Whether you’re a prepper or a procrastinator, you probably know that when Thanksgiving time rolls around, it’s best not to leave anything to chance, and important to get to the store early – no, this doesn’t mean early Thanksgiving morning; it means days and even weeks ahead of the big day!
Stock your fridge, freezer, and pantry ahead of time and you’ve left yourself plenty of time to return to the store for last minute items you may have forgotten.
A Month to Three Weeks Out
Order the turkey: Whether you’re buying a heritage bird or a Butterball, make sure to place your order up to a month in advance. Even though plenty of people will tell you this isn’t their favorite part of the meal or that they don’t eat turkey, we all know it’s the main event!
If you buy a frozen turkey, be mindful that it requires quite a bit of time to thaw: approximately one day for every four pounds. So if you have a 20-pound bird, start defrosting four days ahead. If you have a 15-pound bird, start defrosting three days ahead.
Get your cooking gear together: Pick up any specialty cooking gear your recipes might call for and that you don’t already have. We’re thinking of basters, ricers, or butcher’s twine. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, now is the time!
Stock up on kitchen essentials: This may not be the most thrilling part of your shopping list, but stock up on essentials like paper towels, kitchen sponges, tin foil, plastic wrap, and toilet paper if you’re hosting extra friends and family. No, it’s not as exciting as menu-planning, but it’ll cause a headache if you end up without this stuff.
Two Weeks Out
You can shop for most of these items months in advance, but at two weeks out, stock up on as many pantry staples and freezer items as you can to avoid any lines at the store or worry of something being sold out:
Cranberries: Buy them fresh and freeze ‘em! You don’t want to risk these being sold out if you’re making cranberry sauce from scratch.
Baking staples: Flour, sugar, butter, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, raisins, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, or other nuts – and marshmallows if you’re using them for your sweet potato casserole.
Anything canned or boxed: Canned pumpkin, canned cranberry sauce (no judgement), canned green beans, premade stock or broth (here's our favorite!), and fried onions if you’re not making them from scratch and need them for your green bean casserole. (Which of course you do.)
Frozen vegetables: If you like pearled onions but hate to peel them, especially on a busy day in the kitchen, look for the pre-peeled, frozen pearl onions and rest easy.
Onions and root vegetables: Onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots will all keep for a couple weeks. Try not to store onions and potatoes together, though, if you can avoid it, because they’ll deteriorate faster if stored together.
Ice cream: Serving that apple pie à la mode? Grab your ice cream now, if you can resist eating it for a few weeks.
Wine, beer, and booze: Stock up on your beverages whenever you can.
A Week Out
You’re ready to start cooking soon, so it’s time to start stocking the refrigerator. If you’ve already stocked your freezer and pantry, you can now get all of the rest of your shopping out of the way on the Friday and weekend before Thanksgiving so that you can focus on cooking by Monday or even Sunday.
Make sure you’ve bought all the above, and anything else that’s missing, including:
Bread for stuffing: Bread doesn’t need to be fresh for stuffing. In fact, it should either be dried or toasted so buy it early and prep it early, too.
Herbs and leafy vegetables: Herbs and leafy veggies like spinach or lettuce should be one of if not the last things you buy, but even these will be in good shape for your recipes if bought a week ahead of time.
Cruciferous vegetables: Buy your Brussels sprouts up to a week in advance, and preferably three to four days in advance. If you’re making cauliflower or broccoli, the same applies.
Green beans: Make that green bean casserole from scratch!
Fruit: Apples, pears, plums: whatever is filling your pies and accenting your stuffing if you’re into the sweet and savory profile.
Cream and other dairy: If your recipes call for milk or cream, which some probably do, and if your pies call for whipped cream, which they most definitely do, buy all of it up to a week ahead of time.