With so much going on this time of year it is easy to put off planning for Thanksgiving until it is too late to make or even buy the things we decide we want on our holiday table. I have been a self-afflicted victim of this situation far too many times.
This year, I’m on my own for prep. My family is driving in Thursday afternoon just in time to eat, and my hubby is AWOL studying for his program until the dinner bell rings. This means massive organization for me if I want to make a whole-foods dinner, stay sane, and actually enjoy myself. Here is the process I use to make that all happen (fingers crossed).
Set Your Goal
First and most important:Pick ONE goal for your holiday. This is the single thing you wish most to accomplish.
Here are some ideas:
- To focus on gratitude.
- To spend time together as a family.
- For my guests to feel welcome and loved.
- To spend less time in the kitchen.
- To relax together.
- To create a beautiful table and spread.
- To make healthier food.
- To SURVIVE!
Now, pick a goal from the list, or one of your own, but ONLY ONE! No need to overcomplicate things. This will now be your “theme” for your preparations. My goal this year is to not wear myself thin.
Every decision you make from now until the last car leaves the driveway will be weighed against this question: Will this help me meet my goal?
Here’s how it works: Let’s say my goal is to spend less time in the kitchen. As I plan the meals, I find a beautiful recipe for a decadent chocolate mousse pie. I am already planning on baking 2 kinds of pie from scratch. In order to keep with my goal, my options are:
- Forget the chocolate pie.
- Purchase the other pies premade so I can make the chocolate one.
- OR delegate someone ELSE to make the pies, and read a book instead.
See? Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy. A goal to keep family members from killing each other would involve pre-arranged seating and the removal of any and all sharp objects from the table.
Now that you have the most important decision made, the rest are simple.
Create Your Lists
Grab a blank sheet of paper and divide it into 8 sections on one side for lists, and 4 (or more) on the other for a schedule. Do not make it pretty. Pretty is a waste of time here :).
On side A add these categories to your sections:
- Table (setting/decoration)
- Farmer’s Market (optional: our city has a great indoor farmer’s market the saturday before Thanksgiving)
Over the next day or so, spill your brains onto this paper. Stick to the basics, but include everything you can think of that goes in that category. .
Schedule Your Tasks
On Side B, write the days Monday-Thursday in the sections of the calendar/schedule. You can start earlier than Monday if you like. Using side A, give each day a minimum of 2 things to do in prep for Thursday. Here’s an example of mine.
- Grocery shopping
- Make pie crusts, fill and freeze uncooked pies.
- Wash and salt turkey
- Make cranberry sauce
- Toast Almonds for salad
- Put all stuffing ingredients into pan except broth & refrigerate
- Boil eggs for Deviled Eggs
- Turn turkey over onto breasts
- Chop veggies for appetizer
- Make deviled eggs
- Bake frozen pies
- Mix roll dough and set to rise overnight
- Uncover turkey
- Set table (right after breakfast)
- Shape dough and put in fridge to rise slowly
- Make juice, fill water pitchers
- Make potatoes
- Roast beans and stuffing while Turkey rests before carving.
- Make gravy
- Whip cream after dinner
Looking at this schedule, I can see that I have forgotten to schedule a time to bake the banana bread for my pie-scrooge hubby, but seeing as most days look pretty full already I may have to leave it out.
Over-scheduling a day causes stress and often pushes more important things to the back-burner, where they catch on fire and set off a chain-reaction of destruction.
So I will have all my ingredients on hand to make the bread, and if a magical moment opens up, I’ll bake it. If not, I’ll bake it after the holiday when we’re too fat to care about calories.
Hopefully this helps you the way it does me. What are some things you do to reduce stress and stay prepared for your Thanksgiving celebrations?