Whether it’s your first time making the Thanksgiving meal or your 21st, the big day can be tough on your nerves and your budget. I’ve found the key to any successful holiday meal is lots of preplanning.
The first step is to think about what you want to serve. Are you going to stick with traditional recipes everyone enjoys or try something new? One word of caution here, and I speak from past experience, if you’re opting for the something new, give it a test run a couple of days before the big day. There’s nothing worse than having a major cooking disaster when you’re in the middle of putting together a big meal. Or even worse, finding out it tastes awful and you’re stuck with leftovers not even the dog will try to steal from the plates.
I usually plan out the menu and start to make my grocery list a couple of weeks before the day. It not only gives me plenty of time for last minute changes, but I can keep my eye on the supermarket flyers for sales on items I’m looking for.
Sales are Everywhere
And speaking of sales, this time of the year is ideal for finding bargains. All supermarkets discount certain items to encourage us to spend our holiday dollars at their store. The other great thing is you can buy lots of non-perishable items at bargain prices and store them in the pantry or freezer for use in the New Year.
My favorite buys during the holidays are cans of mandarin oranges, pineapple, pumpkin and mushroom soup. I’ll even buy a couple extra bags of flour, nuts and cranberries and freeze them. I also stock up on packages of stuffing, which I make up, divide it into up into several containers and freeze. And if you’re not already tired of turkey, this is a great time to stock up. You can even ask the meat department to ground some up for meatloaves and meatballs.
Do the Work The Day Before
I’ve found what works for me is to prepare as much as I can ahead of the day. I always add onions and celery to the stuffing. I’ll sauté these the day before, pop the mix in the fridge and add it to the stuffing the next day. I also clean and prepare vegetables like carrots and green beans the day before.
Don’t Forget Dessert
Desserts are always something I make ahead of time too. I never want to tie up valuable oven space. I normally make a couple of desserts a few days before the holiday meal and select something that can be just reheated in the microwave or even the oven while we eat our main meal.
A Way to Save Money
Preplanning also saves you money. Most retailers know we’re pushed for time at this time of the year and stores are brimming with convenience foods like prewashed and cut vegetables and fruits. If you don’t have to make a mad dash to the store a couple of hours before they close, you can avoid the added temptation and cost.
The Perfect Turkey
And one thing that panics most people is cooking the turkey. Over the years I’ve found two things that really help make the turkey taste great. One is I never put the stuffing into the cavity of the turkey, instead I opt for chopped onions, celery and carrots. The vegetables steam while the turkey cooks which gives the turkey a more intense flavor. Another tip is to keep the turkey moist at all times, nothing spoils the meal more than dried out turkey. I usually add a couple of cans of chicken stock to the roasting pan as soon as the turkey starts cooking and continue to add a can or two throughout the cooking process.
And don’t worry about leftovers; my philosophy is it’s not a holiday meal without lots of leftovers. One thing I love about the time between Christmas and New Year is the leftovers; not only do I get to eat some of my favorite foods every day but I also get to take a mini-break from the kitchen.
Thanksgiving Web Sites
Here are some sites I bookmark and visit during the holidays-