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How to Plan & Prep the Perfect Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving Meal

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

Days before:

  • 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
  • Shower
  • 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!

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Remi September 2, 2016, 1:21 pm

    Awesome article! Will be trying this out.

  • Carol November 28, 2013, 12:44 am

    Sounds like a well planned and fabulous Thanksgiving that your family will enjoy. I do hope many will learn your art of cooking a feast!

  • Tamona November 27, 2013, 6:24 pm

    Girl! No ma’am!!! I am done cooking with the exception of Barney the Bird lol! He has a morning appointment with the smoker. My mother said she will start cooking tomorrow and I screamed. Thanksgiving is my day of rest. I shall be thankful that I cooked all week to have that day off and every day there is a leftover is another blessing LOL!

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