Thanksgiving Planning. Phase III: The Final Days Before Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Planning. Phase III: The Final Days Before ThanksgivingOkay, friends. You’ve done it, you’ve gotten this far, it’s the home stretch, and there’s no way to back out now. From three days out to the day before and the day of Thanksgiving, I’ve got all the tips to remember to make this holiday run as smoothly as possible, and I’ve broken it all down below.


Three days ahead

Shop for everything left on your list. Yes, I mean everything. Grocery stores will likely get busier now, and the last thing you want to do is to wait until the day before. Not only will the grocery store be an absolute madhouse, but the likelihood of them being sold out of shopping list staples is pretty high. Buy your turkey first; if it’s frozen, be sure to store it in the fridge to thaw before Thursday. If you decided to brine your turkey this year, sadly it’s too late now—that’s something that needs to be planned for weeks ahead. But, brining is not the only way to a moist bird.

I swear up and down: buy the large roasting bags made by Ziploc. I’ve used them every year for longer than I can remember, and that’s how my mom always taught me to make turkey. It works like a charm. And the best part? It’s fast and easy and requires zero basting. The hardest part is opening the package the turkey comes in.

Next up is to buy all your other vegetables, meats, fruits, and whatever else is on your list. According to last week’s game plan, you should have already purchased all your non-perishables, so this shopping trip should primarily encompass cold stuff and fresh items. If you need any last-minute supplies, like paper napkins, serving utensils, trash bags, and so on, get those now. Make sure to check off everything on your list before heading home. Organize your refrigerator shelves, and designate one big section for all the Thanksgiving groceries.

Two days before

Remove all the veggies and fruits from their shopping bags, and start slicing. Cut and portion the recipe-designated quantities for each dish, and reorganize them in resealable bags and storage containers. Place a piece of tape on each container as a label, and designate what it is, how much there is, and what dish it’s being used for. This step is crucial. It helps so much to have all the veggies precut. It decreases your Thanksgiving Day prep down by half or more. Really.

Also, a great thing to do two days before is to set up your table. If that’s not possible because your family uses the table as the command station of your home, then simply double-check that you have enough dishes and that they’re all clean. The last thing you want to be worrying about the night before Thanksgiving is hunting down a gravy boat gone rogue or missing steak knives. Making sure you have enough chairs, plates, silverware, and serving dishes is a smart move. I speak from experience: running out of serving dishes and having to serve sides in cooking devices is a major fail. You live, and you learn, right?!

Day before Thanksgiving

Okay, we’ve made it.  Now, you can start cooking a lot of items to help for the next day. As mentioned previously, I like to sweat veggies that will be used for side dishes. Since you already have all your fresh produce pre-cut and portioned, this will be much quicker too. Sweat the onions, celery, and carrots needed for stuffing, or sauté mushrooms for a gratin. Also, boil or oven-roast your potatoes for sweet potato casserole or mashed potatoes. Precut the bread for your stuffing, and lay it out on a tray to dry out so that it will be stale tomorrow. If you’re making anything with squash, you can roast it all now to make assembly easier tomorrow. All you’ll have to do tomorrow is reheat it, add seasonings, dressing, or fresh herbs, and toss it together. If you have any stocks that you’ve premade and if they’re in the freezer, transfer them to the fridge to thaw. If you’re making anything in the slow cooker, get that bad boy going, turn to low, and forget about it until tomorrow.

Also, make your pies today. This is another tidbit I learned from my mother: You would never ever see her rolling out pie dough on Thanksgiving. Those babies were made the night before, and us kids were sworn off and threatened from touching them, which always not-so-secretly drove me crazy. If you already made your dough the week before or are using premade dough, then that’s one less step to worry about.

The last thing is to clean. One last time before the big day, you want to clean any cooking devices you used, as well as the countertops. The best way to start your busy Thanksgiving is with a dishwasher full of clean dishes and with a shiny clean kitchen so that you can mess it all up all over again.

You have all your dishes and serving ware accounted for, your side dish prep is cut and par-cooked, your turkey is thawed, you have guests bringing designated side dishes (or booze), your pies are made, your ingredients are all labeled, and your kitchen is clean. Pour yourself a congratulatory drink.

You deserve it.

Your Thanksgiving is going to be great. Epic, in fact. You should seriously be proud of how organized you’ve been this year and how on top of it you’ve been. I mean, talk about hostess-with-the-mostess. Tomorrow will be a blast, and you’ll get to relish in the compliments showered upon you. Great food, great company, and most of all great (stress-less) festivities. To think, you may actually be able to enjoy yourself this holiday. That’s definitely something to be thankful for.