What are you bringing to Thanksgiving dinner? Do you stay home or gather somewhere with family and friends? Is your gathering large or small? Do you prepare the whole meal or is it pitch-in style? Do you eat early around lunch or closer to dinner time? So many questions and so many possible answers. Regardless of what you do, we have some tips to help relieve some of your holiday cooking stresses. There are many guides out there on how to prepare Thanksgiving dinner months to many weeks in advance. We put together a list of what we feel is a little more realistic for us. It falls within the 1-2 week range.
First things first. Get your menu together and coordinate with all family members and friends who will be celebrating with you. Figure out what everyone is planning to bring to ensure there are no duplicates, yet everything you want!
If you’re like our family, then you have loved ones who bring the same food every year, because everyone loves it. They are the real MVPs of the day. Double check on them and make sure they are still planning to keep with tradition. You may think they wouldn’t dare stray away from tradition, but sadly we have been victims of this. We have an upcoming blog about our family Thanksgiving menu and traditions, where we share about our aunt who sometimes likes to abort the mission. It can happen to your family too (LOL). Make those calls!
Need recipes for your next gathering? Check out our seasonal line of cookbooks!
A Clean Refrigerator and Freezer
We believe that before you make your grocery list and go shopping, you should clean out your refrigerator and your freezer. Cleaning out your refrigerator and freezer gives you space to store pre-prepped food, while readying space for all your leftovers. In our opinion, cooking in a clean kitchen automatically brightens the vibe. You'll want to get this done in advance so you’re not cleaning the same day you have to cook. Then, you only have one cleanup session that day rather than two.
Cleaning can also help you save money. You can take inventory of what you already have and won’t spend money on accidentally duplicating ingredients. Haven’t we all been in the store debating on if we need to replenish something and end up making the wrong choice? Then, we’re left to suffer the consequences of not buying it and needing it, or we buy it when we already have it. Save money and save stress by cleaning and organizing.
Start making your grocery list at least 1-2 weeks in advance. There are some ingredients that you should think about buying ahead of time. Food items like pie crust, specialty milks (like buttermilk), sour cream, cream cheese, and frozen potatoes (especially potatoes O'Brien) are sometimes at a shortage the closer to the holidays we get. If those are staples for you, get those as early as you can. While we love a pick-up order, we wouldn't rely on this method for scoring our holiday cooking necessities! Getting all the way home and realizing they gave you broken pie crusts would be a disaster.
There may not be a shortage of turkeys or other meats, but if you want the best pick of size and price, then get them early. You don’t want to be stuck paying for a massive turkey or ham when you only need to feed a few people. Or, cooking multiple small birds to feed the masses.
While food will rightfully consume your mind, here are some none food items that can often be forgotten from the list. It comes in handy to have extra storage bags, freezer bags, foil, throw away containers, and disposable pans for cooking!
Prepping & Cooking
What can you prepare ahead of the best feasting day of the year? Depending on your menu, most people will be able to make everything ahead of Thursday, BUT we don’t recommend being that much of an overachiever. Some dishes just taste better when made the day of your dinner.
You can make things like pie crusts, pies, cakes, and sauces months ahead and store in the freezer. You’ll just unthaw them 1-2 days in the refrigerator and re-heat before serving. If you freeze custard pies, don’t reheat those in the oven. Serve those at room temp.
Or you can store baked goods and home made sauces in the refrigerator up to 3 days!
You can also chop veggies and fruits ahead of time and store these in your refrigerator for approximately 3 days. Just remember to wrap or cover them well and keep potatoes covered with fresh water.
On Thanksgiving you’ll want to cook your meats, mashed potatoes, bread, macaroni and cheese, dressing (stuffing) and other side items. You can prep your mashed potato ingredients, but warm buttery mashed potatoes taste best when prepared the day of. Same with sides like mac n' cheese, green bean casserole and sweet potato soufflé, assemble these the day before and bake off the day of. Truthfully, they can be prepared a couple days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until it's baking time. When it comes to mac n' cheese, yes you can do your noodles and cheese mixture and have it ready to go in a pan 1-2 days out and bake it on Thanksgiving.
We suggest starting Thanksgiving morning with the items that take the longest to cook, like a roasted turkey or baked ham. If you didn't prepare your desserts in advance, go ahead and tackle those next. Especially any that need refrigeration time. Next, move on to assembling your casseroles (if you haven't already) and bake these as close to dinner time as possible. While your oven is full, go ahead and make appetizers so those are ready when guests arrive and prep any quick sides like salads. Lastly, if you serve wine, it may be time to chill your white wines and let your red wines breathe on the counter.
Almost as important as the meal on Thanksgiving, are leftovers. If you can, prepare enough for guests to take some leftovers with them. Those extra storage bags and foil will come in handy here!
Last, but not least, is there anyone you can invite to your dinner? Maybe your elderly neighbors who can’t cook a big meal anymore or someone who doesn’t have family nearby to celebrate with. There could be a co-worker estranged from their family who would love to spend extra time with you. Perhaps, a community member you’ve come to know would be thankful for an invite to your gathering. If it’s on your heart to bless someone, we want to encourage you to do so. We’ve learned when you’re looking to bless someone, you usually end up being blessed by their presence just as much as they're blessed by yours.
We are so thankful to God for our family and friends that we will get to share the day with and we thank God for all of you! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Not sure what to make or bring? We have several free recipes on our blog that we think you will love! Check it out here: Yellow House Vibes Free Recipes
Our cookbooks make great holiday and hosting gifts, check them out by clicking the link below!
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