Holiday Prep Day 10: Make Those Lists

Thanksgiving is TEN DAYS AWAY!

Part of me is super excited, and the other part of me needs to put my head between my legs and breathe because there’s still so much to do. How many of you out there host a big meal at your own home? Yeah, me too. I ~Love~ hosting for the holidays. I truly truly do. But the first year I hosted, I remember feeling so lost and so overwhelmed, I could barely get up off the couch.

For one thing, anytime I googled the words “cleaning for Thanksgiving” or “menu prep” I was led to some kind of larger-than-life idealist list of ideas and suggestions that no human being {save for Martha Stewart} could ever possibly accomplish in the week before Thanksgiving. Set aside a whole day to polish your silver? Take down the ceiling blades in the major rooms of your house and clean them all? Really? No. The answer is no, not really. Not for real moms and real people anyway.

So I thought I’d give the real people out there a hand by letting you in on how I start preparing for Thanksgiving. And, for the record, unlike other helpful websites out there, you’ll find I do not start prepping for Thanksgiving at the beginning of the month. I did start today. Here’s what I did:

Make The Menu and Shopping List

Today I pulled out the local grocery ads from my favorite stores and compared all of their food prices. Most holiday essentials are on sale right now, so it’s the best time to make that shopping list. I don’t like to go shopping for ingredients too early because I like to use so many fresh veggies and herbs that I fear they’ll go bad by next Thursday sitting in my fridge.

The Bird

At our house, the Thanksgiving turkey is lovingly referred to as Howard. Some Howards in the freezer at the supermarket remind me of the giant goose at the end of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. My eyes come alive and I have a wild moment of Ina Garden inner-frenzy until I realize that there is absolutely no need for my family to have a 22 pound bird on our table. So how do we know which bird to buy? Simple. Did you know that you can decide on the size of your turkey based on your guest list? If you visit the Butterball website, not only can you get tips for how to perfectly prepare a turkey, you can also type in the exact number of guests you’ll be feeding and they’ll tell you just the right size bird to buy! Super convenient.

The Sides

Every family has a side that cannot be compromised or messed with. A classic recipe that’s probably screaming out for some delicious tweaking, but if tweaking happens, Uncle Louis will never return to your house again. At our house, one side that’s absolutely uncompromisable is the green bean casserole. It’s Travis’s favorite, so it stays. Honestly, I hate it. I never eat it. But I love my husband, so I make it. My uncle loves brussels sprouts, so last year I added a yummy dish I learned from my brother in law, and it was a huge hit. I like to keep things different while keeping the most important staples. You’re gonna have leftovers, there’s no way around it. So if you’re trying to cook just enough sides for everyone without having too much left over, consider packing up to-go plates after the meal for your guests to take home and enjoy later.

I basically try to cover the major food groups. I realize the Thanksgiving meal is kind of a gorgefest, but I still try to offer a healthy sampling from Mrs. Obama’s colorful little meal plate. There’s veggies, a fruit salad of some type, bread, something starchy {like a corn casserole}, and of course potatoes in one {or more} forms. Just know your company and know what they like and what they’ll eat. For example, if you’re expecting multiple little ones at your table, prepare kid-friendly food so they don’t have to pick around the celery in the stuffing or suffer through another helping of your aunt’s cold pea salad.

The Desserts

I think desserts are fun to change up. You can offer two or three different pies, cakes, or other sweet treats, and honestly, who is going to be mad if something is missing from the spread? A pumpkin cheesecake can be substituted if you’re sick of the traditional pumpkin pie. You could substitute a carrot cake or apple spice cake instead of a traditional fruit pie. Browse magazines, websites and for new ideas for desserts that your family will love. Desserts are my favorite part of the menu, and often the hardest part of me to decide on!

Now, Shop!

You have your guest list, your menu, and your recipes, so then you can plan your shopping trip! I love every aspect of Thanksgiving, right down to the list making and shopping trips. Using the ads from the stores around you, make out your plan of attack. I make a budget to begin with and try my hardest to stay within that budget. I hunt down sales like you wouldn’t believe. I buy fresh produce as much as I can, make stuffing from scratch, and even make and freeze my own chicken stock for certain casseroles and sides. It saves money and tastes so much better than the premade stuff.

By starting a little early {but not crazy Martha early} and staying on top of things a little bit at a time, hopefully Thanksgiving wont sneak up on us this year and I can fight off that middle-of-the-night-before-Thanksgiving panic.

Tune in tomorrow for another baby step suggestion to bring us closer to the day of Thanks!



1 Comment

Filed under Simplify Your Life

One response to “Holiday Prep Day 10: Make Those Lists

  1. I was thinking of this yesterday at the store as I watched people staring at empty shelves in total panic, or watched people trying to push 2 baskets through the store. Those first few times you make the feast it seems so overwhelming, but if you step back and take a breath you realize it doesn’t have to be that way. If you don’t want to do it all yourself, take up those who offer to help on their offer with, “Would you mind bringing – ” (whatever it is you hate to make yourself). If you love to do it all yourself, make desserts ahead of time, do a little prep work ahead of time. 🙂

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