It's the time of season when the days begin to fly by and you wonder just how you'll get everything done. It's unbelievable how much planning goes into a Thanksgiving meal and how quickly it can be eaten and forgotten. We're here with some guidance to help keep you organized and lessen the stress leading up to turkey day.
1. 3 weeks before Thanksgiving - figure out which recipes you'd like to include. You most likely have your favorites, but sometimes they are lengthy and tedious. Try to only incorporate a couple of complicated recipes. They'll be so many dishes to make and it can be difficult juggling them all. Also, figure out which dishes are cooked at the same temperature, so you can double up some cooking time. Think about what size turkey you'll need and place an order if needed. Remember that buying a fresh turkey will eliminate all that defrosting time needed for a frozen one and will also give you extra fridge room in the days leading up to the big dinner. Shop for any tools or serving pieces that you'll need. Also, plan for any special cocktails you'd like to serve. You can purchase liquor, wine and mixers now.
2. The weekend before - Clean out your fridge and freezer to make room for all the extra meal items. Time to make your shopping list. Go through your recipes one by one and add items to your list. You'll make a couple of more trips to the store, but you can get the bulk of the items needed now. This trip will be for more of the non-perishables, shelf stable/pantry items, baking ingredients and certain refrigerated foods like butter, whipping cream and others that you're able to get in advance. Then a couple of days before the meal you can buy all of your fresh produce items and other meats if needed. Plan your centerpiece. Order one if needed. You can also purchase turkey pieces and make a stock in advance so you'll be sure to have enough for gravy.
3. The Tuesday before the big day - time to make any of the chilled items that you'll be serving or cooking with. Think cranberry sauce, compound butters, and pies. Time to pick up your fresh produce and anything you may have forgotten on your first shopping trip. Hint: keep all of the shopping lists for checking back. Make sure you have enough bags and containers to pack up leftovers for you to keep and to send some home with guests.
4. Wednesday, Thanksgiving eve - Check all of those shopping lists again to see if you've missed anything. Pick up your fresh turkey and centerpiece. Prep as many vegetables as you can - chop celery and onions, clean and peel other vegetables. Put all in containers and refrigerate. This is a huge timesaver for Thanksgiving day. Make your stuffing (dressing) and put it in the dish you'll be baking it in and refrigerate. Make any desserts that you haven't gotten to yet. Set your table and check your salt and pepper shakers. Take out all of your serving pieces that you'd like to use and place a sticky note in each one stating which food you'll be using them for. This eliminates a lot of scrambling when it's time to get the food on the table.
5. Thanksgiving day - Most grocery stores are open half the day - think hard if there is anything you may have forgotten and delegate someone to make a run for you. Prepare and cook your side dishes while the turkey is roasting. Use the oven to cook those dishes after the turkey comes out and is resting. Make your gravy from the pan drippings and warm up dishes you've already made and had refrigerated.
6. The day after - think about how you'd like to use your leftovers. Soups and pot pies are ideal.