Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tips to Organize and Simplify Your Thanksgiving Meal Preparation

I love Thanksgiving. Simply a day to gather around the table and eat good food that evokes lots of memories. The meal though can be overwhelming, so here are some tips to organize and simplify your Thanksgiving meal preparation.
 Right now, at nine days out from Thanksgiving, I am compiling my menu and grocery list. I do this simply. Take a notebook sheet of paper and and write your menu on the left side and on the right side of the paper start your grocery list. As you add or remove dishes from your Thanksgiving menu you can list the ingredients you will need from the store.
When it comes time to shop you will just cut the sheet in half and take your Thanksgiving shopping list with you to the store.
organized Thanksgiving menu and shopping list
You can see at the bottom I also keep a to do list for only my meal preparation. Our meal is low key with just our immediate family and maybe a couple extra guests so other than keeping the house picked up that week, I do not have too many major projects to finish before Thanksgiving.

The week of Thanksgiving, I have come up with a system that keeps the work evenly divided between the days of the week leading up to the meal, but also keeps me from getting really stressed on Thanksgiving day. Here is how I plan my week beginning on Monday for a low stress Thanksgiving.

I always do my grocery shopping for Thanksgiving this day. It is not so early that my fresh items are compromised, but early enough to avoid the crowds the rest of the week. Check your pantry for items you already have or pantry staples you will need like sugar or flour.

Come home and put away ingredients in the house and garage refrigerators and pantry.
Thaw turkey if needed.

I will prepare the brine for my turkey. Once it is ready and completely cooled, I will put the turkey in the brine and put out in the garage fridge to sit until Thursday. Here is a basic brine recipe but our favorite is cranberry apple turkey brine recipe.

Chop all veggies for meal and store in fridge. If you saw my recent post on freezing chopped onions, those will all be done for you.

I have found the best way to insure that I enjoy Thanksgiving too, is for me to make lots of food ahead of time. Wednesday is my day to do that and we will usually pick up something for dinner or hubby will take me out. You know how Thanksgiving leftovers are so good? Well, reheated dishes are often I find better the next day.

On Wed. I will make my dressing, put it in the dish I am using, and next day just heat in oven.

I also make my mashed potatoes today too and store in my crock pot dish in the refrigerator. Next day, top with some butter and turn the crock pot on early in the day to heat and they are wonderful and steamy this way. Just stir about once an hour to evenly reheat.

I also get most of my sweet potato dish done this day including baking it. I then let it cool and cover and store until Thursday where I will reheat in microwave and then top with marshmallows and pop under the broiler just before the meal to toast the marshmallows.

Make pies.

Wed. evening I set and decorate the Thanksgiving table.

Of course all the rest of the prep is today but three main dishes and pies are already done.

I hope you found my tips for a more organized and less stressful Thanksgiving meal helpful. Let me know if you have any other great tips. Happy Thanksgiving!!


  1. I don't do the cooking on Thanksgiving - or ever for that matter - but this year I am a little more concerned than usual because we have invited our son's fiancee and her family. There will just be 7 of us unless my cousin comes, but I want everything perfect.

    I am going to suggest to my husband that we do the shopping on Monday like you suggest. I can't set the table until after breakfast because we just have the one table, but I can have everything ironed and ready the day before.

    Have fun with your Thanksgiving.

  2. I love your list idea - I'm going to try that.

  3. ... Elaine... my routine for our Christmas in November get together is very similar to your Thanksgiving preparation plan....
    We have about 45 people coming and it's on this Saturday (22nd Nov).
    The cakes are ordered, the house is cleaned and decorated, the salad vegies are in the fridge ready to be assembled Sat morning,ham is ready... meats for the BBQ and the cold meats are organised... who is bringing what has been given the last minute check and the to do list is now very short.....actually nothing can be done until Friday when hubby cooks the pork neck on the rotisserie on the BBQ.....
    Love it... this is the highlight of my year..... I love plan ahead, pace yourself and keeping lists..... only way to be stress free and enjoy yourself on the day.
    Looking forward to seeing photos of your Thanksgiving.....
    Hugs and Blessings .... Barb xxx

  4. Well my list consists of 1 thing. Eating. I'm hopeless ain't I? Not really I learned a long time ago to stay out of the way when she is cooking. I did notice my wife had a shopping list and marked on the list what she plans to do and when.

  5. You won't believe this but I'm expecting 17 and my kitchen cabinets won't be installed until Saturday.

  6. Thank you for your make-ahead tips! I was able to get so much done earlier this week and truly able to enjoy the day--without spending all of it in the kitchen!! Hope you and your family have a HAPPY Thanksgiving!