Organized is not a word I would use to describe myself – neither is “Type A”. However, a few years ago when I was preparing to host my first ever holiday meal, Thanksgiving dinner for 9 people, I became very organized and “Type A”-ish in my planning and preparation. I knew from past experiences that I can easily get overwhelmed and if I didn’t have a well thought out plan, I and my eight guests would either be eating Thanksgiving dinner at 7 PM or not at all.
I learned a great deal about the many benefits of planning ahead that first Thanksgiving and I’ve put what I’ve learned to good use every Thanksgiving since then.
It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is now less than three weeks away. Now is the time to get planning in order to have a fabulous, minimally stressful Thanksgiving dinner. Here are my top five tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving.
- Make room in your pantry and fridge now – I use this time of year to go through items in my pantry and fridge and toss out things like opened 1/2 boxes of stale crackers, old spices and expired condiments in the fridge. I enjoy this yearly clear out. Not only am I making room for the onslaught of food that accompanies Thanksgiving but I know that I don’t have relish, mustard, etc. that are years old in my fridge.
- Delegate – You should not have to, nor be expected to, cook the entire feast. Delegate appetizers and desserts to friends and family members. I have a brother in his mid-twenties who lives alone. Even with his minimal cooking skills and sparsely equipped kitchen I found a dish to delegate to him – pumpkin pie! I gave him the Eagle Brand Perfect Pumpkin Pie recipe which is a very simple recipe that even a bachelor in his twenties can handle!Also, on the day of Thanksgiving, if anyone stayed in my kitchen for more than 45 seconds, they were immediately given a job to do (refill the ice bucket, bring these chairs into the dining room, set this on the table, take out the garbage, etc. etc.). It worked great to keep people from hovering and being in my way and things were getting accomplished too. I highly recommend this method.
- Use your slow cooker– Better yet, use two of them! There are plenty of recipes out there that can be made in a slow cooker on Thanksgiving. This saves valuable stovetop and oven space. If you don’t have a Crockpot or slow cook (or two) then borrow one from a friend or family member. Every year I make Sweet Potato Casserole in the slow cooker (and I always double the topping listed in the recipe). I’ve also made this Slow Cooker Stuffing recipe in the past and it turned out very well.
- Make items ahead of time – Not everything needs to be made the day of Thanksgiving. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, make some of your dishes ahead of time. If you are unable to make a dish ahead of time, at least do some of the prep work such as chopping and measuring ahead of time.
If you didn’t delegate your pumpkin pies to your bachelor brother then you can make the pies a couple of days before Thanksgiving (if your household is anything like mine, you may find you have to threaten bodily harm to anyone that dares eat them before the big day!). Here is a great mashed potato recipe that you can make several days in advance. One reviewer of this recipe wrote that she made these mashed potatoes the Monday before Thanksgiving and reheated them in a slow cooker Thanksgiving day. I think I am going to try that this year! Last year I tried a new stuffing recipe (Sausage, Dried Cranberry and Apple Stuffing) that can be made two days ahead. It turned out very well! Both my dad and grandfather are picky eaters. My dad was watching me make the stuffing and he wasn’t so sure he’d like it but he didn’t say anything at the time. It turned out so delicious that both he and my grandfather had second helpings!
- Have a detailed schedule for the day – This is where I become “Type A”-ish. Three years ago, I found a great “Holiday Dinner Timeline” from http://foodieview.com. I adjusted the timeline to break everything down into 15 minute intervals and by oven, Crockpot #1, Crockpot #2, Stovetop Burner #1, and Stovetop Burner #2. Yes it is extremely detailed but it helps me avoid having a meltdown the day of. Here is my timeline from last year: Thanksgiving Day Timeline
Thanks to The Graphics Fairy for the image used at the beginning of this post!