, cross out what you have in stock, leaving the rest and eliminating that need to duck down to the supermarket for that essential missing ingredient.
  • On your list, mark down what you can buy ahead, such as dry goods and alcohol to cut down your shopping time during the crazy shopping period a few days prior to Christmas. Shop for the bare minimum on the last few days before Christmas Day – usually the fresh produce like fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, and dairy.

Money-saving tip

Buy pantry items like soft drinks, sweets, nibbles when on special in advance, stash away in your laundry or linen cupboard, out of sight and out of mind. It will save money shopping down the track because all those prices tend to hike up just before Christmas.

Written by Melissa Klemke with additional content by Kidspot NZ


  1. MuddledUpMolly 28/11/2017 at 11:29 am

    Ooh there are some great tips here! I think that this year we may give glazed ham a go, usually we have a cold ham which is delicious but it’s always nice to try new things.

  2. Bevik1971 28/11/2017 at 10:37 am

    Great tips! Fresh fruit etc is always hard – there is a local farmers market on Sat the 23rd of Dec so we will get all the fresh fruit and vege we need for Christmas Day then. I will probably bake a couple of cakes and freeze them anyway 🙂

  3. kymmage 27/11/2017 at 7:04 pm

    All fab tips! I have started buying some of the baking I know won’t go off ahead of time. Strawberries you have to be quick 23rd/24th to get any!! For prep I always peel my vegetables the day before and store them in salt water overnight.

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