Countdown to a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

The following post is from Shaina of Food for My Family and Olmanson Photography:

source: churl

Whether it’s your first time hosting Thanksgiving or you’re a seasoned veteran, it’s no secret that success is found through preparedness and organization.  The key is to start planning early so you have everything under control and don’t end up with a Griswold-like turkey dinner. Here is a list to get you started on what you should be considering getting done from now right up to Turkey Day.

2-3 Weeks Before:

  • Plan your menu and make a grocery list. Knowing what you’re eating and what you need to purchase will ensure that nothing is forgotten or ingredients aren’t missing when you go to whip together your sweet potato casserole.  It also allows you to watch for sales and clip coupons and watch for deals as you get closer to Turkey Day.
  • Test any new recipes. If you’re thinking of trying something new and different this Thanksgiving, consider giving it a test drive in your weekly menu now so you can avoid any last-minute kitchen mishaps.
  • Assign tasks to your guests. Maybe you’re a household that splits the cooking duties between the arriving guests so everyone brings a dish to share, potluck style.  Even if that’s not you, consider asking guests to take care of something that requires less effort like bringing a bottle of wine, apple cider or an appetizer.  They could also be responsible for bringing a favorite holiday movie or a board game to share.
  • Order your turkey. Whether you’re looking to buy fresh or frozen, don’t wait until the last minute.  Figure out what you want and where it’s coming from and get that one in the bag.

2-4 Days Before:

  • Thaw your turkey. Get your frozen turkey thawing in the fridge so that it’s ready to go when you need it.  Yes, it really will need all four days to thaw in the fridge.
  • Grocery shop. You can buy nonperishable items at any time, but check to see what’s left on your list and get it all so you aren’t fighting the last-minute crowds at the register.
  • Bake and cook anything you can in advance. Cranberry sauces, pie crusts, cheesecakes can all be made in advance and stored in the fridge.
  • Consider day-of storage options. Chances are you won’t have enough room in the fridge for all the food and beverages as they’re waiting to be placed on the table or popped in the oven.  Get your coolers ready and stock up on ice so that you have it on hand when you need it.

1 Day Before:

  • Prep your casseroles. Even if you aren’t planning on baking them until the day of, you can prepare most casseroles and store in the fridge uncooked until ready to bake.  If necessary, store toppings in a separate container.  When it’s time to bake, just pull them out, top and into the oven they go.
  • Bake pies and desserts. Get the major baking out of the way and off your plate long before it comes time to stuff the turkey.  It will free up much-needed space on the counter, the sink and in the dishwasher.
  • Create your cooking schedule. Look at what you have that needs to occupy the oven, at what temperatures and for how long.  Create a list that let’s you know when things need to be in and out so that they’ll all be ready to go on time.
  • Clean your house. Do all of the major cleaning the day before so you aren’t running around with a mop bucket and an oven mitt as you try to juggle cleaning and cooking at the same time.
  • Make breakfast for Thanksgiving. Have a do-ahead breakfast ready to go so that you aren’t making dishes and cooking on the morning of.  Consider baking a coffee cake or muffins and fruit.  You could even treat yourself to a breakfast out or visit the local bakery for fresh donuts.

Thanksgiving Day:

  • Roast your turkey. The centerpiece of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, give yourself plenty of time to prep the turkey and allow extra time at the end of the cooking time so you can carve and make gravy from the drippings.
  • Use your cooking schedule. The schedule you made will keep you from frantically trying to remember which casserole and dish needs to go into the oven when.  Keep it posted in a spot where it’s easy to refer to often.
  • Get rid of the kids. If you can, consider sending the kids out to a parade or to the park with your significant other to get them out of the house, leaving you to cook and do any final cleaning and organizing.
  • Enjoy the day. Remember that Thanksgiving is a day of gratitude and to give thanks for all that you have.
Shaina Olmanson is the freelance writer, photographer, and home cook behind Food for My Family. Cooking daily with and for her four kids and husband, Ole, drives her desire to inspire other families to do the same. Shaina is also the author of Desserts in Jars and contributes regularly to a variety of online sites and traditional print magazines.