Guest Post by Mary Ellen Smith of Mary Ellen’s Cooking Creations and Superior Woodcraft
Hosting Thanksgiving, whether it is for the first or twentieth time, can be stressful. It doesn’t have to be. I have a post on my blog sharing my detailed timeline (down to the minute!), menu, and some of my tips for making Thanksgiving day, and even the week before, stress-free, organized, and enjoyable.
Today I will share with you a few of my favorite tips.
- The amount of shopping you will need to do may seem overwhelming, so when making your shopping list, make one master list with absolutely everything you will need. Then, break it up into things you can buy a few days or a week early (dry goods, frozen things, soda, beer, wine) vs things you will need to buy fresh (veggies, fresh flowers, bread, etc.). I also break my list up by store – supermarket, produce store, wine store, beer store, and miscellaneous stores. Even better (or worse, depending on how Type A you are) – make your list in Excel so you can easily sort and move things around.
- Don’t be afraid to write out a timeline for your day. Cooking a Thanksgiving meal isn’t hard, but it’s one of those meals where you get things started early, have some time to mingle, and then all of the sudden it is an hour before your meal and everything is finishing all at once. Don’t get stuck with three things needing to go in the oven when you only have 1 or 2 available. A timeline is a must for me.
- Get all of your serving dishes out the day before and figure out what will go in each one. Doing this early will save you from digging through cabinets at the last minute trying to find the gravy boat, and will help you make sure you have enough dishes, bowls, and platters.
- While you are at it, get out all of your serving spoons and forks, too.
- Ask people to help, especially in that last hour as there is a lot happening and coming together all at once. People will be happy to chip in and do things like lighting the candles, taking dishes to the table, filling water glasses, or staying out of the way and in front of the TV if that is what you want them to do! And on the topic of helping, a good guest will always ask what they can bring. Take them up on this offer! And if you like having control over the main menu, ask them to bring an appetizer, dessert, or drinks.
- Set a self serve bar in an area away from where all the cooking and prep will take place – ice bucket and tongs, wine glasses, other glasses, corkscrew, mixers, cocktail napkins. If you need limes or other garnishes for your bar, cut them the day before and have them ready in a serving dish. Make sure your soda and beer are cold, either in a second fridge or cooler (and don’t forget the ice for the cooler!).
- Set your table a day or two in advance – move any furniture needed, iron your tablecloth, set the dishes, make the centerpiece, etc. This is one task you won’t want hanging over you on the day of your gathering or while your guests are there.
- Prep as much food as you can ahead of time. Wash your veggies, peel and quarter your potatoes and store them in water in the fridge for a day or two, blanch your beans, put butter on/in a serving dish, set out all of the dry goods you will need (flour, broth, salt, pepper, etc), get all of your pots and pans and cooking utensils out and ready. I’d hate to end up one roasting pan or pot short because I didn’t take a few minutes to prepare.
- If you are having a few or more kids (younger kids, especially), pick up some crafty turkey day things they can do. I picked up these paper cup turkeys from Michael’s and the kids, and even a few adults, had so much fun putting them together and then decorating with them.
- If it is cold where you live, turn down the heat an at least an hour before people get there. It’s going to get hot fast especially with the kitchen on overload.
- Finally, my favorite tip – Thanksgiving leftovers are the best. Buy a bunch of extra plastic/to-go containers or Ziploc bags so you are ready to send everyone home with leftovers.