Thanksgiving is meant to be a time of being thankful and enjoying the company of family and friends – not a day of stress and pulling your hair out! However, if you’re in charge of cooking for the big day, you probably identify more with stress than relaxation. Luckily with these handy Thanksgiving tips, you can be organized, stress free and enjoy the day with everyone else.
10 Tips to Keep Your Thanksgiving Organized and Stress Free:
1. Make Lists – I love lists and they help me stay on task and organized on a daily basis. For Thanksgiving I make several lists. I start by listing out my menu. Then I make sure of what recipes I want to use. I then make another list of ingredients I’ll need to use (you’ll see why below). Then I go through my panty and make another list of ingredients I actually need to buy. Lastly I list out how long the recipes will take and order them so that dishes can all be ready together. I make special notes of the recipes or parts of recipes I can prepare a day or 2 early so I have as little as possible to do on Thanksgiving itself. Also be sure to have a list of any food allergies your family and friends may have.
2. Shop Early and Purchase Extra – This is likely a no-brainer for everyone, but I always make sure to shop a few days before Thanksgiving to get everything I need and buy just a bit more than I think I will need. For example, buying a couple extra cans of green beans incase I burn the first batch while taking care of everything else as most stores are closed or close early on Thanksgiving. Plus, this lets you beat the mad rush of people shopping at the last minute and also ensures what you need won’t be out of stock. Turkey deals are usually the best the week before or of Thanksgiving, but many other items you may use are at the same sale price a couple weeks before.
3. Pull Out and Sort Ingredients You’ll Be Using – Nothing puts me behind more on Thanksgiving than searching for things, so I like to take a few minutes and pull out all the ingredients I’ll be using to cook with. All refridgerated items will need to stay in the fridge, of course, but you can dedicate a couple shelves to things that will be used on the day so you know where they will be instead of hidden in a drawer at the bottom. I leave spices and dry goods out on a spare table or countertop so everything is in one place so I don’t have to run around the kitchen and pantry like a chicken with its head cut off. 😉 This is also a great time to make sure all your spices, etc. are still good instead of finding out at the last minute you need fresh items.
4. Bring Out Your Serving Dishes the Night Before – This may sound odd, but I actually find that pulling out the serving dishes the night before and sorting them actually makes Thanksgiving less stressful. I’ve totally wasted precious time in the past searching for a dish that I could have sworn was in a certain cabinet or using a dish that was meant for a side for prep and scrambling to find another, etc.
5. Do As Much Prepwork as You Can the Day(s) Before – Many dishes can be made the day or two before the big day like side dishes, breads, pies and other desserts. All you have to do is reheat for a few minutes before the rest of the meal is ready, if needed. Others can be pre-made up to the point of cooking, like stuffing. You can also chop up all your veggies and put them into a container in the fridge (like for stuffing or salads).
6. Set the Table the Day Before – Unless you have small kids or pets that may disturb the table, or have the luxury of awesome guests that arrive early to help out, setting the table the day before can be a huge time saver. This is also a great way to make sure you have enough dishes, silverware, etc. for the amount of guests you have.
7. Get Your House Ready a Few Days Early – Tidy up your house a bit, if needed. Perhaps buy some scented candles to help everyone be in the holiday mood. Have any decorations put out or ordered. Order any trays you may need for appetizers while cooking. Be sure you have plenty of clean linens and dishes for the day, as well as tables and chairs.
8. Be Prepared to Keep Dishes Warm – We can’t always time things perfectly as the turkey may get done early or need a few more minutes than expected, etc. Plan on how you can keep dishes warm in the mean time. Here are some basic tips:
- Use toaster ovens to keep smaller items warm, like casseroles
- If you have an extra oven, keep it on the lowest or warm setting so you can put in items to stay hot
- Keep the turkey warm while sitting (which is a good idea anyway so the juices can redistribute so your bird won’t be dry) by wrapping with foil and covering with a thick towel that you just ran through the dryer
- Use slow cookers to keep items like dressing, mashed potatoes, etc. warm
- Warm up platters in a low oven or warming drawer to help food stay hot longer
- Place bowls over ice to keep items colder longer, or over dishes filled with hot water to stay hot – just remember that glass can shatter with sudden temperature changes