We all enjoy a Thanksgiving feast, and we've debunked the "magic" of how it all comes together flawlessly.
With social distancing and limits on the number of people gathering for Thanksgiving, many families are opting for Thanksgiving at home with only immediate family. While that makes for some incredibly intentional family time, the change can cause some anxiety for those in charge of the meal.
Often times, an older relative (Mom, Uncle Larry, or Grandma) took care of all of the details. And maybe that older relative asked you to bring a side dish. But with things being different this year, you could be facing a new role this Thanksgiving. And let me tell you, you've got this!
With a bit of time and a few lists made, your family will be truly grateful for you and the feast before them. Here's how you can schedule meal prep for the big day!
Make a List of Favorites
First things first. Make a list of what you'd like to serve on Thanksgiving Day. Do you want turkey? How about mashed potatoes? If you never liked sweet potatoes, there's great news! You don't need to add sweet potatoes to the list. List appetizers, items for mealtime, and dessert. Ask your immediate family members for their favorites as well. You don't have to include all of the favorites mentioned but be sure to include the dishes mentioned more than once.
Read Through Preparation Instructions
Take the time to read through recipes and instructions. Some dishes may take longer to prepare than you initially thought. For example, it takes at least 24 hours to defrost a turkey. Brining a turkey takes another eight hours. And this is before baking the turkey. As you read through the instructions, consider keeping dishes that you'd enjoy preparing and removing dishes that will cause stress.
Create a Grocery List
As you're reading through recipes, start jotting things down to pick up at the grocery store. Attempt to make your list categorized by sections of the grocery store: dairy, produce, meat, etc. Be sure to include items for snacking such as a fresh veggie tray or crackers and cheese dip. And make sure you've got all of the necessary kitchen gadgets!
Decide When You Want to Eat
Each family is different. Do you want to eat Thanksgiving dinner right at 12 noon? Or maybe 4 p.m.? Set a time that works for you and your family. Consider other activities that are going on that day such as a Turkey Trot run in the morning or the big ball game on TV.
Delegate and Share the Enjoyment
Especially with older children in the house, ask each family member to make one or two dishes for Thanksgiving. This is a great experience for all. If you have younger children, perhaps it would be helpful for an adult to serve as their "sous chef," assisting throughout the process. And, this frees you up to prepare other dishes and to even put your feet up for a bit.
Identify What Can Be Done Ahead of Time
Many dishes such as desserts, cheeseballs, dips, and cold salads can be prepared ahead of time. Consider your schedule the day before Thanksgiving to take care of preparing these family favorites.
Create a Schedule for Your Oven
Identify the dishes that need to be baked on Thanksgiving Day. Starting with your desired time to sit down to dinner, work backward to plan when you'll bake each dish. Some dishes can be baked at the same time if they cook at similar temperatures. And if you have two ovens in your kitchen, thank your lucky stars and plan on using both ovens. If you have a stand-alone roaster oven, you can use it to roast your turkey in the garage to save on kitchen counter space.
Schedule Preparation Time
Based on items that can be done ahead of time and your oven's schedule, think through when you'll prepare each dish. Spoiler alert: You don't need to set your alarm for 4 a.m. on this special feast day. Plan your day with plenty of room to cut veggies, saute onions, boil potatoes, and bake sweet potatoes.
Stick to the Plan
Whew! You've done quite a bit of work, and you're more than ready. Just follow your lists and stick to your plan. Honestly, no one will mind if you sit down to dinner 30 minutes later than you had hoped. Enjoy ... and be thankful.
What are you making this Thanksgiving? Share in the comments below.