For many of us, Thanksgiving is a real warm and fuzzy time. It’s a chance to get together with family, enjoy good food, and tell some tall tales together.
But if it’s you who’s putting it on, it can be a little stressful.
Basically, there’s often a lot of time and money involved. A big, fancy Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t just make itself. There are all of those ingredients to buy, and the table settings, etc. Typically, there are some trade-offs that you make between buying high-quality food, and investing time in cooking it a certain way.
With that in mind, here are some of our Thanksgiving hacks, Thanksgiving tips and tricks that will help you to turn out the most amazing spread without breaking the bank or going out of your mind.
Plan and Shop Early
One of the best Thanksgiving tips you can get is not to procrastinate on food you can buy early.
That covers the turkey, too, since lots of people buy pre-frozen birds. If that’s your style, you can buy your turkey in the summer, or even late spring, and thaw it when necessary. That way, even if it’s cooked fresh, you don’t have to worry about sourcing the centerpiece of your meal.
The problem with turkey, and everything else, is that it gets bought up. Try going to the store in mid-November trying to get items for Thanksgiving, and you’re likely to see some bare shelves.
Beyond that, though, doing the recipe planning early helps you to build confidence and know what you’re doing when you finally do get in the kitchen. It’s one thing to come in the day before and wing it, guessing at ratios, and hoping that the stove and the oven do what they’re supposed to. It’s something else to already have pre-planned recipes and just go through a tested process on turkey day, for a more or less known result.
Your Slow Cooker
For a big dinner like this, your slow cooker is your friend. You will not have time on the big day to be doing short-order cooking. You’ll want to have valuable prep items like meat and potatoes nice and soft, and ready to go. Yes, it’s possible to time everything just right – but the slow cooker can give you some much-needed breathing room to be laid-back and cheerful in the kitchen on Thanksgiving instead of running around, frankly, like a turkey being chased by a hatchet (if you’ll pardon the analogy.)
Lay Out Your Kitchen Tools
There’s nothing like hunting for that fork or spatula or roasting pan during the holiday itself. How frustrating.
Laying everything out days beforehand will save you time when guests are arriving. Also, it builds that same confidence, knowing that everything you need is there. Those precious minutes you would have had to spend looking for a can opener can be spent fine-tuning your cooking approach, or taking care of other key details.
Consider a Potluck Approach
To save yourself time and money, here’s another great Thanksgiving tip: consider delegating some of those side dishes with a potluck approach to Thanksgiving. Everybody gets to contribute, and nobody is responsible for everything, because putting it all on one person seems kind of harsh. Share this Thanksgiving shopping list with your potluck participants so they’re well prepared for Thanksgiving day.
Prep Early and Serve Efficiently
Our Thanksgiving prep tip is to, again, roast, boil or otherwise cook hearty vegetables like potatoes and carrots, prior to the big meal itself. You can time the turkey, but if a lot of the casseroles and sides are already able to be reheated for the dinner table, you’re going to be several steps ahead. A buffet-style dining option also saves people trying to pass hot steaming bowls or trays of various foods, which can be more than a little hazardous at the table. Buffet-style dining also makes more room on a crowded table, and you don’t have to feel like you’re dishonoring the spirit of the day!
Get all of that extra food into a refrigerator within a couple of hours. It’s best to store in narrow containers so that the food cools more quickly. Then you can freeze each component separately, and create the basis for a nice extra Thanksgiving dinner in December or January, while the snow is coming down.
These Thanksgiving tips are likely to make your home-cooked meal an even bigger success than it’s been in the past. Think about how to take advantage of any of these tactics to enhance what you bring to the table this holiday season.