Every year, we think we've found the one thing that will make Thanksgiving that much easier to execute, but the truth is that there's no magic tool or trick.
It takes planning ahead, delegating where you can, and making a few smart tweaks to get yourself organized. After years of making either part or all of the meal, I've learned a thing or two about making things easier on yourself. Here's the game plan:
Get Your Knives Sharpened ... Now
I learned this one the hard way last year when I went to do some serious chopping and ... struggled. It's a great idea to put sharpening knives on your calendar right now, as some knife sharpening services fill up quickly this time of the year. And of course, if you're comfortable sharpening your own, even better!
Organize Your Recipes (and Your Fridge!)
If you're anything like me, your menu is compiled from a few magazine clip-outs, a cookbook or two, a recipe on your phone, and an index card with messy handwriting.
This is all fine and good, but gather them all in one place (I use a cheap folder to corral all the loose paper), so making your grocery list won't drive you insane. (Or if you're using our recipes from Simply Recipes, you can pop into Relish to print a master shopping list with the click of a button!)
Similarly, it's a good idea to take a moment and organize the fridge. Consolidate leftovers or duplicate jars; compost produce that's gone south, and think through where the turkey will go, as well as the various sides and desserts.
- Need some inspiration? Check out our Thanksgiving Menu Planner!
Stagger Your Shopping
I know, I know: Who wants to go to the store twice? That certainly doesn't sound like great advice for the cook looking to save time, does it?
Well, I'm here to tell you that the smart cook that wants to avoid crowds does what I call the "staggered shop."
The week before Thanksgiving, I make a big grocery list and head to the store for dried goods, dairy, wine and beer, and pantry staples. Early in the holiday week (typically on Monday), I go to pick up my turkey and fresh produce.
And if you can't stomach going twice (or can't stomach the holiday crowds at all), there's no shame in online grocery delivery using Relish! The extra bonus is that you can actually shop by recipe on our site (just click the red "shop ingredients" button at the bottom of your favorite recipes). Simple!
Dust off Your Slow Cooker and Pressure Cooker
Unless you have a commercial oven in your home, it's likely you've encountered the problem of not enough burners or not enough oven space.
The good news is that so many holiday dishes can be made in the slow cooker or Instant Pot, so it's a great idea to think about how you'd like to use yours this year to prep in advance, and on the day of, to free up oven space!
May I suggest making Instant Pot Garlic Mashed Potatoes or Slow Cooker Honey Glazed Carrots? Instant Pot Pumpkin Cheesecake for dessert?
Start Prepping Early in the Week!
It sounds obvious, but of course you can't pull off this holiday without doing at least few things in advance. And we're big fans of doing as much ahead as humanly possible to free up more time to spend with family. Here's the game plan I usually stick to:
- A Week Before: Organize all your recipes in one place; clean out the fridge; make a master grocery list, and do the first of two grocery shops. Also a week before, make and freeze your pie dough (yes, it's just as good as if you made it closer to the day of!) and think about what you can and want to delegate to other family members or friends. Last, come up with a game plan to thaw your turkey. A good rule of thumb is to allow one day for every four pounds of turkey, so plan for that, and add it to your schedule for the weekend, or early in the week.
- Monday: Make cranberry sauce, stock, salad dressings, and pie filling, and store in the fridge.
- Tuesday: In the morning, take your frozen pie dough out of the freezer and keep it in the refrigerator. If you're making make-ahead gravy, do it today! This is also a great day to chop all your vegetables for side dishes and stuffing.
- Wednesday: Make any side dishes that can be made ahead (most can) and stuffing. Bake off your pies; set the table in the evening; chill the wine.
- Thanksgiving Day: Tend to that turkey! Make whipped cream for the pie. Ask for help and delegate!