Thanksgiving is my most-favorite foodie holiday. Family coming together around a well-prepared meal to give thanks for the immense blessings they enjoy – what could be better?! To pull off a truly thank-filled and stress-free feast, though, requires a bit of planning & prep work … and a prayer or two.
My most feared Thanksgiving goes a little something like this … wake up the morning of, casually eat breakfast while watching the parade, look at the clock around 11am and dash around a cluttered house, rummage through a scattered kitchen, read my recipes for the first time as I attempt to make each one, realize half way through that I forgot some necessary ingredient, burn a dish, yell at the kids for being in my way, sweat profusely while still in my jammies whisking gravy to go over an over-cooked turkey, panick that we don’t have enough wine & will be eating leftover mashed potatoes for a year, and finally get the food on the table 4 hours late, exhausted, completely starved, frustrated, and just wanting to cry instead of give thanks … surrounded by a family that would have much preferred lunch meat served on time & joyfully rather than this stress-riddled feast served with a heavy helping of disdain.
Yes, I’ve procured a holiday meal or two that went exactly like that. And then I learned that if I wanted to enjoy the holiday, I needed to do a little planning, a little prepping, and take deep breaths often. Here’s how I stay sane while serving a feast worthy of my beautiful family & manage to keep everyone in a thankful mood …
A week before:
- Research methods for cooking the perfect bird
- Pick out recipes to try, old favorites, and ear-mark them … be sure to include meals for the days prior (preferrably ones with little to no leftovers), breakfast/brunch for the morning-of, & completion items for meals with leftovers.
- Check the pantry & fridge for staple ingredients & take inventory of supplies
- Put together a list of ingredients needed
- Browse sale flyers and map out the best shopping strategy for groceries
- Clean out the refrigerator
- Clean the house – a good, deep cleaning!
- Shop for all ingredients needed
The day before:
- Make cheat-sheets of all recipes you’ll be making the next day – include everything you need to know so that you don’t have to pull out the cookbook, magazine, internet site, etc. in order to make it.
- Prep all herbs & ingredients that can be done in advance. Store them in needed-quantities with labels for quick-use the next day.
- Double check all ingredients to make sure you haven’t forgotten something – make a last-minute trip to the store, if needed.
- Check your turkey to make sure it has thawed (if frozen)
- Tidy the house
- Map out your tasks for the next day & make a detailed schedule – include times for when you want to serve breakfast/brunch, when the turkey needs to go into the oven, which dishes should be prepared in the morning, noon, and after the turkey is out of the oven.
- Assign all of your serving dishes (either figuratively or literally with sticky notes)
- Get out the fine china, wine glasses, etc. Set them somewhere for quick-access the next day
- Pick out everyone’s outfits for the next day!
- Make any dishes in advance that can be done today
The day of:
- Review your schedule for the day
- Snuggle your family a bit before you head into the kitchen & have some coffee!
- Carefully & promptly follow your schedule & don’t get stressed if you deviate from it. Adjust as you go, as needed!
- Take deep breaths – remember to eat throughout the day – sit down for a few minutes & spend time with loved ones during your scheduled breaks … get out of the kitchen for a few minutes each hour!
- Prepare & present the perfect Thanksgiving meal … enjoy the oouhs & ahhhs of your family … give thanks for all that you have & be sure to enjoy those blessings today!
Those are my “secrets”. I hope they help you enjoy a stress-free and thank-filled Thanksgiving this year & for many to come. I’m thankful for foodie friends like you to share my passion with … and for the wonderfully supportive love of my sweet family, who will be richly rewarded this year with a feast fitting them!