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Thanksgiving Meal Planning

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November 5, 2012

Thanksgiving is still a little over two weeks away, but there are some things that you should be doing now to prepare for an amazing feast. Don’t get caught off guard trying to find those last minute ingredients – instead follow this Thanksgiving dinner plan. It can really help cut the stress and help you prepare the perfect Thanksgiving feast.

2 Weeks Before Thanksgiving

This is when your planning should begin (if it hasn’t already). Thanksgiving may still seem quite some time away, but preparation for a wonderful and stress-free dinner should start now. Start with the following:

  • Write out your menu and shopping list.
    • Make two shopping lists. One for perishables and one for non-perishables.
  • Read over each recipe and ensure you have all ingredients needed listed.
  • Write out a cooking schedule
    • List what items can be cooked in advance the day before
    • How long each item takes to cook
    • What items can be frozen and made further in advance
    • What items need to be made day of Thanksgiving.
  • Decide if you are going to have others help with the meal.
    • Let guest know what they need to bring or if you would like them to arrive early to help prepare food.
  • If purchasing wine, you can do this now. Remember that one bottle of wine holds approximately 4 glasses of wine (depending on your pour).

1 Week Before Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is getting even closer and one week prior to the big event you can start a big portion of your shopping. Here are the things you should consider doing one week prior to your Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Clear out the fridge and make way for your groceries.
  • Purchase all the items on your list that are not perishable or that will last for at least a week.
    • Most items can be purchased now with the exception of leafy greens, non-frozen bread items, or seafood.
  • Pick out your turkey. Ensure that you have enough turkey for everyone. Most people suggest 1.3-1.5 pounds per guest.

4-6 Days Before Thanksgiving Depending on Turkey Size

It is turkey thawing time! If you purchased a frozen turkey you will need to start the thawing process now. Here is thawing instructions per the National Turkey Federation.

Refrigerator Turkey Thawing Time (40 degrees F)

Turkey Weight Days to Allow for Thawing Turkey
8 to 12 pounds 2 to 2.5 days
12 to 16 pounds 2.5 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days

Two Days Ahead

Some of your cooking can begin now:

  • Make pumpkin pies, pumpkin cheesecake, cookies, rolls, and breads and cornbread or biscuits for the turkey dressing/stuffing. Refrigerate desserts with custard-like ingredients. (The desserts may be brought to room temperature before serving.) Even if you are serving apple or pecan pies, the pie crust could be made today with assembly and baking late tomorrow.
  • Prepare menu items such as cranberry sauce, soups, appetizer dips and other items that improve in flavor as they are held in the refrigerator.
  • Assemble casseroles (such as sweet potato or green bean); they can be stored uncooked in the refrigerator and baked on Thanksgiving Day.
  • If you are making homemade stuffing, cut and cube bread and place it in a single layer on a baking pan to dry.

The Day Before

Major preparations begin:

  • Clean the house.
  • Set the tables.
  • Prepare the rest of the foods that can be advanced prepped or prepared that you did not complete yesterday.
  • Make your game plan for Thanksgiving Day.
  • Double check that the turkey is thawed before going to bed!

Day of Thanksgiving

You know what you haven’t done and since you have prepped weeks in advance you should be ready to go. The last minute cooking items are done here as well as turkey preparation. Enjoy the day and have a fantastic time with your family.

What tips do you have for pre-planning your Thanksgiving feast?

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