Preparing a holiday dinner is stressful. Doing it during the pandemic is torture, unless you have a plan.
Before we go to the checklist, which will save you time, and even money, let's remember to be flexible. Though Thanksgiving is just days away, you can't be completely sure how many guests you'll have.
For example, Susan Moore, from Wicomico Church, Virginia, is planning for a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 family members this year, depending on the situation with the COVID-19.
What's her secret? Let's find out how to make your Thanksgiving stress free this year.
Thanksgiving prep: what to expect?
Make a Thanksgiving To-Do list.
1. Plan your guests and think about their allergies, preferences and if there's turkey, order it as soon as you can.
2. A few days before the holiday, create a menu, polish silverware, and do other chores.
3. Finally, the day before, make sure you're stocked up on all the items you might need.
You can prepare many dishes in advance, or order them to avoid any stress.
When you're planning the menu, be precise. You don't want to have too much extra food, because it's a waste. Your guests are coming over to celebrate Thanksgiving, not to stuff themselves with food.
Due to Covid-19, some might cancel, so keep that in mind when you're shopping for groceries.
Prepare for ahead of Thanksgiving
The reason holidays are so stressful is because we don't always have full control, though we want everything to be perfect.
Ken Rubin, chief culinary officer at professional online culinary school Rouxbe says:
Anything you can control, you should try to.
But remember that food is really about joy and bringing people together.… It shouldn't be something that creates that sense of stress bearing down on you.
Rubin adds that you can make pretty much every meal and freeze it. You can precook potatoes, too. Then, on the day, do the mashing and assembly. You can now chop fresh vegetables for stuffing, prepare salad dressings, and liven it all up with freshly cut garnishes.
Susan Moore adds that you can make cranberry sauce days before Thanksgiving. But there's more great advice from this lady.
Clean up your kitchen from top to bottom
No, your guests will not judge your kitchen. But, when it's all neat and tidy, you get more space and even more motivation to make this the best Thanksgiving day ever.
Rubin explains it:
For people who ordinarily don't plan and have a lot of meal activity; having your fridge cleaned out is certainly a good idea.
Consider cleaning out pantry items [in advance], so you don't go reaching for the cinnamon only to realize that jar has been empty for three months.
Moore doesn't plan to polish the silverware. She's staying practical:
I can tell you for sure I won't be bringing out any good china and silver. My goal with Thanksgiving is for everybody to have a good time — besides not liking to polish silver at all.
A clean kitchen will inspire your culinary skills. But, polishing and brining out the best china, well, that's up to you.
Moore doesn't think she'll have as many guests as usual. So, she's all about having fun, and making memories.
Different dishes on different temperatures
You are not alone in the preparations for Thanksgiving. Ask your family and friends to bring foods that can be served at room temperature.
If you can parcel out dishes that don't need the stove or oven, it simplifies your life and makes everything go better.
And if some dish needs a cooler, prepare an extra cooler stocked with ice packs outside your fridge.
Rubin adds that "having a range of dishes that can be served at varying temperatures leaves the main chef space to focus on the critical timing of things that need to be served piping hot."
Think about inventory, setting, and sitting positions
Rubin uses sticky notes days before the holiday. He says:
You may want to wash the serving dishes all again the day before if they're sitting out on a sideboard, so the sticky notes are really more of a reminder that you have all the necessary serving stuff.
Post-its are ideal for reminding you of all the things you have to do, buy, prepare, clean up,... It's a lot of work, and you can color code while you're putting things in order.
Making Thanksgiving even simpler
If you've decided not to cook for Thanksgiving this year, you're not alone. Many people are going to spend this day only with the closest family members. So, why create extra work when you can order.
Instead, support independent local restaurants and order meals you'll love.
Places like Bob Evans, Boston Market and Cracker Barrel have everything you need.
The prices are not high: expect to pay 40-70 dollars for four adults. And if you're hosting "virtual Thanksgiving," you should dress up, order your favorite foods and enjoy the simple fact that physical distance is a small price we have to pay to stay safe.
According to CDC guidelines, the safest option is to celebrate the holidays virtually or just with your own household members. Now is the time to think about all your options, plan, prepare, and enjoy. You deserve it!