Thanksgiving is all about tradition. If there’s one thing that’s always the same about Thanksgiving Every family has their own unique way of cooking the turkey – from the traditional oven-roasted to deep-fried to rotisserie on the grill. The ways it’s been is the way it should be.
Many family riffs have occurred over whether the potatoes should be white or sweet, mashed or roasted, savory or candied. Whether the “green” vegetable should be broccoli, green beans or Brussels spouts… and whether the rolls should be a lightly and fluffy wheat roll or an out-on-a-limb cornbread.
Oh yes. We can’t forget dessert. As varied as taste buds could be – whether it’s chocolate pie, pumpkin pie , apple pie all or berry pie – they have their stake in the famous Thanksgiving desert category, with only one clear winner in the end.
Tradition holds the stakes when it comes to what’s served at Thanksgiving, and to be honest, a stressful day is tradition too.
This year, let’s start a new tradition for a stress-free Thanksgiving.
I shared a simple and frugal real food Thanksgiving menu. You can find that post here, but I didn’t want to leave you guys high and dry today, so I thought I’d include 13 tips to help you out on the big day!
13 Tips for a Stress-free Thanksgiving
1. Clean out the fridge. And freezer.
Even the best bean counter knows that there’s always leftovers at Thanksgiving. Clean out the fridge and freezer before the big day so you have room to store dishes that are ready to be baked, but leftovers after the big dinner too!
2. Get the slow cooker ready.
Nothing beats homemade turkey stock, so get the slow cooker ready when you pull the turkey from the oven and set it aside. Toss bones and giblets and such straight into the slow cooker as it’s carved and fill it up with leftover bones after dinner. Follow this method for making stock and freeze once it’s cool (since the fridge will likely be full).
3. Double the butter.
Always keep 1-2 lbs of butter at room temperature and 1-2 lbs of butter in the fridge. No one likes to spread cold butter on dinner rolls and warm butter won’t work in pie crusts. Having plenty of butter – in both places – covered the bases. Just don’t forget to replenish stock if you use it up!
Whenever possible, delegate tasks to other people. This includes the days leading up to Thanksgiving and especially the day-of. Things like setting the table, unloading the dishwasher and sweeping the floor can easily be done by someone else other than the head chef.
5. Wear an apron and have kitchen towels at the ready.
Being able to wipe your hands on something as you work is priceless, but you don’t want to accidentally wipe them on your clothes or worry about making messes on yourself as you work.
6. Shower and dress early.
Take a shower and get fully dressed before you start any work in the kitchen, but don’t put on your dinner clothes just yet. While the turkey is resting, then change your clothes. This way you can be sure you’ve taken a shower before guests arrive, but you don’t have food splattered on yourself at the dinner table.
And if you’re wearing shoes, make sure they’re comfortable. Cute shoes are not for this cooking marathon.
7. Fill the sink with hot soapy water.
Before you begin making any messes, fill the sink with hot soapy water so you can quickly wash items you need to reuse. This can also help for soaking extra dirty dishes before washing them as fast as you can as guests arrive.
8. Use the machines!
Bring out your slow-cookers (big and small), stand-mixers, food processors and blenders and put them to work whenever possible. Potatoes can be baked in a slow cooker and mashed in a mixer. Food processors can slice or shred ingredients. Blenders can puree or make sauces.
9. Make a list for guests.
Most times, guests arrive willing to work and often ask for things to do. Create a short and easy list of things they can help with while you’re manning the kitchen. Things like plating sliced vegetables and dip for the table, dressing the salad or refilling the cheese tray are simple enough and make the guests feel like they contributed.
10. Work on one recipe at a time.
It’s fine to have lots of ingredients out on the counter, but work on one recipe at a time and either put it in the fridge or bake it. Clean up and then move on. Working on too many dishes at one time often leads to missing ingredients or missed steps.
11. Clean as you go.
Load the dishwasher or clean dishes as you work in kitchen. You might not have much, but little bowls and utensils will add up as the day goes on. Keeping a somewhat clean workspace helps to keep the stress level down, and you won’t freak out if guests unexpectedly arrive early.
12. Start the dishwasher before dinner.
Although you’ll likely be exhausted, be sure to start the dishwasher before you sit down to dinner. Let it run during the meal and enlist family (the ones who live there) to quickly put them away before dessert. Then you can easily re-load with dinner and possibly dessert dishes and maintain the clean kitchen!
13. Use plastic bags.
I know plastic bags aren’t the most “green” option out there, but when you have so many guests and only so many storage containers, using plastic bags for one day won’t the end of the world. Turkey, rice/stuffing and dinner rolls travel well in bags. If you HAVE to give out storage containers, be sure to write your last name on the bottom so your guest know where to return it to.