The crunch is on. Families are traveling, making last minute preparations for the big day. Weeknight dinners tend to be more an afterthought than at any time of year. Takeout is a popular option as so many of us spend after-work hours in malls and shopping centres. This week calls for recipes that are simple to make and/or can be taken to go on evenings occupied by Christmas concerts, parties and other festive events. Keep calm, carry on!

MONDAY

Free Meal Plan: Open-faced Sandwiches with Mushrooms, Onions and BaconThere’s no shame in grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. They’re easy to dress up though – try Jaime’s version with crisp bacon and caramelized onions for the grown-ups, paired with a bagged salad and bottle of wine.

Open-faced Sandwiches with Mushrooms, Onions and Bacon

Photo credit: Jaime of Sophistimom

TUESDAY

Free Meal Plan: Mini CalzonesMini Calzones – like homemade pizza pockets – are perfect to take with you to hockey practice or Christmas concerts – make them ahead and freeze, if you like, then bake and wrap in paper towels for kids to eat in the back seat. A great defence against the drive-thru!

Mini Calzones

Photo credit: Canola Info

WEDNESDAY

Free Meal Plan: Pizza MeatballsCheese-stuffed meatballs are a total hit with kids – and fun to assemble when you have little helpers that need to be kept busy in the kitchen one afternoon. Make extra and freeze some if you anticipate extra holiday visitors – especially the under-ten kind.

Pizza Meatballs

Photo credit: Amy of Family Feedbag

THURSDAY

Free Meal Plan: Monte Cristo SandwichesThat’s right, sandwiches again – but these will be welcome, stuffed with ham and melted cheese, dipped in egg and cooked French toast-style. Traditionally, a Monte Cristo is served dusted with snowy powdered sugar with jam alongside; a treat for kids beside themselves with excitement over the end of school and Christmas holidays.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

Photo credit: Brooke of Cheeky Kitchen

FRIDAY

Free Meal Plan: Creamy Carrot Orange SoupA smooth, sippable soup is simple to make in large batches and serve from an insulated to-go cup if need be; this carrot-orange version appeals to kids and delivers a healthy dose of beta-carotene. It makes a perfect pre-party filler, providing veggies and keeping your appetite at bay so you don’t arrive at the buffet ravenous. You can even sip it out of a cup on the bathroom sink as you get ready to go out.

Creamy Carrot Orange Soup