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Are you cooking for a crowd this Thanksgiving and are you stressing out about pulling it off? Growing up in a large family and raising a large family of my own has taught me a few tips that I can share to help make your Thanksgiving meal prep much easier and successful. A little pre-planning can take the stress to a much lower level. Be sure to print off the free timeline printable to hang on your fridge to keep you on track!
Thanksgiving Menu and Recipes
First things first, make a menu and choose your recipes! If you decide that you want to try something new, you may want to give it a trial run, but do that early, before the real crunch starts. I suggest trying something that you feel pretty confident will turn out well and be a crowd pleaser. Also, it may be best to keep your new recipes down to 1 or 2 dishes. Traditional Thanksgiving recipes are looked forward to, comforting and expected by many and changing things too much could leave some people disappointed. A couple of new dishes added to the traditional can be surprising and fun! You might even start a new tradition. I wasn't raised with pecan pie growing up, but it is a tradition in my home now. Also, I can still remember the year pumpkin rolls first appeared and we have enjoyed them ever since.
Speaking of pies, we have a whole category devoted to pies on our blog. You can start with my mom's absolutely best crust recipe here and go onto the many other varieties of pies that are all delicious, here. For even more pie ideas, you can purchase and download our For the Love of Pie ebook. You might find a new, wonderful pie to add to your Thanksgiving dessert table this year!
If you are asking people to bring some of the food and drinks, be sure to make those assignments well in advance so that they have time to plan ahead as well. Especially if you are just asking for a general thing, like a salad or a dessert, they may want to have time to try out a recipe before they bring it. Or, they may need to budget into their budget the cost of ingredients. I would say that 2 weeks notice is a good amount of time and you can give a heads up reminder a few days before Thanksgiving.
Sometimes people already have an idea of what they would like to contribute, so it is good to be open to those suggestions and work around them. If your sister asks what you would like her to bring, you could give her a few suggestions and let her choose. Also, accept any offers from people who would like to come early and help!
Before you Shop
Before you head off to the grocery store, clean your fridge! I am lucky enough to have two refrigerators, so I have to clean them both. But seriously, you are going to need a lot of room. You will be bringing home produce, a turkey, butter, veggies of various varieties, cream, dips, cranberry sauce, pickles, olives...And then you have to plan on the leftovers! Don't forget that if people are bringing dishes to add to the feast, you will need a place to put any cold items that may need to be chilled until serving time. So, the week before Thanksgiving week, be sure to plan meals that do not generate a lot of leftovers. Then, get in that fridge and get rid of those little dabs of leftovers, throw out the old, expired condiments, flush away the "science experiments" tucked away in the back corner, and wipe everything down so that you have a nice, clean refrigerator. If you think that you may not have enough space for everything, break out or purchase a cooler to handle some of the overflow. This one on wheels would be great!
Another important thing to do before you shop is to take an inventory of what you have already and what you will need to make your planned menu. Do you have enough eggs? How about little things like sage or even salt? Do you have the evaporated milk for the pumpkin pie? Make a list and check it twice!
At the beginning of November there will be tons of good sales on all of the fixings for a Thanksgiving Dinner. (This is also a good time to stock up on canned goods for your pantry and to buy food for donations to food banks!) Check your ads! If you will also want a turkey for Christmas, get one now and put it in the freezer because the prices are at their best right now! Here are a few things to add to your shopping list that you may not have thought about:
Once you are finished shopping and have everything you need, make yourself a timeline of things that need to be done. Here is an overview of how I generally organize myself the week of Thanksgiving. Be sure to get the free Thanksgiving Prep Timeline below. Just press the button.
One Last Tip
Accept help! Let others put out the cranberry sauce, pickles, olives and other condiments. Allow someone to mash the potatoes, put out the rolls and butter. You can give instructions as you make the giblet gravy! Then, at last, it will all come together, everything will be hot and you will have a feast to be thankful for.
Keep an eye out for some basic recipes here on the blog to help you out with holiday dinners!
Creators of Hot Cocoa Bombs! (copyrighted)
Helen Reynolds: Mother of six children , grandmother to eleven! I love to cook, craft and create things and I especially love doing that with my family, So, when my lawyer daughter, Lindsey, my artist daughter, Madalynn, and I came up with the idea of Hot Cocoa Bombs, this blog was born. Then, one more daughter, with her technical and science skills, plus creativity has joined in to round us out! Read more about us here!