Holiday blues? These Thanksgiving Dinner Tips will help you enjoy your holiday without unneeded stress.
The traditions that go along with Thanksgiving sometimes overwhelm us. We know we like them. We just don’t like what they do to us. Maybe you’ve always been one of those people who insist on doing it all. From scratch. Out my oven or else! Maybe it’s time to change. Maybe this year you need to be sitting in the center of the group toasting your toes after dinner or playing board games on the cleared dining room table, feeling relaxed. Why not?
I have some tips for you to make it easier, make it more enjoyable (unless you are a 20-something with wa-ay too much energy and the ability to still look great after a few hours hovering over a hot oven, then go do it all, honey bunch). Spend more time with your family. Spend more time lazing. Heck, if you want, spend more time playing football in the back yard.
Use our Thanksgiving dinner tips and you’ll also reduce the risk of last minute mishaps.
The best piece of advice that can be given, is, the less food left to prepare on Thanksgiving day equals the lower risk for something to go wrong in the preparation process.
And we’ve all met that something up close and way too personal.
Like, fresh cranberries and/or cranberry sauce sold out in every store you visit. Been there, done that. Same with our traditional Brussels sprouts.
Use these Thanksgiving dinner tips and your holiday meal preparations will go a little more smoothly.
First of all, plan ahead. Plan your menu, appetizers, dessert, decorations, games and other activities. Plan what you are going to wear. Plan and book haircuts and spa appointments. Decide ahead about serving times and times for guests to arrive. You’ll be surprised – and delighted - how much this will lighten the load. This will also give you time to make any alterations and to shop early for any supplies you need.
Write out the menu on a few shopping lists so each time you shop in the preceding weeks, you can check off items as you buy them. Or add any variations. Create a Master Shopping list with Menu items at the top. Add ingredients for each menu item beside it. Add your regular shopping at the bottom. Double check your pantry for menu ingredients, set them aside where they won’t be used, and cross them off the list.
Now you’re thinking, what a lot of work. But it isn’t. It will take you minutes. And you will discover…
That you’ll have done some of the things you normally would be doing in a panic at the last minute. WHAT? I have no poultry seasoning. What happened to those crackers? Instead you’ll be feeling calm and serene on the big day. Well, serene-ish.
By the last week, probably the only things left to get will be fresh vegetables and flowers. Wait! You already asked someone else to look after the flowers, didn’t you? Just get your favorite vase out.
If there is anything that needs to be ordered ahead of time (fresh or smoked turkey, special cheese or appetizers) then order it far enough in advance that you have no doubt at all that your order will be filled on time. Double check as the date gets closer.
Once your menu is selected, this is the time to plan your serving dishes. Polish up the silver and crystal a few weeks early. Purchase napkins. There. All done.
Second, buy ready-made or order catered. Just a few things will do it. I have to tell you, stuffing is one thing I really like – and like making. I’m an onion person, Yup, I said it. So I like to put lots of onions and celery in stuffing. I’m smart enough to gather all the bread weeks or months in advance; I even prepare the bread cubes ahead of time. But when I got sidelined with Breast Cancer and chemo, all bets were off.
Too tired to do anything, cared but didn’t care. A peanut butter sandwich would have done me. Fortunately I have a wonderful daughter and son-in-law. We pre-planned the menu. Pre-planned the shopping. Here’s what I did. I bought cranberry sauce. I also bought fresh cranberries in case I had the energy to make it myself. If not, I would use them to make fresh real cranberry juice just like Ann Louise Gittleman of Fat Flush plan says to do. I did the turkey to save anyone having to transport it. (I still have a vivid recollection of the huge pot of Chili I was taking to a potluck that somehow leapt off the seat, turned itself completely upside down over the gear shift and emptied itself. Some of it never to be seen again.)
Now I gave up stuffing stuffing into turkey years ago. It tastes just as good – maybe better- made with broth from the neck and giblets – and is so much easier to cook in a casserole dish. Best part? You don’t have to scrape all the stuffing out after the big dinner to store it safely. (All this talk about stuffing is making me hungry)
But, did we do that? Nope. We bought it packaged. I honestly thought I would die. But I didn’t and it was so good, and so easy, and so much less fuss and muss, we’ve done it ever since.
