I am sharing my tips and schedule for a stress-free Thanksgiving. I love to host the Thanksgiving meal at my house, and I try to make it as stress-free as possible because I want to enjoy my day with my family. We have a big family and I like to serve a lot of food plus I like to have Thanksgiving leftovers. Since graduating from Culinary School, I have come up with some ways and a schedule to make preparing the Thanksgiving meal as easy as I can. You need to be organized to reduce the stress and I will show you how to accomplish this. I use this schedule anytime I cook for party or event.
I love holiday traditions and in our family, myself, my mother-in-law, and my mother each take a holiday to host at their home. My mother-in-law always host the Easter dinner. My mother host the Christmas dinner and I host the Thanksgiving dinner. We each help by bringing dishes to each house but usually the host ends up doing most of the work.
I feel like I got my money’s worth of Culinary School just by learning ways to serve meals faster and easier. I have hosted so many Thanksgivings at my home that I have developed a routine and it is pretty much stress-free for me.
This does not cover the turkey because everyone has different ways of cooking their turkey. I buy my turkey ahead of time and thaw it in the refrigerator as packaging suggest.
IMPORTANT TIP! You have to remember that you can only cook a few things at a time in your oven on Thanksgiving day. I have found that the most important thing is to not have too many dishes to prepare right before the guest arrive. For me, the only thing I make right before meal time is the mashed potatoes and heat the bread. I cannot do more than that or I will be stressed out. That is why I plan to serve several things that can be made ahead of time or in the crockpot and oven.
Two weeks before Thanksgiving
Organize your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator.
You do not have to spend hours doing this. Just take a few minutes to move things around so that you know what items you have at home. This will make preparing your grocery list so much easier. I hate getting to the grocery store and not knowing if I already have the item at home. If you are not sure, you may end up having to make another trip to the grocery store and that will cause you stress. Also, throw out all the food that is expired because you are going to need a lot of room in your refrigerator to keep your new grocery items.
Deep Clean your house.
I do not mean clean the kitchen floors or sink because your kitchen will need to be cleaned again after you cook. Two weeks before the meal, I clean the oven, the refrigerator shelves, wipe chairs and table, and clean my serving pieces, for example.
Thursday Before Thanksgiving
Plan your recipes and prepare your grocery list.
Find out what dishes your guest is bringing and think about what dishes you will be making. I rarely make a new recipe for Thanksgiving. If I do, I try to make it beforehand to make sure it turns out like I want it to. I look at my recipes and check to see if I already have the ingredients and write down the ingredients that I need to purchase.
I will even go through each recipe and mark steps of the recipe that I can do ahead of time. For example, if the recipe calls for chopped onion, I will make a note to do that on prep day (Monday). If the recipe says crushed crackers, I will do that on prep day and store it in a ziplock baggie.
Friday Before Thanksgiving
Grocery Shop for Items that will Keep (optional).
You do not have to do this but I have had grocery stores run out of items closer to Thanksgiving day. The grocery stores will be very crowded the weekend before Thanksgiving. I only purchase the items that will last at least a week. I purchase the drinks, paper goods, canned goods, cranberry sauce, crackers, soups, and other items that will keep. After I purchase the items, I check them off my list. Remember, you can use services like Walmart-to-go to make grocery shopping easier.
Saturday Before Thanksgiving
Bake and Freeze Cakes and Dishes That Will Freeze.
This is a huge stress-free tip! I used to make specialty cakes for income and I always received compliments on how moist the cakes were. The secret is to freeze your cakes. Trust me! When the cake thaws out, it will become very moist. We did this constantly in school. Even if I have time to make a cake the day before, I still bake it earlier, ice it, and freeze it. I never store my cakes in the refrigerator unless they have cream cheese icing. I pull my cakes out of the freezer the night before Thanksgiving. Tutorial on freezing and storing cakes.
Wash Table Linens.
Sunday Before Thanksgiving
Completely Set Table
Your family will have to find somewhere else to eat this week. We rarely eat in the den except for the week of Thanksgiving.
Monday Before Thanksgiving
I purchase the rest of my grocery list. I purchase milk, bread, vegetables, fruit, deli, and bakery items.
Tuesday Before Thanksgiving
Prep Your Food
Chop all your vegetables, nuts, cheese, and anything else that can be cut up ahead of time and store in an air-tight container or plastic bag. You will also see here if you have forgotten to purchase anything and run back to the store if needed.
Wednesday Before Thanksgiving
I make my pies, desserts, casseroles. I will also make my congealed salads, slaws and anything that can be prepared and refrigerated.
I will put together my casseroles and store them in the refrigerator overnight. I do not cook the dish until the next day. This should be easy for you because you already have all of your ingredients prepped, chopped, and ready to add to your recipe. If the casserole calls for a bread or cracker topping, I do not add it until right before baking.
Run around frantically throwing things in closets. I am just kidding. Hopefully, you will have most of the work done and you can enjoy your holiday. I usually take my shower and get ready first thing after waking up. I start baking my casseroles and I prepare the mashed potatoes. Thirty minutes before mealtime, I pull the salads and anything that is ready out of the refrigerator. We usually smoke our turkey in our electric smoker but if it is going to be cooked in the oven, I start it very early that morning. Also, remember food safety rules .
I would love to know if you have any tips for Thanksgiving that I can add to this list. Happy Stress-Free Thanksgiving! Enjoy for family and friends!
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