Thanksgiving may be a few weeks away, but you can start preparing the feast now to ensure an enjoyable and stress-free holiday.
COUNT YOUR GUESTS
When planning a big meal, it’s important to know how many people you’ll be feeding. Confirm that the usual suspects will indeed be joining you, and consider any extras that may show up last minute. Make sure there’s enough food to go around, even if Uncle Jim unexpectedly brings his new girlfriend. While verifying a guest’s presence, be sure to ask about food allergies to prevent a holiday hospital trip.
RESERVE YOUR TURKEY
Once you know the number of guests, you can estimate the size of the bird. Allow roughly one pound per person (or one and a half if you want plenty of leftovers), For peace of mind, avoid scrambling to find a bird at the last minute. Many local farms and grocery stores allow you to reserve a turkey a few weeks in advance.
PLAN YOUR MENU
The turkey is an obvious Thanksgiving staple, but what about the other dishes? When planning your menu, make sure to include the classics, but also ask your family how they feel about some more diverse dishes. Perhaps try to spice up your stuffing with extra vegetables like broccoli, corn and bell pepper. Peas with bacon and almonds and green bean casserole also make great side dishes. For some extra color, make a big salad to lighten up an otherwise-heavy meal.
CHECK YOUR TOOLBOX
Your pots, bowls and serving utensils may be enough for everyday cooking, but the holidays are a whole different ballgame. Make sure you have the proper pots and pans for various dishes. For example, the turkey will require a roasting pan, carving knife and carving fork, and pies need pie pans. Also ensure that you have enough dishware, cutlery and glasses for everyone—keep in mind that each adult will likely have a glass for water, wine and an after-dinner drink or eggnog.
MAKE A SHOPPING LIST
A detailed shopping list is the key to preventing last-minute freak-outs. Running to the store at the last minute because you forgot a key ingredient can throw off the timing of the cooking process and even delay the meal. Keep some extra canned or frozen vegetables stocked in your cupboard as backup, just in case your green beans catch on fire or Aunt Ellen forgets her vegetable side dish.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
If your guests are bringing dishes, coordinate with them to make sure there are no overlaps or forgotten essentials. After deciding on your menu, read over the recipes and try to plan a timing schedule for cooking. Rather than racing between sautéing green beans and chopping onions, plan on staggering your cooking throughout the day, and recruit your little ones as helpers!
While it’s always a big production, Thanksgiving doesn’t need to be a stressful time. Make sure all your ducks (or turkeys!) are in a row. The holiday should be about good food, good company and giving thanks. How do you minimize stress and maximize enjoyment this time of year?