November 15, 2010

Meal Plan Monday | Countdown to Thanksgiving: 10 Days to T-Day

This post was originally published on November 19, 2009.  With Thanksgiving Day just 10 days away, I thought you might find this list of ways I use to plan ahead for a successful Thanksgiving Day feast a useful tool for your own T-Day preparations. 

I'm just starting to plan our own Thanksgiving dinner and before I freak out and hit the red panic button, I need to go through this list myself and get organized!  I just need to remind myself that all things are possible with prayer, strong coffee, and a little planning, right?  ;-)


Thanksgiving is just one week away and while I have a long list of work ahead of me next week, I'm not too stressed by the cooking and cleaning ahead of me. Since our family moved back to Ohio in 2004. we've hosted Thanksgiving at our house (both houses, really!); I've got five six years of turkey roasting and pie baking under my belt.

I've learned a few tricks over the years, too, so I thought I'd share them with you in case you're in the midst of a holiday panic attack {not that I know anything about that}.  ;-) 

1. Make a master menu plan at least two weeks in advance {or 10 days if that's all you've got left!}. Thanksgiving dinner is pretty standard year after year for us - turkey, stuffing, cranberries, potatoes, etc - but I still make a master plan of what we'll be eating for dinner and any appetizers/munchies I'd like to have out for everyone while we watch football and goof around (we specialize in serious goofing in this family!). Then as all the ingredients I'll need start showing up on sale with coupon matchups, I can grab 'em and stash 'em in my pantry until Thanksgiving week. I save lots of $$ doing this and - even better - I don't have to set foot into a crowded and frantic-paced grocery store on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

2. Farm out the work. I don't cook everything for Thanksgiving; I'd be a twitching mess of a mom if I had to do all the cooking by myself. Since both my mom and my mom-in-law come for Thanksgiving, they help by preparing some of the sides (think sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, salad, bread & rolls) and bringing them over that day to be warmed up in my oven. It saves me both time and a few $$ since I'm not purchasing every part of the meal.

3. Schedule cooking/food prep times. If you leave your cooking and your food preparations until the day before or {gulp} the day of Thanksgiving, you're likely to feel just a smidge overwhelmed. Or maybe you're like me and you feel a bit more vein-in-the-temple-about-to-explode overwhelmed. To spare myself the thrill of a holiday meltdown/burnout, I've come up with this schedule for Thanksgiving week that I follow for cooking:

-> Sunday morning of T-Day week, I set the turkey in the spare refrigerator to defrost.

->Monday, I start prepping and cooking/freezing any appetizer dips we'll be noshing on and I tear up the bread I use for the stuffing so it has time to dry out.

->Tuesday, I bake pies and refrigerate them after they've cooled. If I have any frozen cookie dough, I might toss that in the oven, too, for the kiddos who don't like pie (not mine - they love eating pie for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving!).

->Wednesday, I do the finer details that are best left until the end - I chop and saute the veggies for the stuffing, chop veggies and fruits for the appetizer trays, mix sour cream dips, and boil the turkey neck and giblets for turkey stock to use in the stuffing the next day. I make sure that darn bird is defrosted, too; if it's not all the way there, I let it sit out on the counter while I'm working. I know {gasp!} that's breaking the don't-get-food-poisoning rules, but it works for me.  We've yet to suffer a raging case of Salmonella here. 

->Thursday {T-Day}, I mix the stuffing and jam as much as I can into the turkey, then pop that bird in the oven. The rest of the food that I needed to make is pretty much done, so I can actually enjoy the day with everyone instead of slaving in the kitchen.

->Friday, I sleep in! No Black Friday sales for me...well, maybe just a few online ones...!  ;-)

4.Use what you have for decorating and setting the table. We don't have a fancy dining room set or fine china. We dress up our kitchen table and the extra tables and chairs with harvest colored tablecloths, place mats, and decorations but we don't overdo it. Although the commercials would beg you to think otherwise, it's not necessary to have a Martha Stewart themed home for the holiday season; the best part of the holidays for us is just spending time together. I do keep the kids busy with making hand-tracing turkeys and decorations that they get to hang on the wall and use for name cards at the table. You can save a lot of $$ by not going overboard on holiday decor.

5. Clean all week long in little sessions. Just as I break up the cooking for Thanksgiving day, I break up the cleaning that needs doing before our house is full of guests. I make a list of tasks and everyone - right down to our littlest guy - helps out in getting the work done.

Those are my tried and true tips for managing the workload of hosting Thanksgiving without going bonkers or broke. What tips do you have? I'd love to know! Share 'em in a comment below!

Psst - need some more great meal planning ideas for Thanksgiving and for your weekly dinners? Be sure to hop through the links over at OrgJunkie's weekly linkup, Meal Plan Monday!

Thanks for reading and subscribing to The New Frugal Mom!


Marcia said...

I buy 2 small turkeys (they thaw and cook faster) and I buy my bread for stuffing at the Thrift Bakery store-you're going to let it dry out for stuffing, anyway, right?! Those are two tips that I'd like to add. Great post!