Thanksgiving is one of the most important food holidays of the year. A time when families can get together, enjoy a good meal, and give thanks. But for those who have to plan and cook the meals, it can also be a time of stress. What to make for dinner? Who to invite? How much to cook? Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be so stressful. A great way to eliminate all that stress is to plan ahead weeks in advance.
Plan out the guest list and menu. These two go hand and hand of course since you’ll need to know how much food to make depending on how many people will show up.
Figure out what recipes you want to use. It’s important to start off with a good recipe because you’ll need to know what ingredients you’ll need from the store.
Once you’ve picked out the recipes you’d like to try for Thanksgiving, make a list of all the things you’ll need. You might also want to inventory your pantry to check what you already have or are running low on, such as spices, herbs, flour, baking powder, etc.
Get started shopping early. Instead of waiting to do all of your holiday shopping at the last minute, when stores will be packed with holiday shoppers, dole out your shopping duties a couple of weeks ahead by buying decorations and frozen and durable goods.
You might also want to start thinking about holiday decor. Plan out how you want to decorate your dinner table, either by using decor you already have, such as table runners, vases, glasses, etc., or buying new items. Fresh flowers should be bought a day or two before Thanksgiving. Also clean and decorate your home a few days ahead of schedule as well.
Start cooking a few days ahead of Thanksgiving, such as hors d’ourves, pies, or other desserts that you can freeze; or side dishes like dressing (if you don’t plan on making stuffing), casseroles, or other dishes that you can prepare the day before. This will free up a lot of your time in the kitchen and allow you to spend the day with your family and friends. Also be sure to begin defrosting your turkey days ahead of Thanksgiving. Make sure you know the proper procedures on how to defrost safely without contaminating your food.
On the day of Thanksgiving, the only things left on your menu to cook is the turkey and other side dishes like mashed potatoes and gravy. Roasting hours for your turkey should depend on its size and when you anticipate guests to start arriving. You should give yourself at least an hour after your guests arrive to start serving dinner, so, if your turkey requires at the most three hours to roast, give yourself an extra half hour for it to rest before carving. That should give you five hours to prepare, roast your turkey, and host your guests. Reheat the hors d’oeuvres so that they are ready once your guests arrive. You can either prepare the rest of the side dishes while the turkey is roasting or wait until your turkey has an hour left to cook. After the turkey is finished, heat up the rest of the side dishes you made in advance and serve.
If you don’t have time to cook a whole Thanksgiving meal, then you might want to order out. Another way to create a stress-free Thanksgiving is to throw a potluck. Have family and friends bring their favorite dishes that can be served at a buffet.
Invite family and friends whose company you truly enjoy. What’s the point of enjoying Thanksgiving with people you dislike? But if you really have to invite Uncle Harry or cousin Andrea, then find seating arrangements that will defuse any combustible situation between guests. Alcohol can make highly testy situations at the dinner table even more explosive, so try serving alcohol-free drinks this year for Thanksgiving. It might not prevent arguments, but it’ll keep them from turning violent.
If you have kids, try making your holiday decor. Make your own table runners, hand paint tablecloths, or hand make seating decor using simple items around the house, like dead leaves or branches, or things you can easily find at the local crafts store. It’ll be fun for the kids and lend a simple, rustic touch to your dinner table.