Whether you're a first time Thanksgiving dinner host or a veteran, one thing is for sure: Preparing a Thanksgiving dinner is a full-time job. The best way to save yourself from going completely insane is to start early and to plan a make-ahead Thanksgiving dinner. Since the holiday always creeps up quickly, there are plenty of ways you can ensure a stress-free family gathering and meal.
Wondering how to do that? Don't worry, here are some great tips for a make-ahead Thanksgiving dinner. Follow these tips and tricks and you'll find yourself well on the way to an easy, stress-free dinner that you'll actually enjoy this year.
Please don't make the mistake of going to the grocery store and haphazardly throwing things into your cart as you see them. You run the risk of forgetting something. Or as a first-time host, you might feel pressured into creating a massive feast that no one will forget, causing you to buy far too much. Don't do it.
An easy way to avoid this is to create a simple menu with essentials like turkey, gravy, stuffing and one or two easy Thanksgiving side dishes like mashed potatoes and rolls.
For a more extensive menu, Taste Of Home has you covered with a comprehensive Thanksgiving menu. Once you've set your menu, create a shopping list with all the ingredients you'll need to prepare them.
Tip: Don't be afraid to buy store brands that are much more affordable than name brands. Your guests will not know the difference but your wallet will.
Even though there's only one Sunday newspaper edition left for you to snatch up, you can still grab tons of coupons online. You'll find that a good portion of them are probably for the exact items you need!
Don't feel obligated to go to fancy stores that charge much more than what you'll pay at a community farmer's market. The same potatoes that cost $0.99/pound in the fancy organic grocery store can be only $0.29/pound at the regular farmer's market!
Tip: Check your favorite grocery store's website for specials. Pairing a coupon with a sale item is an awesome way to save money!
A full-fledged Thanksgiving feast with a turkey, honey glazed ham, stuffing (or dressing as they call it in the South), mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, cranberry sauce and a host of desserts sounds pretty darn awesome. But let's get realistic — it will ultimately kill your budget and the leftovers might go to waste.
Find out the must-have menu items from your guests. You might discover that no one is interested in yams or dinner rolls, so you won't have to waste your money on them. Keep it simple with one kind of meat, a few sides and dessert.
Holiday cooking is bound to include buying ingredients that you normally don't need like heavy cream, buttermilk, sage, thyme and plenty of others. Instead of buying something that'll only get used once, do a simple online search to see if other ingredients you already have will work just fine. For example, you can make your own evaporated milk by just boiling regular milk until it thickens.
Yeah, we know, it's a ludicrous suggestion. But a table full of cakes, pies, tarts and custards really isn't necessary. Take a vote on what treats your guests want the most and choose one or two of the top picks. The best part of Thanksgiving is indulging in your favorite treats that you may only eat once a year.
A good guest will always ask if there's anything they should bring. Say yes! It's up to you how you go about it. You can ask them to bring a very specific menu item, or keep it vague like a dessert or beverage.
The important thing is to know what others are bringing beforehand. You don't want to end up with five dishes of macaroni and cheese — not that that's a bad thing.
Once you've settled on a menu, accepted assistance and cut back on the 17 pies, it's time to get to work. Plan out each and every recipe and decide which ones will take the most time to make.
You'll need to prioritize which ones to cook first and which ones can go in the oven right before the guests arrive. Set your schedule and bake away!
This year, make as much of the meal as you can in advance. This will alleviate a lot of your stress come turkey day. Here's an example of a couple of make-ahead Thanksgiving sides and items that you can prepare in advance.
Make your whipped cream ahead of time and freeze it. You can store it for up to two weeks according to Food Network. Just thaw it out one to two days before you need and you're good to go.
You can also make your cranberry sauce two weeks ahead of time and freeze. When you're ready to serve, just throw it into the microwave for 30 seconds.
Pick your favorite gravy recipe and start cooking. Once it's all done simply store it in an air-tight container and place it into your freezer. Again this can be kept for up to two weeks.
Food Network developed a whole menu of items for a perfect make-ahead Thanksgiving dinner you can reference, too.
If you aren't into a fully thawed feast, we have another suggestion for you. Here's a timetable to help you understand just how far in advance you can safely plan and cook ahead.
Don't leave shopping for Wednesday night. Ideally, you went shopping last weekend and are going to breathe easy this weekend as you get your mind right for the week ahead. If you haven't, head to the store early Saturday morning and get everything you need for your Thanksgiving dinner. Immediately after, start baking your biscuits, dinner rolls, and desserts and store them in the freezer.
Get a head start on your oven items and bake your potato or green bean casserole in advance. Cut and prep all your vegetables and the remaining ingredients you need for Thanksgiving Day. You can also take this time to set out plates, warmers and any other supplies you're going to use.
Thaw the frozen items, reheat refrigerated ones and finish the rest of your menu. Focus on setting the table, perfecting the turkey, and entertaining your guests.
Thanksgiving is a time to sit down with friends and family and remember all the things you're grateful for, it's not a day you should feel stressed. With these tips for make-ahead Thanksgiving dinner, you can relax and really appreciate the holiday.