We're swiftly approaching that "most wonderful time of the year," right? Ah yes, but it can be stressful, too – especially if some aspect of your kitchen prep has gone awry.
Here are eight things you can start crossing off your list right now so that when the holidays descend — and it always happens quickly — you’ll be armed and ready to tackle whatever casserole or cookie comes your way!
1. Start Gathering Recipes You Want to Make
It may sound crazy, but I recommend starting to plan your holiday menus now. This way, you'll have plenty of time to decide what you're making, change your mind a few times, collaborate with family members, shop for ingredients, and generally stay on top of things.
I stockpile holiday issues of the food magazines I subscribe to and pull them out – along with all my holiday and seasonal cookbooks – around this time of year. Now I can easily sit down and binge-read my favorites, trying to determine which recipes I’m going to bring back and what, if any, new ones I may introduce.
2. Take Stock of the Pantry
Go through your cupboards and toss anything old, spoiled, or otherwise gross. Do you have enough cornstarch to thicken the gravy? Is it time to toss that musty old jar of cinnamon? What's the expiration date on those packets of yeast?
Make a list of what you need. Don’t forget things like paper towels, aluminum foil, garbage bags, and cheesecloth — the stuff you REALLY don’t want to run out of on Thanksgiving.
3. Inventory Your Equipment
Nothing will throw you off your game faster than discovering on Thanksgiving morning that your roasting pan is missing! Go and find it right now, wherever you stashed it away after last year's holiday season ended.
Also, do a quick inventory of any other specialty equipment you might need this time of year, like cake pans, jelly roll pans, potato mashers, and muffin tins.
4. Shop for Non-Perishable Ingredients as Soon as Possible
Pay attention to sales, which start to ramp up a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Often, I can (and do) snag bags of King Arthur Flour for around $3 at my local grocery stores around the holidays.
Buy extras of things like pumpkin puree, pecans, chocolate chips, baking spices, and flour since grocery stores sometimes run out of these high-demand ingredients right before the holidays.
Pumpkin is especially crucial because a majority of the pumpkin in this country is sold through Libby. If there’s a bad pumpkin crop or a problem with the supply chain, that means even fewer cans on the shelf.
5. Deep Clean Your Kitchen
This isn’t fun, but it’s necessary. Clean your oven and your microwave. They will both be working overtime, so give them some love.
Clear out your fridge and freezer as much as possible — you want to make sure you have room for things like defrosting turkeys and your prize-winning cheesecake. After the feast is done, you'll also need that the fridge and freezer space for any leftovers.
Declutter your kitchen as much as possible. If your countertops are loaded with stuff that doesn’t need to be there, now’s the time to clear the deck to make room for all that extra prep and cooking.
6. Locate Your Linens
Do you have enough tablecloths and napkins for all your tables and guests? Do they need to be washed or ironed? Do they match? Does that matter to you?! Always wash a few extra — they’ll come in handy.
7. Stockpile Containers for Storing Leftovers
You'll need these for your own leftovers, plus any that you want to send home with guests! I like saving the round plastic containers that often come from Asian restaurants because they can fit lots of cookies. They're great for turkey drumsticks and mashed potatoes, too!
8. Order Your Meat and Poultry
If you are buying locally-sourced meats and poultry, start asking vendors in early October if they're taking orders. Supplies are usually limited with these vendors, so put your order in as soon as you can.
Also, talk to your butcher about your menu plans. Quite often, they're happy to prepare special cuts of meat for you, including trussing large cuts and frenching racks of ribs. That’s their job!
What things are you doing now to get ready for the holidays?