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Make the most of small holiday celebrations with these meal-planning tips

Michelle Martin, for Busch’s Fresh Food Market
Learn how to downsize a traditional holiday meal without missing out on myriad flavors.

For many of us, the holidays will look different this year. Small gatherings of immediate family will take the place of larger parties, and holiday cheer instead may be shared over the phone or on a Zoom call.

And although favorite dishes and desserts brought to the table by relatives and friends might have to wait until next year, the holidays can still be merry and bright — and, most importantly, safe — with some creative meal planning.

Here are some ways to make the most of the intimate holiday meals and celebrations that many of us will be having this year — and how you can bring new tastes and traditions to the table.

Side dishes

Serving a variety of side dishes is an important part of any holiday meal — and you still can have them this year by making some easy adjustments.

Cut recipes in half, or even to a quarter, by adjusting the ingredients. If you’re planning for leftovers, make the full recipe — or, even better, package some of the sides in small, holiday-themed containers and drop them off to friends and relatives who couldn’t make it to dinner this year.

If you’d rather stay out of the kitchen, opt for pre-prepared side dishes at Busch’s Fresh Food Market. Tell them how many people you’ll be feeding and they’ll recommend how much you’ll need and how to reheat the sides.

With creative meal planning, you can make the most of an intimate holiday celebration.

Main entrees

If you’re only serving a few people, it doesn’t make sense to cook a large turkey — unless, of course, you plan to freeze it or use it in other recipes.

Choose a smaller turkey — 8 to 10 pounds — and save about one-third of the leftover meat for sandwiches during the week and use the rest to make turkey pot pie, turkey chili or turkey shepherd’s pie. Put the chili or pies into meal-prep containers and freeze them — they’re the perfect comfort food to heat up on a cold January night.

Instead of turkey, try cooking Cornish hens, which are about one to two pounds. Like turkeys, they can be stuffed — and best of all, they can cook in under 30 minutes.

Drink ideas

Many of us will miss sharing a toast with family and friends, but you still can do it virtually — after all, in no other year does “to your health” have greater meaning. Schedule a time to bring everyone together on a Zoom call and toast with a good bottle of wine or craft beer.

To make things more interactive, do a virtual wine tasting with friends and family, trying the same bottles of red or white. Busch’s team members can recommend the best wine pairings for your holiday meal. Or consider swapping cocktail ideas that you can make when you get on the call.

Desserts

Having too many leftover desserts isn’t necessarily a good thing. To avoid holiday weight gain, and have just what you need, make desserts and holiday cookies ahead of time and share some with family and friends.

Bake cakes and sweet breads in small loaf tins, and make brownies or candies in individual holiday-shaped molds.

Leaving a platter of holiday cookies on the porch of family and friends who can’t be with you this year will spread holiday joy. Or, to make it even more fun, ask family and friends to participate in a dessert exchange.

Having a variety of desserts at your small celebration will make the holidays seem more like past years — and it will give you new dessert ideas to look forward to in the coming years when everyone can be together again.

For more holiday meal ideas and recipes, visit www.buschslocal.com/home, or to order your Holiday meal from Busch’s, visit www.buschs.com/holidaydinners.

Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.
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