Holidays are about the people, being with family. That’s one lesson something like a health issue brings home to you.
If you can afford to order part of your meal, do it. Who cares about your sense of pride. Put it on the shelf near the back somewhere. Maybe behind a hatbox or suitcase. Some large item.
I mean, there went my delicious homemade stuffing. What I got in return, more time with my family. That’s what I needed.
So we also bought dessert. Sometimes it’s been frozen Cheesecake, sometimes those little frozen eclairs and cream puffs, sometimes it’s pie. Pumpkin and/or otherwise. Sometimes it’s extra homemade baking. Sometimes there might be some chocolates. But – gasp – no fancy dessert or two that I have made. Less of that and more of family time. More conversation, more laughter, more inner satisfaction.
One of the advantages of buying frozen desserts or a dessert you can freeze is that if you have the time you can always make something. Frozen stuff will keep for another dessert emergency. It can be your plan or your back-up plan.
Third, recruit help. There is absolutely nothing wrong with grabbing a passing child or adult and asking for a little help with the chopping, washing, or mixing that must take place in order for the dinner to go off without a hitch.
Better yet – ask before the dinner during the pre-planning stage. Ask for help and even consider a pot luck meal this time where everyone is assigned a specific dish to bring. It can be a good idea to let everyone have a say in the pre-planning stage. Most people love to help in one way or another. Choose something that is easy for them to do, perhaps it’s their specialty like, carving the meat or preparing a salad. It’s okay to ask for someone to keep an eye on - and hopefully help entertain – the children. Maybe someone could organize games or crafts for children (even Grandmas and Grandpas like to help). Could the teens be assigned setting the table? My teens and pre-teen grandchildren have astounded me with their table-setting and decorations.
Do what you can early in the day or the day before. Set the table, wash and trim the vegetables, including mushrooms for the gravy, put the butter on the butter dishes, get all the serving dishes and utensils out, sharpen the carving knife (okay, I know you did that a week or two ago. Right?)
Not enough room in the refrigerator for cold drinks, set up a cooler on the deck with ice, if needed, and chill the drinks there. Oh, that ice is besides the extra ice you bought or made ahead of time.
The final Thanksgiving dinner tip is to keep the animals outside or locked away from the festivities and, more importantly, from the food. Sorry extreme animal lovers. Animals are great friends to have but most of your guests do not appreciate them in the kitchen or at the table. You do not want Fluffy or Fido to run off with the food you’ve worked hard to prepare (or purchase whichever the case may be) so remove them from a situation that it might prove tempting.
Trust me, it was tempting to eat what was left of the big Banana Cream pie I left cooling on our deck after I found the neighbor’s dog wolfing it down. But I don’t think we did.
So there you have more Thanksgiving Dinner tips to help you have a more stress free holiday. More time for you, more time for your family.
Number 1 tip is to Pre plan so if the unexpected happens you can adapt. Well, we had a wood cook stove at the time all the power went out in Courtenay, B.C. and area. The power outage reached as far as our little acreage on Minto Road where we were living but our goose cooked merrily in that wonderful stove. But hundreds of others were without power. Fortunately the local supermarkets opened their in-store bakeries and welcomed hundreds of turkeys in, all prepped and ready to bake. It must have been fun picking up your cooked turkey with half the city doing the same thing.
We were snug at home with our wood heater and wood cook stove, eating the goose we raised, the food we grew and the meal we cooked from scratch. Those were the days.
Nothing at all like the white linen tablecloths, sterling silver, fine china, crystal and candlesticks I had during some of my youth. I missed those but loved the new.
I miss them both now. But love the new. Because it is now.
Memories. Family and memories. That’s what holidays are about and, as I later learned, doing it a different way is just as good. It is all about the special meaning the day holds for you, perhaps memories of an earlier time and other family members, and cherished time spent together.
That is our wish for you from Best Pennywise Tips.
Hope these Thanksgiving Dinner tips help make it come true.
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