This post was originally published on November 10, 2011.

Life is unpredictable, but Thanksgiving is not and it is 2 weeks away!  Is the exclamation point there to emphasize panic or joy?  I’m excited!  I’ve been teaching quite a few Thanksgiving-themed classes as of late and I’m feeling spirited.  Don’t let these Thursday posts stress you out.  The whole point is to show you what you can do in advance, not what you must do in advance.  All these tips and strategies are most relevant to the hosts and hostesses who are preparing most or all of the meal themselves and who have a busy schedule leading up to the holiday.  If I didn’t get a lot of these tasks completed early, I don’t see how I could pull off this meal without tons of stress.

Here’s what you can get done this week:

  • Get your knives sharpened Especially your carving knife.  A razor-sharp knife is the most important tool in your kitchen.  In my area, you can get your knives sharpened at Sur La Table, the farmer’s market and at the local cutlery store at the mall.  I think Sur La Table charges $1/inch.
  • Make your grocery lists  I make three lists:
  1. Non-perishables (e.g., flour, spices, wine, nuts, dried fruit, butter, frozen foods, butter, winter squashes, sparkling water)  I buy these now. Check out the Instagram stories I did at Trader Joe’s on Saturday where I showed things I buy now.
  2. Perishables to buy one-week ahead (e.g., heavy cream, hard cheeses, potatoes, apples, bread for stuffing)
  3. Perishables to buy two days before (e.g., turkey, all other fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh herbs, flowers)
  • Buy to-go containers  I always make too much food and I like sending care packages home with my guests to enjoy the day after, especially our single friends.  This year I am definitely packing up all the extra desserts so that they aren’t tempting me the next afternoon when I’m shopping for holiday gifts online.  I love the idea of having people bring their own reusable containers, but for me it’s easier to stock up on disposable to-go boxes from amazon or Smart & Final.  I buy these brown kraft boxes.  I also bought these pint containers for storing my homemade ice cream, but they work equally as well to pack up soup to go.

  • Clean out the refrigerator  I’ll get to this over the weekend.  Now is a great time to get rid of food past its prime or to get creative with the last spoonful of nut butter or those four olives just to make more space in the fridge.  I have a second, inexpensive refrigerator in the garage which really comes in handy for big dinners.  If you don’t have the extra space, see if one of your neighbors is going away for the holiday and can store your chutney and jam collections for a few days.

  • Check your instant read thermometer   This tool the only way you’ll be able to tell if your turkey is cooked properly, so it’s important that it’s accurate.  If you’re unsure, stick the tip of the thermometer into boiling water.  If the temperature reads 212 degrees Farenheit, you’re good to go.

Check these posts for help with menu planning and stocking up on the proper equipment.  If you haven’t decided on your menu yet, that’s a good place to start.  Then you can create your timeline and purchase your non-perishables.

In my classes this week, I also answered lots of questions about what can be frozen in advance.  You can make stuffing up until the point of baking, cover it tightly with aluminum foil and freeze it.  Thaw completely before baking.  Stock can be frozen, as can pie crusts.  Some people have had success freezing cooked applesauce and cranberry sauce, but I have never tried it.  Please share any tips you have about what you like to prep ahead!

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